DALLAS — Rosanne Szymanski’s weekly routine has been the same for 10 years.
During the week, the Duryea resident crunches numbers as the accounts payable manager at Frontier Communications in Dallas.
One day a week she stops at ManorCare Health Services in Kingston and spends several hours visiting with hospice patients.
“I really feel that my visits make a difference,” Szymanski said. “The patients might not remember my name, but they wave as I enter the dining room.”
Szymanski’s dedication to bringing companionship and comfort to those facing the end of life was honored March 20 by Heartland Hospice.
“No one volunteers for 10 years,” said Nancy Kaminski, volunteer coordinator at Heartland Hospice, adding many volunteers become emotionally burned out due to the terminal condition of patients.
Szymanski does not see her desire to share time with those who may not have much time to give as a rarity.
“I try to make the end of life more comfortable for them,” she said.
Szymanski started hospice volunteering nearly four years after her father Raymond Meckalavage passed away in 2003.
“We had hospice volunteers come to the home,” she said. “They were very compassionate.”
To be a hospice volunteer, she was required to attend comprehensive training that covered over 20 health care-related categories, including recognizing signs of patient abuse, patient confidentiality and bloodborne pathogens.
“Training is reviewed every year,” Szymanski said. “I see myself as an advocate for the patients.”
She maintains a log of each patient visit, reporting observations of the patient’s personality and physical condition, as well as what activities the two shared.
Szymanski shares her information with Heartland Hospice and, if any abnormal observations are noted, the patient’s physician is notified.
“I don’t hand out medications,” she said. “I don’t bathe patients.”
Szymanski talks with her clients and develops activities based on the patient’s interest and physical capabilities.
“I work with one patient who likes magazines,” she said. “I would bring Good Housekeeping or Glamour magazines with me when I visit her. We would look at the pictures and talk about the articles.”
Another patient, a military veteran, inspired Szymanski to dig out her father’s military mementos and share, which spurred conversations of his experiences.
“Sometimes they just want to hold your hand,” she said.
She spends several hours a week visiting and building friendships with patients, which makes it hard when they pass away.
“They (patients) become like a grandfather or grandmother,” she said. “Some days it does bring a tear to my eyes.”
Szymanski has had to cope with the loss of life throughout her life.
“I lost my brother, David, when I was young,” she said. “I lost my husband Robert Szymanski at age 38 and my dad.”
“You can’t dig a hole and hide,” she said about grieving for a loved one. “You have to find strength and live.”
Szymanski started a support group for other hospice volunteers to help them cope with patient death, said Nancy Kaminski, volunteer coordinator at Heartland Hospice.
“It is very hard to hear a client say that they ‘just want to die,’” Szymanski said.
When a patient conveys that thought, she asks if there is anyone they may want to talk with such as a pastor or family member.
“I’ll even pray with patients,” she said.
Reach Eileen Godin at 570-991-6387 or on Twitter @TLNews.