Many of us are hitting the gym and adopting healthier eating habits to reverse the delicious damage done by the holiday season. Others are committing to different spending habits, better communication with friends and family, etc. If your New Year’s resolutions include giving back to your community in a profoundly meaningful and rewarding way, your local hospice is here to help!
The first hospice opened its doors in in Branford, CT in 1974 as a grassroots, all-volunteer organization, long before Congress made the Medicare Hospice Benefit permanent in 1986. In the decades since, hospice has proliferated across the country, and today there are well over 4,500 licensed hospices serving close to 2 million patients annually. Despite this extensive growth and the complex, constantly shifting landscape in healthcare, one thing has remained constant: volunteers are the heart of hospice.
Pathways as an example today has 141 employees but over 200 active volunteers. Hospice volunteers provide a wide array of services and support to patients and families:
- Visiting patients to provide companionship
- Providing much-needed respite to caregivers, staying with the patient while the caregiver runs errands, takes a nap, goes to church, or focuses in some other way on self-care
- Helping patients and families with shopping, light housekeeping, or meal prep
Some volunteers offer their time and talents in the hospice office or perhaps in an inpatient care center:
- Greeting visitors and answering phones
- Helping with filing, large mailings, or other administrative tasks
- Assisting hospice staff at events
- Reaching out to bereaved families to offer condolences and make sure they are aware of the grief counseling services offered by hospice
I distinctly remember the day my journey with hospice began in 1997. I was living in the Washington, DC area at the time. One afternoon I saw a flyer for hospice volunteer training at what was then Hospice Care of DC (now Capital Caring). Having had personal experiences with hospice in my own family, I decided that this could be a great opportunity to give back.
On the first night of training, the Volunteer Coordinator introduced herself and invited us to imagine ourselves on a ship at sea, thousands of miles from the nearest port. “If you alter your course by even a fraction of a degree and stay on that new heading,” she said, “where you ultimately make landfall will be dramatically different. Each one of you, by making the decision to sign up for this volunteer training, has altered the course of your life by a tiny degree. Who knows where it will ultimately take you, but my wish for each of you is that your journey with hospice is as meaningful and rewarding as mine has been.”
Who knows where your hospice volunteer journey might take you? Contact your local hospice organization to find out.