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Silverado Hospice Helps UCSD Med Students Understand Dementia

Location : Hospice San Diego 
Experimentaldrug ENRICHED

By Linda Thyberg, MSW, Volunteer Coordinator for Silverado Supportive Care and Hospice San Diego

In medical school, students learn to treat illness and delay death as long as possible, but a big part of becoming a doctor is understanding that every patient eventually reaches their time.

Silverado Hospice San Diego is participating in a unique program to help pre-med students experience the reality that sometimes medical options are limited.

Silverado Hospice is working with 20 students from the University of California San Diego to help them understand more about people living with dementia who are nearing the end of life. The goal of this program is to help these future doctors reflect on the advantages of either doing everything to keep someone alive, or helping them die with dignity and comfort.

After eight hours of intense volunteer training, undergraduate pre-med students are placed with hospice patients at the Silverado Escondido and Encinitas memory care communities. In their time with these hospice patients, students see firsthand how hospice care provides dignity and comfort when other options are exhausted.

Below are quotes from students who recently participated in the program:

“Volunteering has made me really appreciate all of the incredible people I have met in my life, and hospice patients are no different. Watching them recount their lives and the positive energy so many of them exude despite being at the end of their life journey is really inspiring, and I hope to emulate that same positive outlook in the future”
– Wilson Tan

“Volunteering at Silverado has been the most rewarding experience. I have learned that a smile from a patient gives you the best sensation. It is a great way to give back to the community and to grow as a person.”
– Alma Fregoso

“It was a little sad, but also an extremely valuable lesson for all of us. I learned that honesty is such a key aspect and characteristic in becoming a future health care worker.”
– Kevin Doan

“Volunteering with Silverado Hospice has given me valuable experience on how dementia affects people. It has allowed me to develop social skills and gives me joy in being able to make someone smile just by being with them”
– Charles Nguyen

“As a pre-med student, I initially looked at my experiences with patients at Silverado Hospice with a sense of bewilderment: as someone who aspires to treat diseases and provide excellent medical care to prolong life, it was somewhat odd to volunteer at a place which strives to ease, rather than delay, the end-of-life process. However, as I start my fifth month volunteering with Silverado, I’ve realized that it's just as important to create a space for a dignified death as it is to ensure that someone has a healthy standard of life. I’m grateful to Silverado Hospice for providing me an opportunity to make connections to patients and provide compassionate care, as well as changing my perspective on the end-of-life process.”
– Sharada Saraf

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