Volunteering at the End of Life
By Victor Montour
In honor of National Volunteer Week Front Range Hospice would like to take a moment to say Thank You to our wonderful volunteers. Your selfless acts of kindness and unwavering strength are appreciated by all of us at Front Range Hospice.
Hospice care is an end-of-life-care model that focuses on enhancing quality of life when time is short. It involves an inter-disciplinary team – including doctors, nurses, social workers, chaplin, and social worker, — working together addressing the medical, physical, social, emotional and spiritual needs of the patient, as well as providing bereavement support to the family. In keeping with hospices deeply humane and community-service the team also includes volunteers.
“Front Range Hospice Volunteers are an integral and valued part of the team,” says Jen Jackson, Volunteer Coordinator for Front Range Hospice. “They provide that extra level of care and comfort that neighbors used to provide for free, without thinking about it.”
Volunteers provide nonprofessional services but are required to undergo intensive training, including interviews and background checks. Our organization asks volunteers to commit to at least one year of service, visiting with one patient one hour per week in the home or where the patient calls home. This could be in an assisted living, skilled nursing facility or small board and care home. Volunteer services can be as varied as those of any personal relationship and can include but not limited to:
- Support for patients
- Respite and support for family members
- Vigil services (when death is imminent)
- Bereavement support
Volunteers might sing show tunes with patients, talk about the Yankees, share in watching a favorite soap opera, help compile “final projects” or life reviews and bring in pets for comfort (only at the patient’s request, of course). Fundamentally, volunteers provide the most elemental of life’s needs, a hand to hold or an ear to listen. It’s really about showing up and being present that day, that minute, that hour — meeting the patient where they are.
Sometimes our volunteers are asked if it is difficult to be a hospice volunteer, to get to know someone only to have them pass away. The short answer is no. It is rewarding, transformative and life-affirming. The longer answer involves death as part of the continuum of life, understanding expectations, maintaining personal boundaries and undergoing adequate training and education.
The surprising secret of hospice care is that it’s not depleting, what Front Range Hospice volunteers do is useful, and someone needs them. These patients would be going through what they’re going through whether or not our volunteers are there. Front Range Hospice volunteers, as with all those involved in hospice, understand that death is a part of life. They accept the process.
Some hospice volunteers are inspired to become a volunteer because of the immense support they felt from hospice when their loved one died. Some hospice volunteers call the work a gratifying, loving experience. There’s no pretense, no façade — just honesty. The bond volunteers have with a patient usually escalates because of the limitation of time, so they have to seize the moment.
Whether you’ve had a family connection to hospice care and want to give back, or are interested in learning more about how to support and comfort those in their final days, I encourage you to explore this truly rewarding volunteer opportunity.
Thank you again to all of those who volunteer. The services you provide are priceless.
If you would like more information about Front Range Hospice and how you can become one of our volunteers please call 303-957-3101 or 970-776-8080 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Watch out for our next blog: Who Cares for the Doctor?