What comes to mind when you think of hospice? If you haven’t had much experience with it, you might have a hard time thinking beyond illness or death.
Dace Krasts of South County, RI, has a different perspective. She thinks of moments of joy and peace, unexpected drum solos and pure human connection.
In 10 years as a HopeHealth volunteer, Krasts has seen many sides of hospice. She shares a few of them here.
You’re a long-time respite volunteer, offering companionship to hospice patients and relief to caregivers. What’s a favorite memory?
I was hanging out with a patient in his home while his loved one was running errands. He had a hard time connecting with people in the past, but we got to talking, and I learned he’d been in the Army when he was young. I asked him to tell me more.
Turns out, he was in the Fife and Drum Corps, and still had a drum. Next thing you know, he asked if he could play for me. I said, sounds like fun. He asked me to sing along, but I didn’t know the songs – so I pulled out my smartphone and played the tunes from that.
This fellow was able to play along on his drum, and he just loved it. He was so happy. After that, every time I visited, he was ready with his drum.
How about pet therapy? Tell us about Rosie, your dog, who passed away earlier this year.
Rosie and I had situations where we’d walk up to a patient’s room and the nurses are shaking their heads, saying: Nobody’s allowed in, the patient doesn’t want to be seen by anyone. Then Rosie and I would walk by the door, and the patient’s like, “Get in here!” Rosie would change things.
For pet therapy, people sometimes think the pet has to be jovial and playful. Rosie and I did pet therapy visits all over Rhode Island, and she was not that way at all. She was so calm, accepting, and peaceful that she brought others to that calm, accepting, peaceful place too.
You’ve also offered Reiki, an energy healing technique, in lots of settings – from patients’ homes to facilities to the Hulitar Hospice Center. What’s that experience like?
For the majority of patients and their families, Reiki offers a relief from anxiety or any other agitation. Suddenly, they can just have a relaxing breath. They find a mental and emotional comfort.
Some people do experience a great deal of pain relief, too. There have been very powerful moments.
“I’m not able to stop or heal what a patient is going through, but I can be fully present with them.” – Dace Krasts, Volunteer, South County, RI
When you’re with a patient who has a serious illness, what’s your goal for them?
I want to offer the most real and honest and supported experience, and to be fully present for them.
What they’re experiencing is unknown. They may have witnessed it with other family members and friends, but they haven’t experienced it themselves. If they can be present and connected to that experience, it seems to bring greater peace and relief.
In addition to volunteering with patients, you lead two of HopeHealth’s virtual grief support groups. What has that shown you?
When someone experiences the passing of a loved one, they often get a lot of support from the people in their life at first. But after a bit, those people may start moving on. The person who lost their loved one still needs support. They still need to vocalize what they’re going through. If they can connect with others and know they’re not alone, that makes a huge difference.
I run two grief support groups with the topic Soulful Signs. We talk about experiences that feel like signs from loved ones who have passed. It’s made me realize how important it is to be able to share those experiences in a comfortable venue where a person feels heard and not dismissed.
Hospice care touches on profound moments in a person’s life. Any life lessons from your time as a volunteer?
The power of human connection.
As soon as another person comes into the room, the dynamic changes for a patient. That interaction with another person seems to bring a humanity and a betterment to all of us.