July 12, 2022
The Power of Human Touch: How EveryStep Hospice Volunteer Paula Webb Provides Comfort
July 17 through July 23 is “Everybody Deserves a Massage” week — an annual observance founded by the Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals membership organization to promote the benefits of massage. Ancient cultures believed in the benefits of massage and even Egyptian tombs feature paintings of people getting a massage. While many of us may think a massage involves making an appointment, lying on a table and being worked on by a professional therapist, the core of massage is simply human touch.
For some EveryStep Hospice patients visited by Mount Ayr team volunteer Paula Webb, the soothing application of lotion on hands brings comfort and relaxation.
“I just put lotion on their hands and rub their hands — it’s kind of holding their hands and rubbing lotion into their hands and arms. There’s not really anything big about it, but it’s contact,” Paula humbly says. “Most people like holding hands and while you’re doing that, you can massage the lotion in. Elderly people’s hands and feet are usually very dry and they don’t get lotion very often, or as often as they should, and this just helps.”
Paula knows the value of that one-on-one contact. She served as a nurse for 40 years before retiring at the age of 61. “Young nurses starting out learn that just sitting with a patient, holding their hand or listening to them, is one of the greatest things they can do,” says Paula, who spent the last 11 years of her nursing career as a hospice nurse in Creston. It was there that she became familiar with EveryStep Hospice.
“After I retired, I had a void in my life and I felt like I needed to be doing something again. I felt like, shoot, I can be a hospice volunteer because I know about taking care of people near the end of life. I thought I could go and visit with them.” Paula contacted the EveryStep Hospice team in Mount Ayr, where she was quickly trained and began her volunteer career. She received her five-year volunteer recognition pin this year.
“A lot of the people I visit with are in the nursing home. I really enjoy going into the nursing home because it gives me an opportunity to visit with not only the hospice patients, but other people as well — especially the residents I know and even the people I don’t know. I feel like I’m extending my hospice volunteering when I do that.” Paula says she used to be hesitant to visit nursing homes, even when people she knew were living there. “Volunteering with hospice gave me the boost I needed to go and visit the nursing home,” says Paula.
On one day this July, Paula visited seven residents at two nursing homes in Mount Ayr, along with the EveryStep Hospice patients. On that day, she not only gave a patient a hand massage, but also rubbed lotion into her feet as well. In addition, the Mount Ayr Dairy Queen was featuring lemon ice cream, Paula’s favorite, so she bought enough to share with each of the residents and patients she visited.
“It’s just gratifying and satisfying to know that, hopefully, I’m giving back something,” Paula says.
Paula says she knew from the age of 5 that she wanted to be a nurse and never wavered in that decision. She lives in Kellerton, a short distance from Mount Ayr, and has lived in the area her entire life. She and her husband have three grown children and nine grandchildren.
EveryStep has a variety of volunteer needs across Iowa. If you are interested in volunteering with EveryStep, visit https://www.everystep.org/volunteer.
If you or someone you know is struggling to find the support they need, please contact EveryStep at 515-558-9946 or complete the commitment-free, confidential “Find Care” form on EveryStep’s website at www.everystep.org/find-care. EveryStep staff will follow up with a phone call to answer your questions and provide assistance.