Hahn is a man who shows 'heart for hospice'

sjansen@mercedsunstar.comJune 24, 2013 

Judy Lambrix has fewer than 40 volunteers who help out at Hinds Hospice in Merced.

Fourteen volunteers go out and spend time with terminally ill patients. In many cases, they are there to give family members and primary caregivers a break from the around-the-clock attention some patients need.

Other volunteers help out at the office by filing, shredding and stapling papers, running errands or even knitting booties for the Angel Babies program.

Of all the people helping her out, Lambrix has a go-to volunteer in Stanley Hahn.

"I know I can call on him anytime and he'll be available," said Lambrix, who is the Hinds Hospice volunteer coordinator in Merced. "I know he'll be there if we need him.

"Certain people have the heart for hospice. It's not something everybody can do, but Stanley has the heart for it."

Hahn's heart shows through when you hear about some of the ways he's helped patients over the years.

When one of his patients wanted to make a photo album for his kids in his final months, Hahn spent four weeks going through photographs and putting together two albums. One album was for the patient's son and one was for his daughter.

"That was a neat experience," Hahn said. "He was a patient of mine for five or six months. He didn't have the energy to do it.

"It was meaningful for him. It was meaningful for me, too, because it was meaningful for him."

When one of his patients wanted to get married before he died, Hahn volunteered to be the wedding photographer and made a photo album for the bride and groom.

Hahn is ready to do anything that needs to be done, whether it's in the office or when he's visiting patients.

The goal of hospice workers and volunteers is to provide supportive care for the terminally ill. They focus on the patient's comfort and quality of life rather than curing illness. They do their best to reduce the suffering of patients in their final months.

It's not an easy situation.

Volunteers find themselves dealing with death constantly and being around family members who are coming to grips with the eventual loss of a loved one.

Spiritual take on work

Hahn's spiritual nature makes him a perfect fit.

"My feeling is death is a continuation of life," Hahn said. "There is life after death. There is life before death. Death is just an event. There's not just life after death for the patient, but for the family as well."

Hahn, 75, retired at the age of 52 after working 25 years as a postal worker in Pennsylvania.

After moving to Indiana, he was sitting at home watching TV when he saw a commercial that showed a young person feeding an older person.

"It was a commercial for a nurse's aid," Hahn said. "I was so struck by the advertisement on TV that I had a physical reaction. I became short of breath and my heart started racing."

That's when Hahn decided to become a nurse's aid. On the final day of training, Hahn had a similar physical reaction when a nun came to speak about hospice care.

That's when Hahn knew he had found his calling, and he's been involved in hospice care for almost 15 years.

When he moved to California nine years ago to be closer to family, he immediately contacted Hinds Hospice about becoming a volunteer.

"I wouldn't know what to do if I wasn't doing this," Hahn said. "It gives me motivation. I'll pick up medication for patients. If we need a doctor signature, I'll go get it. Whatever needs to be done, I'm free, I can do it. I'm retired, I'm well taken care of, I would spend 40 hours a week if they had stuff for me to do."

Hahn usually spends 20 to 30 hours a week volunteering for Hinds Hospice. When he's not visiting with patients, he's picking up medication or shopping for patients' groceries, driving to get a doctor's signature or helping out around the office.

"Stanley understands when you go to a home to visit a patient, you have to pick up the vibe," Lambrix said. "He knows if he has to just be the quiet presence or to be more helpful. It's not always easy. It's very private. The family is losing a loved one."

If the patient is alert and responsive, Hahn will sit and talk. If the patient is sleeping, he'll spend his time reading a book or watching TV.

"My primary goal is to give respite care for the caregivers," Hahn said. "That can be a 24-hour, seven-day-per-week job. I take great joy in giving relief because I know how demanding that job can be."

What makes Hahn so good at what he does?

It's simple, really. He cares.

"I love people," he said. "I think when you're with them, they know if you really care or not. I think that it shows that I really care."

Reporter Shawn Jansen can be reached at (209) 385-2462 or sjansen@mercedsunstar.com.

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