Volunteers are a vital part of the team caring for individuals who are receiving hospice care. When I became a hospice volunteer several years ago, it touched my heart and quickly became one of the most satisfying things I have ever done. My support for hospice has grown and now I am proud to serve as the very first Hospice Ambassador for the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and the National Hospice Foundation.
Hospice providers are always recruiting new volunteers and if you’re looking to give of your time, within your community, in a significant way, please consider hospice.
There are some questions that people frequently ask me about volunteering that I share with you – in hopes that one day you too will be a hospice volunteer.
Q: What does a volunteer do?
Hospice volunteers provide service in three general areas.
- Direct patient volunteer which can include:
- Personal visits
- Provide caregivers with respite time
- Run errands
- Pet therapy
- Music therapy
- Write letters
- Read to patients
- Light housekeeping
- Be there to listen
- Office support which can include:
- Typing, filing
- Computer data entry
- Media work
- Answering phones
- Fundraising which can include:
- Assistance at events
- Organizing at events
- Creating new fundraisers
Q: What kind of training is required?
All hospice volunteers must complete a training course offered by the hospice provider in your community. Different hospice organizations might handle their volunteer training in slightly different ways. Generally, the total time investment for the training is between 14-20 hours. Most providers run training sessions throughout the year and will do them in increments of 2-3 hours per day.
Regardless of the specific duties a volunteer will perform, training should include:
- Hospice goals, services and philosophy;
- Confidentiality and protection of the patient’s and family’s rights;
- Family dynamics, coping mechanisms and psychological issues surrounding terminal illness, death and bereavement; and
- Guidance related specifically to individual responsibilities.
Q: Is there any administrative work that must be done by the volunteer?
There is some light paperwork that must be done by the volunteer so the hospice provider can maintain accurate records for each patient – but it’s not hard. Volunteers are required to track the number of hours they volunteer.
Q: Where do volunteers work?
Most hospice care in the U.S. happens in the place the patient calls home – this might be a private home, a nursing home, or even a hospice center. So, support for hospice patients and/or their family caregivers is usually at their home. Other volunteer jobs, like helping with events or administrative work, is often at the hospice’s offices.
Q: Being a direct-patient volunteer seems like it could be overwhelming at times-is there support I can lean on?
Hospice volunteers are surrounded by hospice professionals who work daily in this environment. There will also be a volunteer coordinator or director of volunteers who works for the organization and is responsible for maintaining and supporting volunteers.
I cannot stress enough that hospice is about helping people live as fully as possible – in spite of a life-limiting illness. There are some wonderful videos, stories and photos available on the website for Moments of Life: Made Possible by Hospice. If you really want to see hospice in action, I encourage you to visit this wonderful website that my friends at NHPCO has created.
Here’s a link that will help you find a hospice in your community. Please consider reaching out to your local hospice and find out more about their volunteer program and the ways you can support the important work of hospice.
And, should you wish to support of hospice at the national level by making a donation to the organizations that I’m working on behalf of, National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and the National Hospice Foundation, please visit the NHF website. Every donation, no matter the size, can be incredibly important.
Hospice volunteering has meant so much to me and I think you’ll find it just as powerful and life-changing in an incredibly positive way.
Learn more about some of Torrey’s activities to support hospice at CaringInfo.org/Torrey.