Behind every hospice volunteer, there is a genuine desire to provide comfort, peace and care to patients and all those around them (caregivers and family members) and the end of life.
The value of these volunteers cannot be disregarded because they impact the lives of many, including the patients they take care of, their family members and the hospice team. Those that consider becoming a hospice volunteer will truly understand their impact and the way they can serve.
Why we need hospice volunteers?
Hospice volunteers are considered to be part of the hospice patient’s or family’s local community. Because of this, the relationship between the volunteer and patient/family is more natural, relaxed and normal. It’s not uncommon that volunteers connect with those involved in hospice care on a deep and personal level which can provide a higher quality care process and valuable insights.
How to become a hospice volunteer?
The first step before you can become a hospice volunteer is to go through a rigorous interview process and background check.
Most volunteers will go through a series of training that will better prepare them for the administrative side of hospice volunteering or for the practical side, meaning other ways they can directly impact and help the patients, family and caregiver team.
Based on the information the hospice organization collected during the interview, background check and training, each volunteer is matched with a hospice patient that will mostly benefit from their traits e.g. spiritual outlook, temperament etc.
Even though each hospice organization can have a unique volunteer training program, most of them cover the following:
- Hospice philosophy of care
- Setting boundaries when interacting with patients
- Review of the patient’s and family’s need e.g. spiritual, emotional and physical
- Proper ways to communicate with the patient and their family
- Helping the family and patient to cope with grief, loss or bereavement
- Understanding the patient and health information privacy
What makes a good hospice volunteer?
The unique perspective on life and personality that each volunteer brings, makes them a highly valuable and impactful member of the patient’s caregiver team. Even though there are no two completely identical hospice volunteers, most of them have some of the following traits which make them effective volunteers:
- Understand and compassion for those who are on the end-of-life journey
- Respect for the patient’s and family’s customs, religious views and beliefs and ways of life
- Understanding of personal limits
- Ability to listen and be comfortable in silence
The goal of every hospice volunteer is to provide the most comfortable and compassionate end-of-life experience possible, both to the patient, caregivers and families. The volunteer understands that his/her role is mostly revolving around compassionate service.
Hospice volunteer types
No matter if hospice volunteers work directly with patients, the caregiver team or the family or they are helping the hospice organization with administrative work, there are always tasks where the unique traits of hospice volunteers can be utilized. Based on the way they provide their services; hospice volunteers can be either in direct care or indirect care.
Hospice volunteers that work directly with patients, families and the caregiver tem are called direct care hospice volunteers. Providing support and comfort can be achieved in many ways, such as:
- Meal preparation
- Transportation of patients, families and children
- Helping out with simple household chores
- Providing joyful atmosphere by playing music
- Sitting with patients as a sign of companionship and comfort
- Pet therapy sessions (it’s proven that cuddling with a pet is beneficial for the patient’s overall health)
- Massage therapy sessions to alleviate pain and provide extra comfort
Some volunteers might prefer not to work directly with hospice patients or their families, but they still want to contribute. Indirect care volunteers can still use their skills to help the hospice organization. For example:
- They can help prepare mailing and newsletter lists for local community outreach campaign
- Assist with clerical duties and data entry
- Helping in setting up community events or outings
- Assisting with fundraising campaigns etc.
Why become a hospice volunteer?
Hospice volunteers often say that their volunteering experience had a huge impact on their life. Volunteering has really taught them to appreciate life and not to ‘sweat’ the small stuff that used to annoy them before (traffic jams, long lines in stores etc.).
Furthermore, volunteers feel a deep sense of satisfaction that they were able to help some or all involved in the hospice care process. The sense that they made a real and significant contribution to the end-of-life process to the patient, their families or the community is immeasurable.