Submitted by: Denise Parsons, Administrator Caris Healthcare (Hospice)
Volunteers provide important services to hospice organizations and the people they serve. Whether it’s providing companionship to a person in the final months and weeks of life, offering support to family members and caregivers, or helping with community outreach and fundraising, the contributions of volunteers are essential to the important work provided by our nation’s hospice programs.
Hospice care in the U.S. was founded by volunteers and there is continued commitment to volunteer service – in fact, Medicare regulations require that hospices have trained volunteers as a part of the services they provide.
More than 400,000 trained volunteers provide more than 19 million hours of service every year.
By being a hospice volunteer, you can gain great personal satisfaction from knowing that you have made an impact in another person’s life and in your community.
Considered to be the model for quality, compassionate care for people facing a life-limiting illness or injury, hospice and palliative care involve a team-oriented approach to expert medical care, pain management, and emotional and spiritual support expressly tailored to the patient’s needs and wishes. Support is provided to the patient’s loved ones as well. The focus of hospice relies on the belief that each of us has the right to die pain-free and with dignity, and that our loved ones will receive the necessary support to allow us to do so.
The hospice team provides support to ensure the highest quality of life possible for the person living with a life-limiting illness.
- Hospice focuses on caring, not curing and, in most cases, care is provided in the patient’s home.
- Hospice care also is provided in freestanding hospice centers, hospitals, nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
- Hospice services are available to patients of any age, religion, race, or illness.
- Hospice care is covered under Medicare, Medicaid, most private insurance plans, HMOs, and other managed care organizations.
The hospice concept and movement has grown out of the commitment and vision of thousands of volunteers. From the beginning, and still today, volunteers are at the heart of hospice.
Traditionally, volunteers have been the backbone of the hospice movement and are still an indispensable part of any hospice program. Even the federal government recognizes the importance of volunteers in the delivery of hospice care by requiring that Medicare-approved hospices utilize volunteers from their community.
Volunteers serve as a member of the hospice team by sharing skills and interests in a manner that provides comfort and enriches the quality of life for those served. Volunteers serve on a regularly scheduled basis and provide the following:
- Support services – companionship, friendly visiting, active listening, bedside sitting, letter writing.
- Sharing hobbies and special interests – reading, gardening, listening to music, sports, travel, crafts, etc.
- Homemaking tasks – light housekeeping, laundry, meal preparation.
Many hospices participate in the “WE HONOR VETERANS” program in partnership with Veteran’s Administration. This allows for Veteran volunteers to assist the special needs of Veteran patients. The training they have received while serving in the military serves Veteran patients so well because they are catered to the specific needs of the Veteran. Caris Healthcare is a Level Four partner with the “WE HONOR VETERANS” program, which is the highest level of participation.
Our Veteran volunteers approach those difficult conversations if the patient feels the need to discuss them and it is commonly the first time they have ever uttered words about their military experience. Commonly suppressed emotions are guilt, remorse and even regret but opening up about these difficult topics free the patient to experience a comfortable death. These volunteer assignments are carefully appointed by the Volunteer Coordinator but are appreciated by everyone involved.
Hospice volunteers often express their work with patients and families as a blessing. The inner knowledge and satisfaction a volunteer receives from knowing they’ve made a real difference in the life of a patient or family is what makes being a hospice volunteer special. To be invited into the last months, weeks, and days of a person’s life is an honor and a privilege.
Every hospice will have a screening process and volunteer training program. The best way to begin is to contact one of your local hospice organizations to ask about volunteer opportunities and the specific requirements and application process they have.