Volunteering and Hospice
Be A Hospice Volunteer
The 468,000 plus hospice volunteers at work in hospices throughout the U.S. are an essential part of the hospice philosophy of care which recognizes that dying is not just a medical event but a personal one as well. These volunteers are important members of an interdisciplinary team working to “de-institutionalize” the dying experience and provide a more humane system of care for the dying and their families. In fact, federal law requires that at least 5% of patient care hours be provided by volunteers (if the hospice receives Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement.)
Volunteers in hospice find it personally gratifying, intellectually stimulating, and emotionally meaningful to assist those in need at a critical point in their lives. Many of these volunteers were introduced to hospice through the death of a family member and understand firsthand the value of hospice care, but nearly 20% of volunteers are new to hospice. Volunteers consistently report that helping the terminally ill through hospice is not about dying but about living.
Wherever you live, a local hospice will have opportunities for volunteers. Participants may range in age from teens to senior citizens. Some hospices have specific minimum age requirements. While volunteer opportunities can vary greatly from one hospice to another, all hospices strive to constructively utilize the time and talents of those who answer the call to serve. Some volunteers may have professional skills or specialized expertise, but most are just people who want to help their friends and neighbors and serve the community.
You should contact your local hospice for more details on their specific needs but some of the wide range of opportunities available for local hospice volunteers can include:
- Support for patients. This can include visiting, reading, taking walks, writing letters, bringing in music, supervising visits with pets, even massage therapy for volunteers with the necessary skills.
- Respite and support for family members. Volunteers can assist with shopping or household maintenance, or allow family caregivers the opportunity to take care of necessary errands and get some time away from the house. Family members also appreciate a visit from a compassionate friend who understands what they are going through.
- Child care assistance. This can include help with babysitting, picking up children from school or providing necessary transportation to club meetings or sporting events and practices. Volunteers have also made invaluable contributions with family pet care.
- Bereavement support programs. Hospice volunteers can work closely with the hospice’s professional bereavement staff in duties that range from assisting as a support group facilitator to serving refreshments and helping with mailings to clients and families.
- Fund-raising and administrative work. A volunteer with clerical skills can serve a hospice by helping in the office with simple administrative duties. Fundraising responsibilities can range from preparing mailings or thank you letters to organizing fundraising events and contacting possible donors.
To ensure that all volunteers are equipped for the challenge of working with the dying, hospices require that volunteers complete extensive orientation and training sessions, as well as submit to a routine background check. It’s important that volunteers understand the history of hospice and are aware of the specific ways their local hospices works to serve the community. Depending on area of service, additional training may be available or necessary.
To find a hospice near you or for more information, contact the Hospice Foundation of America at 1-800-854-3402. You may order our brochure on volunteering here.
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