If you wish to give your time and talents to help people as they go through the end-of-life journey, you might consider becoming a hospice volunteer. Hospice is a type of care that focuses on addressing the spiritual and emotional needs of terminally ill patients and improving their comfort and quality of life. Knowing the duties of a hospice volunteer is an important step.
There are many ways you can give your time, whether you choose to help patients directly or would rather help out on the clerical side. No matter how you choose to help, hospice volunteering can be a great way to make a big difference in people’s lives.
Why Hospice Needs Volunteers
At the heart of the philosophy of hospice is a holistic approach that provides patients and their friends and family with a sense of normality. Volunteers are often able to connect with patients on a deeper and more personal level than their doctors and nurses, and this is a perspective that can give the entire hospice care team valuable insight into the patient’s state of mind and the impact their care is providing.
In hospice programs that are certified by Medicare, volunteers must be integrated into administrative and patient services. The U.S. government mandates that the total number of hours contributed by volunteers to hospice should equal at least 5% of the overall patient care hours provided by paid and contract hospice employees and staff.
Hospice Volunteer Training
Hospice volunteers are given training before they begin their services to prepare them for their role, whether they will be involved in administrative services or directly helping patients, caregivers and families.
Each hospice organization has its own training program, but most of them include topics such as the philosophy of hospice, the services offered by the particular hospice organization and how to respect patients’ health information privacy. Many programs cover the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of patients and their families during this difficult time. Training typically addresses how to respect boundaries when interacting with all parties involved as well as communicating with patients and their loved ones.
Finally, volunteers learn how to help patients and their families cope with loss, grief and bereavement. Those who will be helping out on the administrative side may also be trained in the particular tasks that they will be assigned.
Types Of Hospice Volunteering
Hospice volunteers are generally grouped into one of two categories: indirect care volunteering and direct care volunteering. Outlined below is a closer look at what is entailed in these two useful ways of giving your time as a hospice volunteer.
Direct Care Volunteer
Direct care volunteers work directly with patients as well as their caregivers and families to provide comfort and support. This may come in the form of sitting with patients and spending time with them to provide a comforting presence and companionship, and it may give their family caregivers some time to themselves. This time may be spent conversing about current events, reminiscing about the person’s life or sitting in companionable silence, depending on what the patient prefers.
The volunteer may also help around the house, taking on tasks such as preparing meals for patients and their families, transporting patients or their family members to appointments and other commitments, or helping out with light household chores. Some direct care volunteers might play music for patients to help lighten the mood, whether they bring in recordings of their favorite music or play an instrument.
Indirect Care Volunteer
People who wish to volunteer for hospice but would rather not work with patients directly can give their time to helping out on the administrative end with general office tasks and community outreach.
For example, they may help with general data entry and similar clerical duties or prepare newsletters and mailings for community outreach. They might also help to set up special events in the community and other outings.
It is often recommended that volunteers who have recently lost a loved one wait a certain period of time before volunteering in direct care, so indirect care is a great way for them to give back in the meantime.
The Impact That Hospice Volunteers Have
Hospice volunteers have a big impact on people’s lives thanks to the level of personal connection and support that comes from direct care. In fact, a study from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization that was carried out in 2010 found that the bereaved families of patients who used hospice programs with a greater emphasis on direct volunteers regularly reported greater care satisfaction.
Many volunteers report that their time helping out in hospice gives them a deeper appreciation of life and acceptance of death, as well a great sense of fulfillment and community connection.
Reach Out To Be A Volunteer
If you are interested in making a difference in people’s lives by serving as a hospice volunteer, get in touch with the compassionate team at Harbor Light Hospice to learn more about how you can help. We are compassionate about those we serve and take a lot of pride in having the best volunteer staff we can.