Providing Companionship: EveryStep Hospice Volunteer Janell O'Connor

EveryStep Hospice volunteers provide support, companionship and hope to those facing life-limiting illnesses.

That’s exactly what Janell O’Connor and therapy dog, Conrad, do. 

A volunteer since the summer of 2018, Janell and Conrad have already made an impression on EveryStep patients and their families in southeast Iowa.  

Visiting patients in their homes and in local nursing homes and hospitals, Conrad is the star of the show, offering a listening ear and a comforting head nudge to all he visits.
“Patients are taken with Conrad,” Janell confirms. “He is the right height when he sits to put his head right in their lap of a person in a wheelchair.”
Janell doesn’t shy away from expressing her fondness for volunteering with EveryStep Hospice.
“I feel very blessed to be able to provide friendship or companionship and it makes me thankful for my health and that I can do that,” Janell notes. “I enjoy the people, I enjoy visiting."

EveryStep volunteers help hospice patients in many ways, often sharing their talents or interests in the process. In addition to providing companionship to patients, volunteers may read or play cards with them, play music, record patients' life stories, run errands or offer special support and recognition for Veterans. 

Janell first found EveryStep Hospice after a family friend was in hospice. 

"We visited, met several people with the organization and were very impressed with what I saw and heard," she says. "The Hospice team talked with everyone and make sure we all knew what was going on." 

When her friend passed, Janell recalls that an EveryStep Hospice nurse came and stayed with the family and friends for a few hours. Later, when Janell attends a memorial gathering for hospice patient family and friends, she knew she was ready to volunteer for the organization. 

Now, Janell and Conrad handle eight to 10 patient visits each month. 

"I'm kind of a chauffeur, Conrad is the team leader in this," she says, noting that even when patients have a difficult time communicating with her, they don't with Conrad. 

"They light up when Conrad enters the room," Janell says. "Their eyes and smile tell me they're happy to pet him." 

Janell often encourages others to consider volunteering for EveryStep Hospice, even if they don't have a furry side-kick to tag along. 
"There are a lot of lonely people and those that don’t have visitors they can enjoy us," she says.

Those interested in learning more about volunteering with EveryStep Hospice are encouraged to complete our volunteer interest form, and we’ll connect you with an EveryStep program that could use your time and talents!