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"Hospice Volunteering: Is it Right for You?" By Kellie Patti, HSM Volunteer Services Manager

There are numerous volunteer opportunities available in the community. The key is to find the volunteer experience that is right for you. Being a hospice volunteer who works directly with patients and families who are receiving hospice care, may be a great fit for you!

To begin the process of finding a volunteer role which is suited for you, the following questions may help to guide you:

    • Do you like to work with people?
    • What is important to you?
    • What are you drawn to?
    • Do you prefer to work alone or as part of a team?
    • How much time are you willing to commit?
    • Is it important to you to make a difference?

Your answers to these questions could possibly lead you to the exploration of becoming a hospice patient volunteer. If they do, it is important to have a general understanding of the hospice care model, how direct care volunteers are involved and what training is required to be a volunteer.

Hospice is care that aims at providing comfort rather than curing a disease process. Hospice is provided to those with a limited life expectancy of 6 months or less. Hospice care is designed to be delivered in a team approach. When a patient and their family become part of a hospice program, they are cared for by a team comprised of a physician, social worker, hospice nurse, hospice aid, spiritual support provider, grief support counselors and a trained volunteer. Hospice provides care for the patient and support for the family. Hospice provides comfort for physical symptoms, such as pain, and for emotional, social and spiritual distress as well. If the hospice program is Medicare certified, it is required that volunteer services be provided.

As a team member, the volunteer is in the position to provide the patient and/or patient’s caregivers with support. Support from a volunteer can come in a multitude of ways. Just as each patient and family is unique, so are their needs.

Volunteers come to the table with a variety of skills, talents and gifts and then receive an in-depth comprehensive training. Hospice volunteer training generally includes topics such as:

    • History and Philosophy of Hospice Care
    • Communication and Listening Skills
    • Family Dynamics
    • Roles of Volunteers
    • Confidentiality
    • Advance Care Planning
    • Grief, Loss and Transition
    • Ethics
    • Signs and Symptoms of Approaching Death
    • Insights/Experiences from Volunteers
    • Boundaries of the Volunteer Role

Once hospice volunteers are trained to work directly with patients, they can provide non-medical aid and support in a number of ways. The way in which a volunteer gives service is unique to the needs of the patient and their caregivers. It may be in the form of emotional support, respite care to allow caregivers time to themselves, help with light household tasks, errands, family concerns or assisting with writing a life review. On average, hospice volunteers give 2-4 hours of service per week.

There are an estimated 400,000 trained volunteers working to support the work of our nation’s hospice programs and the patients and families under their care. Being a hospice volunteer could be right for you.

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