I am pleased to host this guest post by my colleague in caregiving and writing, Katherine Arnup. Katherine is a hospice volunteer who has a lot of personal caregiving experience. Here, she writes about caring for someone she knew in hospice for the first time when she was volunteering. Anyone who wonders about how to approach being helpful but not intrusive with a friend or loved one in hospice care will appreciate Katherine's wisdom on this delicate topic.
When I was first training to be a hospice volunteer (in 2001), one of the most important lessons the leaders drummed into us was the centrality of boundaries. We were reminded repeatedly that we were not a family member, a close friend, or even a not-so-close friend of the residents. In short, we were not in the “inner circle.” That space was reserved for those who were closest to the person who was dying, be they family of origin, by marriage, or by choice. As death grew nearer, we were to maintain a distance, making room for those in the inner circle to spend time with the resident before they died.