Every hospice relies on volunteer support to provide excellent end-of-life care to each patient and family. By being a hospice volunteer, you can gain great personal satisfaction from knowing that you have made an impact in another person’s life. Volunteers, both lay and health care professionals, work in all phases of hospice, providing clerical and administrative assistance as well as direct patient and family care. Many volunteers are introduced to hospice through the death of a family member or loved one and find their experience so gratifying they want to give back.
Hospice volunteers help by:
- Visiting patients—reading, going on walks, taking a pet for a walk or helping to prepare a meal.
- Listening to patients’ concerns and being of comfort and support to them.
- Transporting a patient to physician visits or shopping.
- Providing personal care services, like safely transferring a patient from a chair to bed.
- Supporting family members—helping with light housework or chores, giving a caregiver a break, running an errand.
- Supporting the hospice bereavement team.
All volunteers receive training to ensure they feel comfortable with their tasks.
Training programs vary in length and generally cover the following areas:
- Philosophy of hospice care.
- A comprehensive overview of services offered by the hospice.
- Physical, emotional, social and spiritual issues that people can encounter at the end of life.
- Individual needs, including emotional support, emergency procedures, universal precautions and procedures to follow after the hospice patient dies.
- An overview of chronic and life-limiting illnesses.
- Effective communication skills when speaking with the patient and family members.
- Information about interpersonal family issues and relationships.
- Boundaries for the hospice volunteer and the patient and family.
- Basic information about grief and loss.
Most hospice programs offer these trainings 2-3 times annually. Volunteers get to decide how much and what kinds of support they’d like to lend. Volunteers are also needed to help in the hospice program office.
For more information about volunteer opportunities, please call a hospice program near you.