An important way to help support a hospice care organization in your community is through volunteer service. Hospice began as a grassroots, volunteer-driven movement in the 1970s to care more compassionately for people at life’s end. Now, more than 450,000 trained volunteers provide over 19 million hours of service every year to hospices in the U.S. They provide compassion, friendship, practical support and dignity at a time when they are needed most.
How Hospice Volunteers Help
Hospice volunteers make hospice care possible. In fact, federal regulations require that trained volunteers be part of the hospice team – and volunteers help out in many different ways:
Quality Time with Patients: Volunteers may spend time with patients to enable family members to take a break from caregiving, serve as a listening ear to patients and family members, offer companionship, reading or writing a letter. Volunteers have also discovered innovative ways to work with patients. Read, Dementia and the Hospice Volunteer: An Alternate Way to Connect for a touching story of how a volunteer was able to connect with a dementia patient despite difficult communication barriers.
Making Unique Connections: Hospice volunteers often form unique and special bonds with patients. Many times, volunteers have similar backgrounds as patients. For example, the We Honor Veteran’s Veteran-to-Veteran Program pairs veterans together, which allows the patient to feel more comfortable in the relationship.
Helping with Daily Activities: Volunteers may run errands, walk a dog, or other common tasks, taking pressure off of caregivers and loved ones. It is important to remember that families supporting an individual during end-of-life still need to be able to maintain their daily tasks.
Assisting Organizations: Volunteers that provide administrative or other services to providers help ensure that organizations can run efficiently run and serve patients/families to the best of their abilities
Helping Families Cope with Grief: Volunteers are there for the family and friends to help them cope with loss and grief following death in various ways. Watch, Grief Through a Child’s Eyes – a video about a children’s bereavement camp which is supported almost entirely by volunteers!
Education/Awareness: Volunteers also help with community education and raising awareness of hospice.
The Hospice Volunteer Mentality
People often ask hospice volunteers “Isn’t it depressing?” Most volunteers will tell you that “It’s the most rewarding thing they’ve ever done.” Hospice volunteers help patients and families live every day as fully as possible. The majority of hospice volunteers describe their volunteering experiences positively. To see a real hospice volunteer in action watch, The Gift of Volunteering.
For more information on volunteering with a community hospice, contact the program directly and ask for information about the volunteer services. Different hospices will have different training and volunteering opportunities but all programs welcome the gifts of time and talent from people in the community.
To find a hospice and volunteer in your area, search our database.