Hospice VolunteersIt is estimated that there are about 460 000 hospice volunteers working in hospices throughout America and they play an important role in the hospice philosophy of care. The volunteers are an important part of the interdisciplinary team that works with dying patients by providing a more humane system of care for the patient but for the family as well. It is required by federal law that at least 5% of the hospice care is provided by volunteers. This requirement however applies for the certified hospice agencies which are eligible for the Medicare and Medicaid programs and thus reimbursement.
Most individuals choose becoming volunteers in a hospice because they see it as an intellectually stimulating and emotionally meaningful experience. Many volunteers enter the system of hospice care after being themselves members of dying patients who had went though the same processes. This firsthand experience with terminally ill patients usually determines the volunteers to understand the value of hospice care and how important becoming part of it is. However, a fifth of the volunteers are new to the service.
Becoming a volunteer for hospice care is much easier than people think. One only has to contact their local hospice and ask whether there is a need for volunteers and usually there is. It is up to the volunteer to find the emotional strength and determination to help dying patients and their families to better cope with their situation. Volunteers can get involved in a wide range of activities including providing support for the patients, respite and support for the family members, child care assistance, bereavement support programs and fund raising or other administrative work. Providing support for patients could imply visiting, reading, talking and walking or helping with groceries as part of providing respite for family members programs. Nevertheless, the volunteers may help with raising funds for the patients who do not have the financial means to cover their hospice care.