North Plainfield resident Virginia Wentworth knows firsthand the value of hospice – not only to the individual receiving care, but also to those acting as caregivers. That's why she became a volunteer with Barnabas Health Hospice and Palliative Care Center in West Orange.
"I was so appreciative of the excellent care for my husband – and for me – from Barnabas Health Hospice during the last year of his life. I wanted to 'give back,' particularly as volunteers had done for us," says Virginia, adding that although neither she nor her husband needed to use the volunteer service very often, she felt reassurance knowing people were available to step in and help. "My husband loved to tell stories about his time in the U.S. Navy, so it was comforting to know that even if I couldn't be there to sit with him, he still had companionship."
"I know from experience that being the caregiver for someone who is terminally ill can be a lonely situation. It's helpful to have support – from the nurses and volunteers and also the fact that you can call 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week, even in the middle of the night, and someone will be there to talk you through something or send assistance," says Virginia, who visited her first patient after Christmas and now spends time with four patients who live in nursing homes.
Often, people ask Virginia how she handles the difficulties that may be associated with working with terminally ill patients. "I get a lot of satisfaction in helping someone who has no one else to help them at a time in their life when they need it most. It's nice to walk into the room of a patient who may look distant or withdrawn and to see them smile and show some kind of recognition," says Virginia. "Most of the people I visit do not have family, so I step in to fill that role."
Virginia is no stranger to public service – she previously served as a social worker for what is now Child Protection and Permanency, formerly the Division of Youth and Family Services. She spent the majority of her career in education teaching all grades, 1-12, and ending her career as a high school vice principal. She earned an undergraduate degree in sociology and psychology from Douglass Residential College of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ. Virginia holds a teaching certificate from Kean University, and earned a master's degree in counseling from New Jersey City University.
In addition to volunteering, Virginia finds the time to pursue other hobbies. A sewing enthusiast, Virginia turned her passion for sewing and needlework into a home-based business called Sewing for the Family. She also teaches sewing classes at the Adult School of the Chathams, Madison and Florham Park, and serves as secretary of both the New Jersey Chapter of the Association of Sewing and Design Professionals, and the New Jersey Chapter of the American Sewing Guild. She also enjoys spending time with her four children and six grandchildren.
For information about volunteer opportunities at Barnabas Health Hospice and Palliative Care Center, please call 973-322-4800.
About Barnabas Health Hospice and Palliative Care Center
Comfort the Patient. Heal the Family.TM
Barnabas Health Hospice and Palliative Care Center offers compassion and support to both the patient and family - empowering decision making, enhancing quality of life, providing comfort, and when the journey has ended, helping those who remain to cope with the loss and move forward. We collaborate with each patient's Primary Care Physician to offer hospice and palliative care services, throughout 10 New Jersey counties, in private homes, in the hospital, or in long-term care or assisted living facilities. For more information about Barnabas Health Hospice and Palliative Care Center, visit barnabashealthhospice.org.