Volunteer chaplain Kupersmith receives top recognition

By John Butters, The JOURNAL


Bill Kupersmith, a hospice volunteer and chaplain, was recognized by Compassus during National Volunteer Week April 15-21 for providing companionship, support and dignity to hospice patients and their loved ones.

Kupersmith, a retired English professor from the University of Iowa, has been a volunteer chaplain at Compassus for 10 years and is retiring this year.

?We are proud to recognize Bill for his efforts to honor life and offer hope to individuals facing life-limiting illnesses by supporting them with compassion, integrity and excellence,? said Patricia Christy, executive director for Compassus ? Washington. ?Volunteers like Bill are fundamental to the Compassus mission of delivering the highest quality care. These caring individuals extend the reach of hospice employees, creating the opportunity to do more for more patients and their families. Bill?s loyalty and work ethic are unparalleled and he will be truly missed upon his retirement this year.?

Kupersmith said he began his ministry as a trained chaplain at the University of Iowa Hospitals and was a chaplain in residency at a hospital in Omaha, Neb.

After the residency ended, Kupersmith moved back to Iowa City to continue his work with area hospitals. It was then he added hospice care to his list.

?The main thing I do is offer support to patients. I can offer spiritual support and religious counseling if they are interested, or I can provide companionship and a presence for those who need that,? he said. ? I play a lot of cards.?

?The most important thing in our philosophy of hospice is to give everyone as good a life as they can have. We all have a point at which more treatment doesn?t do any good and may even be harmful. We then put the emphasis on comfort, care and relief of pain,? he said.

One of the joys of his job, he said, is meeting people from life situations different from his own.

?I meet a lot of World War II veterans. Working with them is very gratifying. It is an honor to know and meet them,? Kupersmith said.

He also learns a little about the history of Iowa life from his patients.

?I meet people who grew up on small farms or in small towns that had no electricity or running water. I enjoy listening to them talk of the old days,? he said.

An important part of his job is bringing comfort and relief to the families of his patients.

?It can be very demanding to take care of an in-home patient. Sometimes the spouse has his or her own physical problems. They need someone to come to the home and sit with their patient so they can visit their physician,? he said.

Hospice is always interested in adding more volunteers. Clerical and other types of help are needed, as well as patient care, he said.

Kupersmith says caring for patients is also emotionally draining for the hospice volunteer, but he loves his ministry. From the sound of his enthusiasm, his retirement might be a mere formality.

?As long as I have my marbles, I will always be in the ministry. If I am in a nursing home myself, I will minister to the other patients,? he said. ?I will serve as long as the Lord lets me.?

?Whether listening quietly, reading a book or simply running errands, volunteers make a meaningful impact on our patients and their families,? said Scott Piper, M.D., medical director for Compassus ? Washington. ?I want to thank Bill and all of the volunteers on our team for their commitment to those we serve.?

Compassus is a nationwide network of community-based post-acute care services focused on hospice, palliative and home health care. Those interested in more information about Compassus?Washington can call 319-653-2035.