Seen and Heard at Living Table: Suzanne Schmidt

Suzanne Schmidt
Selfie photo of Suzanne wearing and knitted hat, over-looking fall foliage, water, and blue skies

You may not have talked to Suzanne Schmidt, but you know who she is. Meet Suzanne.

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Since 2018, Suzanne has been a volunteer with AccentCare Fairview, a hospice program. Volunteers can participate in three ways: visiting the dying person, giving relief care to the caregiver (e.g., running errands), or sending encouraging cards and letters to the person in hospice. Before they start, volunteers are trained in how to lift people, in giving hand massages, and about various aspects of hygiene. Suzanne’s first patient was a woman (“Betty”) who was having trouble adjusting to being in a care facility. She found Betty sobbing in the commons area. Suzanne sat with her and listened. After that, she visited each week, listening to Betty and playing music if she was asleep. Over time, Betty became more accepting of her situation. She told herself stories about the people and things around her, stories that fit Betty’s idea of how things ought to be. Eventually, she told Suzanne that people have to be willing to give things up, such as selling their home. By that, Suzanne knew Betty wasn’t resisting any more. Their visits went on for several months, and when Betty died, Suzanne felt she had learned a lot.

At present, Suzanne sends cards and letters to a woman in Farmington three or four times a month. As a card maker/stamper, Suzanne enjoys this way to give someone encouragement. She’s been doing this since Covid made personal visits impossible, but she looks forward to getting back to visiting patients. She can do that only on weekends because she has a full-time job. Suzanne grew up in Bloomington, graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School, and got a B.S. in business administration from the University of Wisconsin at River Falls, with a minor in French. For 15 years, she worked for Target in its Property Management Department, dealing with leases and maintenance contracts. She has also worked with insurance and workers’ comp. Now she is on the staff of the consulting firm Robert Half. At present, her job involves credit and collections, but she will be assigned to other areas as the company’s needs change. Fortunately, no matter which department she’s in, she can work from her home in Bloomington.

Hospice volunteering has a special place in Suzanne’s life. She was drawn to it after her husband died in 2016. He had multiple sclerosis and wouldn’t talk about it. As a result of the disease, he began to experience dementia, which sometimes happens with MS. Suzanne thinks he was really scared but didn’t know how to handle that, and neither did she. They didn’t talk about his condition or make decisions. He spoke some of suicide, and she gave him hopeful answers. When he did take his life, she realized that she hadn’t had the tools to deal with his disease or his fear. She began hospice work as a way to make up the lost opportunity to support someone facing death.

Suzanne is comfortable discussing her volunteer work and the reason she chose hospice. If you are interested in sending cards or visiting, she will be happy to tell you about it.

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