Hospice is a philosophy of care that recognizes death as a natural part of life and seeks neither to prolong nor hasten the dying process. Hospice care involves support for patients and their loved ones. Volunteers are the heart of hospice, providing that extra level of care, comfort, and support that makes all the difference to patients and families. The hospice volunteer is an essential member of the interdisciplinary care team in providing this much needed and appreciated support in the following ways:
- Companionship – A volunteer may share worries and concerns, listen, or just sit quietly. Often the most important thing a volunteer can do is just be there for patients to reassure them they are not alone. Other activities might include reading, listening to music, playing games, or watching TV or a movie.
- Caregiver relief – The volunteer may stay with the patient during scheduled periods of time or their presence may provide much needed respite periods for the caregiver to take care of themselves, their home, and other members of their family.
- Practical services and errands – The volunteer may assist the patient with writing letters and taking telephone messages, adjusting bed and covers, grocery shopping, and pickup of medications and supplies. You might have the occasion to prepare a light meal, provide transportation, do an occasional load of laundry or take care of some light shopping.
- Spiritual support – If asked, the volunteer may pray with a patient or family, read from inspirational books, play special music, etc. The volunteer may also encourage the patient to communicate his or her faith, fears, or any thoughts or feelings about end of life issues to the hospice chaplain.
- Team and office support – Volunteers are always needed to assist the hospice team in the office and with special projects and events that are key to providing hospice care to the community. These activities might include answering telephones, prepare, fill and duplicate projects like board or family packets, education conferences, memorials and newsletters, run errands, type and input data and statistics and other general clerical tasks.