Resources for Volunteers
Over 550,000 people volunteer at hospices around the country, donating 25 million hours of service. In fact, volunteers are an integral part of the hospice team. To learn more about volunteering, you might want to check out the links below. Or give us a call at 828-466-0466.
- Volunteer with Palliative CareCenter
- Opportunties to help
- The training session
- What's it like to volunteer?
- Books on volunteering
- Volunteer training materials
Volunteer with Palliative CareCenter
Volunteers are a vital part of our work. Volunteers provide relief, companionship, and affection to our patients. The few hours spent with them are invaluable; our families tell us that the small things, like running errands, reading aloud, or just listening make all the difference to patients and caregivers alike. Volunteers are a driving force behind hospice care.
PCHCV volunteers come from all walks of life. They are a wide range of ages, educational and ethnic backgrounds. They bring unique skills and life experiences to their volunteer commitment. PCHCV offers training, support and continuing educational opportunities for volunteers.
* Are 16 years of age or older, of any race or creed
* Are willing to give of their time
* Are open and accepting
* Find pleasure in helping others
* Keep promises to others
* Train in order to provide a helping hand
* Become vital members of the PCHCV team
Opportunties to help
Patient and Caregiver Care
Volunteers who serve where the patients live may:
* Hold a hand — provide a source of support and strength
* Warm a meal — assist with small tasks
* Play comforting music or read aloud
* Run an errand
* Help with light housekeeping
* Be a friend — share the art of listening
* Sit with a patient — provide respite relief to a caregiver
* Help with yard work — provide a needed service
* Commit to help the PCHCV team
Office/Special Project Volunteers
Provide administrative support and assist PCHCV staff with special projects such as:
* Data entry
* Record keeping
* Receptionist duty
* Special mailings
Integrative Therapy, Professional and Special Skilled Volunteers
* Certified Patient Care Volunteers who visit with pets (add'l training required)
* Certified Massage Therapists
* Certified Music Therapists
* Spanish and Hmong speaking volunteers
The training session
Volunteer training is held quarterly and covers hospice philosophy, history, guidance on connecting with patients and families, and more. For information on the next training session, call Eva Narvaez, Manager of Volunteer Services, at 828/466-0466, ext. 2203, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
What's it like to volunteer?
As a hospice volunteer, you have the privilege of serving families at a tender time when they are saying, "I love you," "I forgive you," " thank you," and "good-bye." It's a period of closure and a time of reflection. Many patients find it helpful to talk about their lives with an objective listener. They feel free to discuss events and issues with a volunteer that it may be difficult to share with their relatives or health providers.
Hospice volunteers consistently describe the experience as one that is surprisingly rewarding. Below are comments typically heard from volunteers:
- "The courage of the patients, and their gratitude and concern for their family.It's amazing.And the family members! These caregivers are the unsung heroes. Their love and compassion is really very touching. The whole thing is profoundly moving."
- "I've seen family members reunited after years of being apart. They realize that the grudge they were holding really wasn't all that important afterall. Decades of bitterness falls away in the face of death. And to a one, they all say, 'Why did we wait so long?' It makes you realize that you don't have to wait until you're dying to forgive. What a lesson!"
- "It meant so much to us to get help from hospice when my husband was sick. I decided I wanted to give back, so I became a hospice volunteer. What I didn't know at the time was how much I would get out of it, being on the giving end. It's one the best things I do."
- "For me, it's a blessing to spend time with people in their last weeks of life. As my patients lose their physical abilities, they often become more spiritual. The worries of daily life are seen for what they are, insignificant. In the end, all my patients can do is become the essence of the human soul: our capacity to love. And just think, I get to witness that every week!"
In addition to visiting with patients, your presence as a volunteer also gives family members the opportunity for a much-needed break. The kinds of activities a volunteer might do include:
- Light housekeeping (dishes, laundry, meal preparation)
- Running errands
- Letter writing
- Sharing hobbies or special interests
Please know that a volunteer will never be expected to do something they do not want to do. In addition, all volunteers receive extensive training and support, and there is a Volunteer Coordinator to help if you have questions or concerns.
Patient-care is not the only way to contribute. If you are interested in volunteering but don't see yourself working with patients, hospice will gladly find ways to use your unique talents. Other volunteer opportunities could include things like:
- Clerical tasks (mailings, reception, special projects)
- Helping with grief support groups
- Staffing a table at a health fair
- Writing condolence cards
- Assisting at a memorial event
- Delivering medications from the pharmacy
- Helping with computer projects
- Serving on an advisory council
Or, if you have a volunteer idea in mind, call us and suggest it. Volunteers around the country have come up with all kinds of ideas:
- One volunteer set up a program helping patients to leave a video for their family members. Some use the video to reminisce about favorite memories, some tell their life story, others make it a love letter or an ethical will.
- The employees in one workplace organized into teams that each "adopted" a family for the holidays. The teams did things like make a Christmas meal, or get a wish list from family members and then solicited donations for the gifts from local businesses.
Other resources to learn about the experience of volunteering for hospice are listed below:
Created by hospice volunteer and author, Mary Jo Bennett, this website includes articles on what it's like to be a hospice volunteer, and excerpts from her book, "When Autumn Comes: creating compassionate care for the dying."
Communicate with others through this discussion forum for hospice volunteers and volunteer coordinators. The purpose of the group is to share ideas and offer support to one another. Those who are interested in joining need have no official connection to any specific hospice - just a desire to learn more and engage in discussions that enhance services to terminally ill patients and their families.
An interview with a hospice volunteer, recognized with a 2004 Community Service Award by her employer, Duke University.
Books on volunteering
Dying Declarations: Notes from a Hospice Volunteer
A candid account of a volunteer's initial concern that hospice would be a depressing venue. Instead, the author tells touching stories that illustrate the uplifting and enriching nature of working with people who, at the end of life, are willing to strip away all that is unimportant and embrace their true priorities. He also gets very specific about hospice training and the ways a hospice volunteer can positively impact the patients and families they serve.
In the Midst of Dying: A Hospice Volunteer's Story
Retired English teacher, Charles Rose, recounts stories of his experience in Lee County, Alabama.
Lessons for the Living: Stories of Foregiveness, Gratitude and Courage at the End of Life
The author, a hospice volunteer, shares his personal journey as he cares for hospice patients and learns the simple grace of ordinary acts of daily kindness.
When Autumn Comes: Creating Compassionate Care of the Dying
Practical advice and thoughtful reflection accompany the stories presented in this book by long time hospice volunteer, Mary Jo Bennett.
When Evening Comes: The Education of a Hospice Volunteer
Through 15 stories of working with women dying of breast cancer in rural Virginia, the author traces her evolution from novice to seasoned volunteer. She talks about some of the difficulties, but also the immense rewards.
Volunteer training materials
Although training is an integral part of the volunteer program, you may find these reference materials useful.
This 500 page binder is a caregiver training manual funded by Eisai and created as a joint project of numerous caregiving organizations. Although not hospice-specific, it certainly offers education and skill-building pertinent to the hospice volunteer, covering topics such as aging, becoming a volunteer, supporting family caregivers, dealing with loss, finding help, and a glossary of common terms. Each chapter can be downloaded for free.
Growthhouse is a website that leverages Internet communication to help end-of-life professionals network and access resources to improve their practice and understanding. It has a special section for volunteers, including books, links to professional forums, a newsletter, and a guided meditation CD on providing compassionate service.
Please Note: Palliative CareCenter and Hospice does not specifically endorse the activities of these organizations, but offers their information as a sample of the kinds of materials and services that are available.