What makes a good hospice volunteer?

How do I know if I would be a good hospice volunteer?

Are you compassionate? Caring? Do you enjoy listening to someone’s life story? Everyone is unique, but the traits that tend to make an effective hospice volunteer include:  

  • A spirit of compassion and understanding, especially toward those who are on the end-of-life journey
  • Respect for diversity, for all ways of life, religious views and cultural customs
  • The ability to listen and also to be comfortable in silence
  • An understanding of your own personal limits

Hospice volunteers are an important and highly valued part of the team whose goal is to provide terminally ill patients, their caregivers and families with the most comfortable and compassionate end-of-life experience possible. If you have a desire to provide comfort and peace to these patients and their families, you could be a hospice volunteer. The actual tasks vary, depending on your abilities and the needs of the people you are there to serve.

The benefits of volunteering for hospice

Patients, families and caregivers report that hospice volunteers have a tremendous impact on their lives — and on their level of comfort and peace at the end of life — but volunteers say they also benefit from the experience. Hospice volunteers commonly report:

  • A greater appreciation for life and understanding of what is important — and what is not
  • A deeper understanding of the role of death in the process of life
  • An enriched understanding of different cultures and life perspectives
  • A sense of fulfillment and contribution to the community 

What would I actually do while volunteering?

Volunteers provide companionship and personal support to patients and their caregivers. This could include tasks such as:

  • Writing letters for them
  • Reading to them
  • Engaging in conversation
  • Sitting quietly
  • Running errands
  • Walking a pet
  • Playing music
  • Preparing a meal
  • Providing light housecleaning or lawn maintenance

Volunteers do not (and may not) bathe, feed or give medication to any patients. Some volunteers prefer non-direct care, such as performing clerical work.

How will I know what to do?

If your volunteer application is approved, you will be trained on how to be present for the patient, recognize family dynamics, develop listening skills and understand disease progression.

Volunteer Orientation will help you understand the philosophy of hospice care, know how to set boundaries when interacting with patients and families, have a better sense of the spiritual, emotional and physical needs of the patient and caregivers, and be equipped to assist them with grief, loss and bereavement.

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March 25, 2020