NEWS | January 10, 2019

No One Dies Alone

Medical Center volunteers comfort terminally ill patients who have no one else

Bernadette Abucayan remembers playing her ukulele, singing “Amazing Grace” and seeing tears running down the cheek of a dying patient.  She was in the patient’s UC Davis Medical Center room providing a comforting presence for a terminally ill woman who had no family or friends, and was in the last 48 hours of her life.

holding someones hand

“It feels as if I’m visiting a friend or family member,” says Abucayan, a UC Davis Retiree Center staffer who loves volunteering with the medical center’s “No One Dies Alone” program.  “It never feels like I am visiting a stranger.”

With more than 500 deaths occurring each year at the medical center, there are times when a patient dies without any family member present. No One Dies Alone offers patients the most valuable of human gifts: a dignified death.

The all-volunteer program ensures no patient passes without someone being at their side during their last hours. It means a reassuring presence for dying patients who otherwise would be all alone.

No One Dies Alone began at the medical center in 2013 as a way of addressing the spiritual and emotional needs of patients who are expected to die within 24 to 48 hours, and have no family or friends locally, or have had no family involved or present during hospitalization.
 
In four-hour blocks of time, trained volunteers provide a comforting, reassuring presence for patients, sometimes holding their hand, reading aloud or playing soothing music. It’s a highly rewarding experience for volunteers.

“I let patients know that someone is there to give them comfort,” adds Abucayan, who began volunteering in 2017. “It is an honor to sit with a patient who only has days or hours to live. I usually cancel anything I am doing when I get a call.”

All UC Davis Health employees are eligible to participate in the program. Volunteer time is in addition to an employee’s normal work hours. Orientation and a two-hour training session are required before participating in the program.
 
“I believe that being present when a patient takes her or his last breath is a sacred experience,” says Julie Kim, a chaplain in Palliative Care. “You may be the last person to listen to the last story told by the patient.”

For those interested in No One Dies Alone, plan to attend the next orientation session on Wed., Jan. 23, from 1:30 - 3 p.m. in Davis Tower, Rm. 7705.

For more information, contact: Eric Moore at ermoore@ucdavis.edu, (916) 734-4570) or Neelam Chandra at nkchandra@ucdavis.edu, (916) 734-4632, or visit the webpage at http://intranet.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/palliativecare/noda.shtml