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Towne Salute: Tom Brent of Compass Regional Hospice

Jul 12, 2016 04:34PM ● By Cate Reynolds

Photo by Shelby Farmer-Compass Regional Hospice

As a retiree, Tom Brent is enjoying the stress-free life. Although that doesn’t mean he’s spending his days lounging on a beach or poolside, watching the hours drift by.

For the past three years, he’s spent some part of almost every weekday at Compass Regional Hospice, a nonprofit that serves individuals and families in Queen Anne’s, Kent, and Caroline counties by providing compassionate end-of-life care and bereavement support. Oftentimes, Brent spends his volunteer hours sitting with patients, providing conversation or simply holding their hand.

“Sometimes people don’t have anyone nearby … or it’s difficult for them to be here all the time, so having volunteers really fills that vacuum,” he says.

Brent first got involved with the Centreville-based organization when a friend encouraged him to join Hospice’s group of Christmas carolers as they spent one winter evening singing festive tunes to patients.

“We sang three or four songs and got to bring them a little sunshine. They were a great audience,” he says, laughing.

Soon after, Hospice’s Manager of Volunteer and Professional Services, Courtney Williams, sent Brent some information on training. Despite a little apprehension, he decided it was a cause he felt drawn to and signed up to visit patients in their homes. At first, he saw one person a week for two to three hours.

“I was a little hesitant,” he says of his first few visits.

But after a little exposure and helpful information from fellow volunteers and staff, Brent soon became comfortable in his role. So much, in fact, that he decided to spend a little more time with those suffering from life-limiting illnesses, who had transitioned into full-time, on-site hospice care.

Brent now averages about 30 hours a week at the nonprofit organization—the majority of which is spent with patients. He also dedicates a portion of that time to more administrative matters, like aiding the development office, operating the switchboard, and helping to plan fundraising events.

“It’s not like I’m here all day. But I can be. If I believe that a patient is close to death, then I’ll stay with them,” he adds.

Brent’s commitment to hospice and its patients is unwavering, but it’s nothing new. Two years before he became involved with the organization, he frequented the Sudlersville Senior Center, developing activities and programs to keep its attendees engaged and enthused. If a senior was later admitted to the hospital, he would move his visits to wherever that person was recovering. Whether a nursing home, rehabilitation facility, or transitional care center, Brent continues to visit friends—or friends of friends—that he met years earlier.

“You really become like family,” he says, adding that the sentiment is also true for those he befriends through hospice. “Sometimes, I go through mourning just like the family members do.”

He credits his military past—including unfortunate experiences with death during the Vietnam War—as giving him the personality and temperament to immerse himself in such sensitive situations.

“I still have empathy; I still have feelings. But it’s not as scary as it might be for other people,” he says.

And for those who are interested in volunteering with Compass Regional Hospice, but are perhaps apprehensive due to a lack of comfort with such matters, Brent is eager to mention the host of other opportunities available.

“There’s plenty of work to do that supports the efforts we do for the patients, but doesn’t put you in the front line,” he says. “But you’re still making a difference in their lives.”

For more information, visit Compassregionalhospice.org.

Do you have a volunteer to nominate? Email Becca Newell at Bnewell@WhatsUpMag.com