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Asceracare Hospice visits Mills

Rebecca Freeman (center) with two other Mills students. Freeman has had experience in hospice care before. She is also the founding member of M-Square, a club dedicated to the expansion of interfaith. Photos by Priscilla Yuki Wilson.

Aseracare Hospice, based in Concord, is reaching out students at Mills College to expand their services to the Oakland community.  Rebecca Anderson, a coordinator for Aseracare, visited Mills College on Tuesday, September 13. Anderson spoke to Mills students about the opportunity to volunteer for Aseracare. According to Anderson, volunteers are a key piece to the function of hospice care.

Six Mills students attended the informational. Some were there because they had some kind of experience with hospice, and there were others new to even the term. Hospice is a type of care with a philosophy of palliative care (healthcare that focuses on relieving suffering of patients) through physical, emotional and spiritual attention for terminally ill patients. According to Aseracare, Hospice is defined as “a movement of compassionate care through history. It stands to affirm life, to provide support and care for persons in the last phase of incurable disease so they might live as fully and comfortable as possible.”

Hospice care also provides support for family members and friends involved as well.

“The nearness of death for both the patient and the family members can be a very isolating experience. Death brings about a spiritual questioning, and hospice work is about believing in letting dying be a natural process. We offer mental and spiritual preparation for anyone involved in the experience,” Anderson said.

The roots of Hospice go as deep as 325 A.D., when in the Christian doctrine it states that “every city big enough to have a cathedral is directed to have a hospice.”     Historically, there has been resentment about towards the hospice philosophy. An entire system that’s been created for the very purpose of death seems to put a lot of people off, according to Moana Minton, the Spiritual Coordinator at Aseracare. “America, especially, is a death denying culture. We try to fight it no matter what. Hospice is a safety net, a system created for empathy and life histories,” Minton said.

Rebecca Freeman, a junior at Mills, attended the event because she’s had a personal experience with hospice care.

“I’m especially interested in hospice because I do believe in compassionate care.  I’m especially interested in the Chaplin services of the program,” Freeman said.

Aseracare coordinator, Rebecca Anderson talking to Mills students about hospice care.

The informational with Aseracare confirmed for Freeman to strongly consider volunteering with the organization. Freeman said the informational with Aseracare confirmed her interest in volunteering with the organization.

Aseracare believes   that hospice care has to draw on the resources of the community through volunteer care according to Anderson. That’s why there are many ways to be involved. After a six to eight hour training, volunteers can sign up to spend time with patients or even do office work. Volunteers can visit patients to play the guitar, read a book, bring a trained dog for patients to play with or just talk and spend time together.

Volunteers can also be the person on call to be there for someone at the moment of their transition to death. The purpose of this role is to comfort individuals during a time that can be confusing and often times scary, especially if he/she has no family.

Although hospice care can be very emotionally tolling, Anderson guarantees that although the experience will be hard, it is beautiful.“Grief will not kill you,” she said “death is just the end of this physical journey.”

For more information about Aseracare or if you’re interested in volunteering,