Hospice volunteers are essential members of the hospice team. Hospice volunteers provide companionship to people living with a serious illness who might be near the end of life. They help family caregivers in a variety of ways. Hospices also rely on volunteers to help with office work, fundraising, community outreach and other operational areas.
Hospice care in the U.S. was founded by volunteers and there is continued commitment to volunteer service—in fact, Medicare regulations require that hospices have trained volunteers as a part of the services they provide.
Hospice Needs Volunteers
Volunteers provide important services to hospice organizations and the people they serve. By being a hospice volunteer, you can gain great personal satisfaction from knowing that you have made an impact in another person’s life and have contributed to your community in a compassionate and caring way.
Hospice Helps People Live as Fully as Possible
Considered to be the model for quality, compassionate care for people facing a serious illness or injury, hospice involves a team-oriented approach to expert medical care, pain management, and emotional and spiritual support expressly tailored to the patient’s needs and wishes. Support is provided to the patient’s loved ones, as well. Trained volunteers are valued members of the hospice team.
Hospice Volunteers are Trained
All potential hospice volunteers are screened to make sure this kind of service seems to be a good fit for the volunteer and for the hospice organization. Hospice volunteers receive training to ensure they feel comfortable with their tasks. Training programs vary in length and can be different from organization to organization. Generally, a hospice volunteer training program covers 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 when serving a patient or their inner circle of caregivers
- An overview of chronic and life-limiting illnesses
- Effective communication skills when speaking with the patient and their inner circle
- Information about interpersonal family issues and relationships
- Boundaries for the hospice volunteer and the patient and family
- Basic information about grief and loss
Hospice Volunteers Can Do . . . Just About Anything!
As a hospice volunteer you will be given choices as to how much and what types of things you want to do. Some examples of typical volunteer duties are:
- Listening to a patient’s concerns
- Being a comforting and supportive presence
- Engaging in the patient’s hobbies, for example, playing a board game or discussing current events
- Reading or writing down memories for the patient or helping with correspondence
- Telling other hospice staff the needs of the hospice patient and family/inner circle
- Running errands or doing light housekeeping for those receiving hospice care at home
- Encouraging the patient to tell their life story
- Transporting a patient to physician visits or shopping
- Providing assistance with personal care such as bathing or transferring from a chair to bed, if the volunteer has been properly trained to do so
- Providing time for the caregiver to take care of her/him self
It is important to know that hospice volunteers are never asked to do something they are not comfortable doing.
Hospice Volunteers Work in the Office, Too
Hospice relies on volunteers to help with administrative work, as well. These duties include:
- Data entry
- Mailings and photocopying
- Fundraising activities
- Answering phone calls that come into the hospice
- Assisting in coordinating support services
- Assisting in thrift shops
Who Can Volunteer?
Every hospice program has their own policy regarding eligibility for becoming a hospice volunteer. Many hospices work with volunteers in their teens. Emotional maturity plays an important role in determining whether or not a person is ready to become a hospice volunteer, as the role of a volunteer can be an intense experience.
Becoming a Hospice Volunteer is Easy
Many areas have multiple hospice programs serving the community so you may want to find out as much information about each hospice program in your area before deciding on which hospice to volunteer with. You will need to reach out to the hospice and ask about their volunteer application process. This often involves an initial interview with your local hospice’s volunteer program staff. During the initial interview, you may be asked the following questions:
- Why you want to become a hospice volunteer
- What times you are available during the day to volunteer
- Any experiences that you may have had caring for family members or friends at the end of life
The hospice staff person will ask you to complete an application form and may also request that you provide a current resume and references. You will need to complete the hospice training program as required by the hospice organization. It’s important to remember that the dates for official volunteer training might be set, so there may be a delay before you can begin the training program. Once you have completed the volunteer training program, you will be ready to begin your work as a hospice volunteer. By being a hospice volunteer, you can gain great personal satisfaction from knowing that you have made an impact in another person’s life and in your community.