What is a hospice volunteer?

Caring for communities

Have you ever dreamed of the opportunity to make an impact in the lives of others? Maybe you have a special talent that makes others smile? Or free time to share a laugh with someone? A hospice volunteer does just that each day.

What is a hospice volunteer?

Hospice volunteers are compassionate individuals who provide comfort and support to patients facing a life-limiting illness. Volunteers offer specialized skills and support outside of the clinical team.

There is no one-size-fits-all to what makes a hospice volunteer. Some volunteers participate because they want to give back to the community or they might have a special talent that brings joy to others. However, each volunteer makes a significant impact on patients and their families.

What does a hospice volunteer do?

Volunteers ensure that the patient and family’s needs are met in a variety of ways. This can be through companionship, assisting with everyday tasks or providing respite time to a patient’s caregivers. Hospice volunteers can also make an impact by assisting the hospice agency with administrative duties. 

This can look like:

  • Sitting with a patient, socializing and providing a listening ear
  • Helping with general office support (filing, shredding, etc.)
  • Running errands for patients and families
  • Writing a journal or life story with patients as a memento for the family
  • Playing games, reading or listening to music with patients
  • Walking or caring for family pets
  • Assisting with light house cleaning
  • Providing bereavement support for family members

Hospice volunteers have the unique opportunity to provide a type of care that is companionship-based. This non-clinical support oftentimes helps patients remain in high spirits. It might even give them or their loved ones a break from thinking about their illness.

Volunteers can also use their unique backgrounds to connect with patients on a deeper level – just like Enhabit Home Health & Hospice volunteer Soledad did.

Soledad uses her native language to connect with Spanish-speaking patients, making individuals like Minnie feel more at home.

Knowing Minnie was from Cuba, Soledad started singing to her in Spanish. Before Soledad even finished her song, Minnie would join in the wonderful chorus, closing her eyes and feeling a deeper connection to her homeland.

Hospice volunteer Soledad

Volunteers like Soledad provide emotional support that goes beyond just clinical care. They connect with patients solely based off of their shared characteristics of humanness, creating comfort and ease during an often uncertain time.

Spreading joy as a hospice volunteer

For some, being a hospice volunteer is all about spreading joy in the ways you know best – whether that is through laughter, friendship or using your talents and hobbies to make others smile.

For volunteer Kenna, she uses the gift of music to bring joy to hospice patients. When she visits patients, she often brings her violin.

A treasure at her local Enhabit branch, patients get excited when they know Kenna is coming. She leaves behind warmth, compassion and a trail of beautiful music to be heard up and down the hallways of whatever home or facility she plays in.

Hospice volunteer Kenna smiles as she plays her violin.

“Serving the patients at Enhabit has been such a blessing in my life,” Kenna said. “Each time I use my violin to bring joy to those who need it, I am reminded why we have music in the world! I feel so much love for the sweet patients when I am there, and I know I am spending my time doing something that matters. It is such a rewarding opportunity.”

Connecting patients with their passions

Oftentimes, a diagnosis or medical condition will disrupt a patient’s passion. Hospice volunteers like Daymone’ try to help patients continue doing the things that matter most to them while living with a terminal illness.

Whenever Daymone’ met the 90-year-old hospice patient he would be helping, he discovered that the patient used to record a radio broadcast segment and send it off to a local station in West Virginia. Since beginning his care journey with Enhabit, he is no longer able to record and send off the segments himself due to his declining health.

“When I went with Daymone’ to introduce him to the patient, the patient asked if we knew anything about radio,” Cynthia, a volunteer coordinator at Enhabit, said. “Daymone’ jumped in immediately and as soon as they got talking about radio and recording audio digitally, I knew they had a bond. They are like two peas in a pod. It is so great to watch them together.”

Not only was Daymone’ becoming a treasured companion to the patient, but he was determined to reignite the patient’s passion.

He started sitting with the patient two times a week to record stories from his life. Now, Daymone’ is currently working on transcribing the stories to turn them into a book about the patient’s life. He is also figuring out how to record and send off the radio segments so the patient can get back on the air at his local station.

For Daymone’, it doesn’t matter that this patient is approaching the end of life. He knows that focusing on the patient’s passion with sincerity and seriousness will have a lasting impact. It will increase the patient’s quality of life and bring him joy – even if it’s only for a couple more months.

“What I like to tell my volunteers is don’t focus on the dying part,” Cynthia said. “Focus on the living part.”

How do I become a hospice volunteer?

It is clear that hospice volunteers can make significant impacts in the lives of patients and loved ones navigating the end-of-life journey. If you feel called to do the same, consider becoming a hospice volunteer.

To volunteer with Enhabit, you must:

  • Be least 14 years old
  • Have experienced no significant personal loss in the past year
  • Complete a criminal background check and tuberculosis test (paid for by Enhabit)
  • Provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination or qualify for an exemption if unvaccinated
  • Complete an eight-hour hybrid orientation

Getting started as a hospice volunteer is as easy as visiting our volunteer page and filling out a brief application. We look forward to working together to provide a better way to care for our patients and their loved ones.

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