I saw a postcard once that read, "The last good thing that may happen in a person's life is a hospice volunteer". For National Volunteer Month help me recognize these special caregivers who are called to the bedside.
The Hospice Foundation of America tells us that volunteers are an integral part of the hospice team. They provide wide-ranging services that include:
- Bedside support for patients.
- Family support-- respite or child care.
- Bereavement support.
- Clerical tasks.
- Activities such as gardening or pet care.
- Complementary therapies.
Why does Hospice have Volunteers?
Hospice services are covered by Medicare, which mandates that hospices maintain volunteers who supplements paid employees. Therefore, volunteers make up an important part of the team. Most hospices provide training for people interested in volunteering. According to The Hospice Volunteer Association the amount and kind of training depends on the role the volunteer will play.
I've experienced first-hand rewards of hospice volunteering. I spent time with people in nursing homes who didn't have family. I often provided Compassionate Touch to comfort. One experience stands out. A 47 y/o man with late stage ALS could no longer move his body, however he still could speak with effort. Once while providing skilled touch, he said with great effort something so profound that it has stayed with me ever since. “When I'm touched, it’s the only time I don’t feel like a sick person.” I have reflected on those words many times. However, I understand that without volunteering I wouldn't have received that gift.
Consider becoming a hospice volunteer. Take a few minutes to listen to this short recording that addresses some basic questions.
Ann Catlin is a team member of the AGE-u-cate Training Institute as they return the human touch to caregiving.