If you want to support your community and make a difference in people’s lives, consider becoming a hospice care volunteer. Below is a look at what roles do volunteers play in hospice care, how hospice volunteers can serve patients, their families and hospice services.
How Hospice Volunteers Serve
Hospice teams are comprised of physicians, nurses, social workers, clergy and therapists, but one of the often-forgotten aspects that can make hospice a good experience is the support provided by trained volunteers. At a time when patients are surrounded by serious and technical discussions of medical issues, having someone around to provide companionship and lend a helping hand can lighten the mood and improve the quality of life of a patient and their family.
Support For Patients In Hard And Uncertain Times
Hospice volunteers make a big impact on a person’s life simply by offering support during their final months and weeks. Meeting with patients in their homes or wherever they happen to live and providing companionship can be very comforting. Many patients enjoy conversing with hospice volunteers and reflecting back on their lives or talking about current events; others are content to pass the time together in companionable silence.
Direct care volunteers might also read to patients, take walks with them, write letters for them, bring in therapeutic pets or play music for them. Volunteers with the relevant certification might offer massage therapy, aromatherapy or other types of therapy to patients, but it is important to keep in mind that patient care volunteers do not provide any type of medical or hands-on care.
Respect And Support For Family Members
Losing a loved one can be an incredibly trying time. Volunteers can help take some of the burdens off of family members by handling shopping and errands, caring for pets, or completing light household maintenance so they can spend more time with their loved ones. They can also provide some respite, allowing family caregivers time to themselves to take care of their responsibilities, run errands or have some time alone.
Many people in hospice enjoy listening to live music, so people who can play instruments might opt to serve as a music volunteer. This entails bringing your instrument with you to visit patients and playing some of your favorite songs for them, taking requests from the patient if your skill allows it. This can provide relaxation for patients and ease some of their anxiety.
Child Care Assistance
Hospice volunteers can help with childcare, such as by babysitting, bringing children to school, helping them with homework or dropping them off at after-school activities.
Bereavement Support Programs
Some hospice care volunteers work with the bereavement staff, helping with support groups, working on mailings or serving refreshments at meetings.
Fundraising And Administrative Work
Not all hospice volunteers work directly with patients. Those with clerical skills can help out with administrative and office tasks. There are also opportunities to help with fundraising events and community outreach. Administrative volunteers can handle tasks such as answering phone calls, preparing leaflets and mailings, data entry and helping out in charity thrift stores.
This is a great choice for those who have a background in office work or who want to help but do not feel comfortable sitting with patients directly. However, even those without an administrative background can be trained by the hospice if they wish to help in this manner.
Special Requirements You Might Need
Although some hospices have volunteer programs geared toward high school students, most have a minimum age requirement of either 18 or 21.
Hospice volunteers undergo a background check, typically at the expense of the hospice. There are also orientation and training sessions that must be completed before working with patients to equip volunteers for the challenge of working with people who are dying.
This training typically includes a briefing on the philosophy of hospice, a look at the services they provide, and instruction on communicating effectively with patients and their caregivers. Volunteers also learn about appropriate boundaries, best practices for supporting patients and families, and how to respect patients’ privacy. The training depends on the role in question.
Volunteers might be required to have a valid driver’s license, especially those who will be driving to patients’ homes to carry out their work.
Many hospices require that those who have recently lost a loved one wait a certain period of time before volunteering at patients’ bedsides, although they can volunteer to help with administrative work as soon as they feel ready.
Become A Hospice Volunteer
If you are a compassionate person who is willing to give your time to patients who are approaching the end of their lives, consider becoming a hospice volunteer. To learn more about what roles do volunteers play in hospice care, get in touch with Harbor Light Hospice to find out how you can contribute to this worthy cause.