Hospice was initially founded by a group of volunteers committed to making a profound difference in our community. Volunteers continue to play an essential role in hospice care and make vital contributions to patients and families.
to find a hospice near you; contact them directly to discuss volunteer opportunities and training. Most hospice volunteer programs offer several opportunities to get involved:
Patient/family volunteers are assigned to patients and their families in the patient’s own home, a nursing home, hospital or other alternate living facility. These volunteers act as a “professional friend” providing practical help for overburdened families. Patient/family volunteers do not provide personal care to the patient. They offer respite, to allow caregivers a few hours off, emotional support, companionship and a wide range of homemaking tasks including errands and transportation. The assistance they provide relieves caregivers of some day-to-day concerns and allows the family to spend quality time with the patient. They bring the outside world in to a homebound patient. Volunteers help celebrate special occasions and share times of joy or sadness. Assignments may require a minimal time commitment, for example a short telephone call once a week to ask if the family needs any help, or a greater time commitment such as visiting the patient weekly for a few hours. No matter how they help, it is impossible to overstate how much this support means both to the patient and family, and to the hospice team working with them.
Volunteers make phone calls to patients or caregivers providing companionship and emotional support. These calls provide additional contact with the hospice team between regular visits from nurses, social workers, chaplains and home care staff.
Vigil Care volunteers bring the gift of presence to patients who are actively dying. Generally the family prefers privacy at this time; however, there are occasions when a volunteer’s presence can be a great help. Family members use the time a volunteer is present to rest, eat or care for their own health. Vigil volunteers allow family members to attend to these matters, knowing their loved one is not alone.
Hospice provides support to the bereaved for a period of thirteen months following the death of its patients. Volunteers may serve the bereaved in a variety of ways. Volunteers may act as Bereavement Group Facilitators, providing support and guidance in a group setting by acting as facilitators for one of the many bereavement groups that are offered. Bereavement groups are available to bereaved children and well as adults. Some of the groups are ongoing, and others meet once a week for a defined number of weeks. Volunteers may also provide supportive companionship and conversation to the bereaved through telephone support around the three-, six- and 12-month anniversary following the death of a loved one. Volunteers also have the option of assisting at the many remembrance services that are offered to celebrate and honor the lives of the deceased patients.
For those volunteers who prefer to work in an office setting, Hospice can offer clerical opportunities. Many jobs that are done in an office can be done by a volunteer, such as answering telephones, acting as a receptionist, data input, filing, transcription, computer work, assembling mailings and general office assistance.
Other Volunteer Opportunities
As each hospice is unique to its community, so are the volunteer opportunities that can be offered. Check with your local hospice to see where your skills and experience will be welcomed.