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Volunteers Enrich Lives

According to the Hospice Foundation of America, 96,000 people volunteer in hospices throughout the country.

Volunteers are a vital part of the hospice interdisciplinary team. In fact, Medicare regulations require that five percent of patient care hours be provided by volunteers. Volunteers reach out to patients and their families to provide the humane, personalized care that is such an important part of the hospice experience. Volunteers range in age from teens to senior citizens.

Roles of Volunteers

While volunteer opportunities differ from one hospice to another, all hospices strive to utilize volunteers in roles that match their skills and interests. Volunteer assignments may include:

  • Visits with the patient. During the visits, the volunteer may read to the patient, write letters, play music, help the person to write in a journal, or take walks if the patient can.
  • Assistance to the family. Volunteers may help with babysitting, running errands, meal preparation, or pet care.
  • Respite care. While the volunteer visits the patient, the family may take the opportunity to do errands or just take a break.
  • Emotional support. The volunteer who works with a family becomes a compassionate friend who listens and offers support. Volunteers may also teach stress reduction techniques to patients and families; some qualified volunteers even provide massage therapy.
  • Assistance to bereavement groups. Hospice volunteers help support group leaders by handling mailings to support group members or providing refreshments at meetings.
  • Administrative work and fund-raising. Some volunteers help in the office with clerical tasks, while others contact potential donors.
  • Public Education. Volunteers may join the hospice program's Speakers Bureau to help educate the public about the benefits of hospice care.

Volunteer Training

Maryland regulations require that volunteers who have direct patient contact receive at least 16 hours of training in:Image of two elderly women hugging.

  • Safety
  • Patient rights
  • Bereavement
  • Confidentiality
  • Infection control
  • Stress management
  • Care and comfort measures
  • Dynamics of the hospice family
  • Communication and interpersonal skills
  • The purpose and philosophy of hospice care
  • The physical, psychosocial, and spiritual issues related to death and dying

How to Get Started

If you are looking for a deeply rewarding and challenging volunteer experience, a hospice program may be right for you. Start by contacting a local hospice program. A list of hospice programs in Maryland will help you find a program convenient for you.

Information about volunteer opportunities in other settings is also available.

In most hospice programs, volunteers must submit to a routine background check. This is necessary to ensure the safety of patients and families and the integrity of the program.