What is Hospice Volunteer?
Volunteers are an integral part of the hospice team, filling roles that range from direct contact with patients to providing clerical and fundraising support for the organization. Hospices that participate with Medicare are required to utilize volunteers alongside their paid clinical and administrative staff. Hospice volunteers describe their work as gratifying, intellectually stimulating, and emotionally meaningful. Hospices require a lot from their volunteers and value them greatly.
Most hospices require volunteers to be over the age of 18 or 21, but some have volunteer programs for high school students. It is not uncommon for people whose loved one died in hospice care to want to volunteer for the hospice provider soon after the death, but most hospices require newly bereaved volunteer candidates to wait for a period of time before volunteering at the bedside. Hospices typically require prospective volunteers to submit to a background check, usually at the hospice’s expense. To ensure that volunteers are equipped for the challenge of working with the dying, they are required to complete extensive orientation and training sessions. A hospice may require volunteers to have a valid driver’s license, particularly if the volunteer will be traveling to patient homes.
The Benefits of Becoming a Hospice Volunteer
While hospice volunteers have a tremendous impact on the lives of the patients, caregivers, and families they serve, the volunteers themselves also benefit from the giving of their time and talents. Hospice volunteers, particularly those who work directly with patients and families, commonly report:
- A greater appreciation for life and understanding of what is truly important
- A deeper understanding and acceptance of the role of death in the process of life
- An enriched understanding of different cultures and life perspectives
- A sense of fulfillment and contribution to the community
Types of Hospice Volunteering
There are many ways in which hospice volunteers lend their time and effort to hospice organizations. Whether helping support patients, caregivers, and families directly, or by assisting the hospice with administrative work, there are always tasks in which the unique talents of each volunteer can be put to effective use. The ways in which hospice volunteers provide service are largely grouped into two categories: direct care volunteering and indirect care volunteering.
Direct Care Volunteering
Hospice volunteers who work directly with patients, caregivers, and families are considered direct care volunteers. Direct care volunteers can provide support and comfort to patients and families in many ways. Common areas where direct care volunteers can provide assistance are:
- Preparing meals for patients and families
- Providing transportation to patients, families, and the children of the families
- Assisting in light household chores
- Sitting with patients to provide companionship and a comforting presence
- Playing music for patients to provide a soothing and joyful atmosphere
Indirect Care Volunteering
For volunteers who prefer not to work with patients directly, their time and effort can be put to use in assisting the hospice organization with administrative and general office tasks. Common tasks where indirect care volunteers provide assistance are:
- Helping prepare mailings and newsletters for community outreach
- Assisting in general data entry tasks and other clerical duties
- Helping in preparations and setup for special community events and outings
Whether opting to be directly or indirectly involved with patient and family care, hospice volunteers are able to use their unique talents and skill sets to support hospice organizations and provide patients and families with a more comfortable end-of-life experience.