Direct Care volunteer Juanita Andersen is the epitome of positive thinking. Upbeat and funny, she is quick to smile and joke. But she becomes serious when she discusses her work with Mission Hospice & Home Care. Her commitment to serving patients spans 29 years, longer than any other volunteer.
Her service and dedication to patient care earned her the Lotus Award at January’s 34th anniversary celebration. The award was created in 2005 to recognize individuals who have shown outstanding support of Mission Hospice. Past recipients include Adella Harris (2005), John Nash (2006), Rev. Stuart Coxhead (2007), Marian Soss (2009), Robert Sawyer (2010), Karen Leonardini (2011) and Dr. Stephen Weller (2012).
Lotus Award committee chair Kate Breaux said the decision was especially gratifying this year. “We have incredible service from everyone on our staff, from the doctors though the social workers and chaplains, but it’s volunteers like Juanita who set Mission Hospice apart. They are the ones who make such special connections with our patients and their families,” Kate explained. “Juanita is the most modest, unassuming person I’ve met, and it’s really special to recognize a person who’s given so much and yet is so humble.”
Juanita starts with an initial meeting with the patient’s family to find out what they need. Often her time is spent simply being present with a patient – visiting, propping up their pillows, reading to them, or listening to music – and allowing the family members to have a break. She emphasizes that her job is really to honor the patient’s wishes. “Their life is changing. If you can offer them choices, it gives them some power.”
Juanita also enjoys sharing what she’s learned with other volunteers. “It feels good to pass along some of your knowledge to someone,” she says, lighting up as she recounts some funny experiences she’s shared with other volunteers. “It’s really amazing what our volunteers will do for our patients.” Juanita knows. She’s helped well over a hundred patients and families over the years.
Juanita’s generosity spreads far beyond Mission Hospice. In addition to her time with patients, she currently teaches PE at a retirement home and established a program in adult education. Over the years, she’s served on the PTA, led Brownies and coached her children’s sports teams.
“There’s an inner satisfaction that you get from helping others. It’s a way of paying back your community,” Juanita explained. “Even though there’s no monetary value to this work, there’s a spiritual value to it.”