Volunteers are the heart of hospice. A volunteer helps bring comfort and peace to the family of a patient in practical ways, such as running errands, performing light housekeeping and offering companionship. They may also feed patients and offer respite to the family.
The volunteer fills the role of a helpful neighbor, doing whatever is needed to make it easier for the caregiver and other family members to spend time with their loved one. However, it is often the emotional support provided by the volunteer that is most important and most appreciated. Also, a volunteer can assist with the many support activities needed to run a hospice. Volunteers can make bereavement phone calls, help with fund-raising activities or with clerical duties, do special projects and mailings, or contribute in other ways, such as cooking, sharing musical talents, pet therapy, and therapeutic touch. Volunteers may also serve as a Vigil Companion who has been specially trained to sit at the bedside of patients in their final hours so they are not alone.
Of the 115,000 persons involved in hospice care in America, some 95,000 are volunteers and each year they give more than 5 million hours to helping dying persons and their families.
They provide assistance at all levels of skill. Many are relatives and friends of former hospice patients who, having seen how much hospice can help, want to contribute to its good work. To qualify to assist in patient care, volunteers must complete a special training program.
Hospice Volunteer Training Program
Volunteers attend a minimum of 12 hours of training to enable themselves to provide hospice care.
Training sessions cover many areas of hospice care and philosophy. The areas include:
- History and philosophy of hospice -- why hospice is needed, the development of hospice, goals of care, and Sparrow Hospice Services.
- Hospice team and disciplines -- the roles and responsibilities of each team member.
- Understanding the dying patient -- the disease and dying process, concerns of the dying person and family, cultural differences and spirituality and empathy skills including communicating and listening.
- Anticipatory grief and the grief process -- sequential reactions to loss, common myths about grief, signs of complicated grief, children and grief, and cultural differences. Also covered are the bereavement program and bereavement support calls.
- Standard precautions – use of gloves and proper hand washing procedures and fire safety
- Volunteer rights and responsibilities -- policies and procedures, documentation and patient confidentiality.
Want to learn more about volunteering? Call us at 517.364.7200 or 888.636.8236. You can also fill out a volunteer application form by clicking here