Ed visited his terminally ill father in the hospital before his father passed away. A few months after his
father’s death, Ed decided that he wanted to lend support to other end-of-life patients and their families.
Ed discovered that a nearby hospice center needed additional volunteers, but he wasn’t sure what volunteering
at a hospice facility required of him. How much time would he have to commit? Did he need any special
training to volunteer?
Whether you can relate to the situation above or just want to volunteer in a hospice center, you likely
have questions about the work you will do. Below, we’ve answered some of the most common concerns about
volunteering in these facilities so you can make a more informed decision about volunteering.
What Qualifies a Person as a Hospice Patient?
Most often, hospice care patients suffer from a terminal illness or old age. To make these individuals
more comfortable in this stage of life, their primary care physicians refer them to hospice care. In a care
center or in the patient’s home, staff members and volunteers try to make the patient more comfortable during
the remaining weeks or months of a patient’s life.
How Much Time Must I Commit to Volunteering?
When you choose to volunteer, you must be willing and able to commit two to four hours of service a week.
Additionally, you must make a commitment to volunteering for at least the next year.
What Other Requirements Must I Meet?
As a volunteer, you must attend training sessions before you can work with hospice patients. The training
you receive in these classes depends entirely on the type of volunteer work you will perform.
For example, you may volunteer to provide hands-on care to a hospice patient. In that case, you may
undergo training that covers the following topics:
- Grief and loss counseling
- Boundaries between the volunteer, the patient, and the family
- Emergency medical support
Following the training, you will go through an interview, background check, and tuberculosis screening.
These steps protect hospice patients and their families as you work with them.
Once placed with a hospice patient, you will begin to provide care and support. Your responsibilities will
vary and may include assisting the patient with tasks he or she can no longer perform for themselves. You may
even lend emotional support to the patient’s family during this time.
If you are unable to work directly with a hospice patient, you still have other service opportunities
available. Other volunteer opportunities include:
- Assisting with the Life Review program
- Providing office assistance such as data entry and clerical duties
- Sharing an artistic or musical talent during a patient’s therapy session
All of these opportunities allow you to make a patient more comfortable during this difficult time.
Is It Emotionally Taxing to Work with Terminally Ill Patients?
The most common concern for volunteers is the emotional toll of working with the terminally ill. Of
course, working with an end-of-life patient can be difficult. Fortunately, most hospice providers give
trainings to prepare a volunteer for this experience.
If you are able to lend emotional support to these patients and their families, contact a hospice facility
and ask them about the trainings they provide. You’ll also want to discuss different ways to lend this
support so you can best meet the patient’s needs (as well as the needs of his or her family members).
How Great Is the Need for Volunteers?
Though advances in medicine have allowed people to live longer, people still become ill or age and require
the services that only a hospice center can provide. And as more individuals enter hospice care, the more
these facilities need volunteers to assist them.
Additionally, hospice care centers that receive Medicare benefits are required by law to provide at least
5% of their services through volunteer work. As a result, these centers need people like you to volunteer at
their facilities-especially so they can provide a comfortable environment for their patients.
As you consider volunteering at a hospice facility, keep these answers in mind. If you have more question
about hospice care, read through the rest of our blog.