Hospice volunteers are given a rewarding opportunity to help a patient and family during an important time. While volunteers don’t typically assist with any type of medical care, they are essential to a patient’s comfort. By reading, visiting and assisting both the patient and their family, volunteers are able to offer an important service. If you’re interested in volunteering, contact us at Cura-HPC. Here are some basic tips for how to be an effective volunteer.
Before any additional tasks are undertaken, an important first step is to learn about the patient, their situations and environment and their needs. In some cases, a preliminary visit can illustrate that you aren’t a good fit for a particular patient. In that case, it’s important to assure them that a more suitable replacement will be found and to then inform the volunteer coordinator of the reason you weren’t a fit. Otherwise, give the patient and the family the option to set-up a return visit when you can start helping with more tasks.
Read and write
Whether or not a patient is able to comfortably read to themselves, having a visitor read a book, magazine or letters from loved ones is especially comforting. As you learn more about a patient, you can begin to proactively find material they’ll enjoy reading. Remember to be sensitive to their limitations and ask periodically if they’d like to continue reading or if they’re tired. Additionally, offering to write for patients is an often overlooked, but valued service. They may like to respond to letters or emails, or have stories or messages they’d like recorded that can be passed on upon their death.
Each patient and every situation is unique. While some will require a great deal of assistance, others will crave independence, while still others will need some encouragement to try to perform tasks themselves. You’ll gradually learn which type of situation you find yourself in, but in the meantime be as helpful as you can. Ask if they’d like help and try to remember what they do and do not need your assistance with.
Because of the nature of hospice, the patient’s home has usually been neglected for some time. While that is understood, some patients will feel self-conscious about it or just feel more comfortable in a clean, organized environment. This is a perfect opportunity for volunteers to help out. You can tidy up under their supervision, or do some light cleaning while they rest. Be available to help with yardwork also to save the family the time and trouble.
Regardless of how you spend your time with the patient, remember that you are there to help. Some patients need to be reminded that you don’t need to be entertained. If they simply want to sit quietly and watch TV, you can sit with them or read on your own. Be available if they need your help or want some company, but don’t force them into anything.
At Cura-HPC, we value our volunteers and have a number of amazing patients for you to work with. Contact us at (800) 797-3839.