Sonia B Pine Beach Woman’s Experience with Van Dyke Hospice Inspires

"I was so totally impressed with Van Dyke Hospice; we really liked the people. I had such a positive experience with hospice, staying on as a volunteer made sense."

For many people, the word "hospice" brings thoughts of death. But as Sonia Butler knows, hospice is also about living – and making the most of the time that's left. The Pine Beach woman, pictured here proudly displaying a photo of her late husband Townsend, has volunteered with Barnabas Health Van Dyke Hospice and Palliative Care Center in Toms River for more than a year, after seeing how the program helped her own family.

When Townsend had terminal cancer in 2011, Van Dyke enabled him to spend his last months at home, in beloved, comfortable surroundings. Although doctors believed Townsend had only three months to live, he survived nearly double that time – making it to his 84th birthday and 39th wedding anniversary in good spirits.

"I really think he would not have lived that long if he had not been on hospice," says Sonia, recalling the care and help the couple received from Barnabas Health Van Dyke Hospice.

"In the hospital, he didn't sleep well," recalls Sonia. At home, Townsend's bed was placed in the living room in front of large windows. "He was the center of attention," she happily relates. "He could see everything that was going on in the neighborhood."

While hospice aides came to provide personal care, volunteers visited periodically to give Sonia needed breaks so she could attend to her own medical appointments or go to church. "I was so totally impressed with Van Dyke Hospice; we really liked the people," says Sonia, a retired Extension Home Economist for Rutgers Cooperative Extension.

After her husband's death, Sonia attended Van Dyke's bereavement support group, where the idea of volunteering first came up. "I had such a positive experience with hospice, staying on as a volunteer made sense," she says.

For two hours each week, she now enables other caregivers to get out of the house, while keeping their loved ones safe and comfortable. In one case, Sonia stayed home with a great-grandmother while the rest of the household – three small grandchildren, their parents and grandparents – went to the circus.

"We're trying to keep life at its fullest, right up to the end," she explains, "for both the patient and family."

About Barnabas Health Van Dyke Hospice Comfort the Patient. Heal the Family.®

Barnabas Health Van Dyke Hospice offers compassion and support to both the patient and family - empowering decision making, enhancing quality of life, providing comfort, and when the journey has ended, helping those who remain to cope with the loss and move forward. We collaborate with each patient's Primary Care Physician to offer hospice and palliative care services, throughout Ocean County, in private homes, in the hospital, or in long-term care or assisted living facilities. For more information about Barnabas Health Van Dyke Hospice, visit