Teresa Kuhlemeier Lends Time, Talent, and Boundless Energy to Auertown Seniors.

On any given day, you’ll likely see 78-year-old Ernest Bradbury buzzing around his community of Lubbock, Texas, off to visit the dying in his job as a hospice volunteer. He has helped an estimated 46 hospice patients in the past 11 years, and began volunteering to fill a void after his wife died.

“The key to this volunteering job is to listen, listen, listen,” said the former city employee who has been recognized locally for his hospice work. “I have to soften some up before they will talk. They’re usually lying around with nothing to do. If I can get them to talk it makes them feel better. Then I feel better, too. I once visited a man with a stomach feeding tube, and they said he’d never eat again. But after I got him talking, eventually he was eating JELL-O®. No one could believe it.”

“Sometimes you read to patients, maybe the newspaper, because they can’t talk and you don’t know if they can hear you. But when you get to a funny story, they’ll give you a smile, and it’s worth all the time you put in.”

Respite is one important service he provides to families. “Once I had planned to spend an hour with a patient while his wife ran errands, but she had so much to do it was three hours later when she returned.”

As a widower, Bradbury understands the loneliness that many seniors face. “Sometimes the feelings of loss just don’t go away. When I was first trained as a hospice volunteer, I was told that it’s hard to convince men it’s OK to cry. But men do cry…You know why you’re there, but it still hurts when the patient dies.”’