If you’re just starting out as a volunteer in a hospice care setting, the tasks before you can be daunting to think about. How will your first patient react to your presence? What do you say when you first see them? What are the best ways you can help? All these questions are necessary to consider, and your volunteer training will help you better understand what you need to do. However, it’s never a bad idea to get some more information as you prepare yourself.
We want to ensure that anyone giving their time in a hospice care setting feels ready for the task ahead of them, so we’ve compiled a list of tips for volunteering in a hospice care setting to help with expectations and give some guidance for newcomers. Even if you are nervous, these tips should help you calm those nerves so that you can be an effective volunteer.
Understand the Emotional Requirements
Before you get too deep into the idea of volunteering in hospice care, do a bit of soul-searching. Hospice care is a unique field that requires a certain amount of emotional fortitude. The patients we see go through some very difficult times, as do their families and friends, and you need to prepare yourself to handle some difficult emotions along the way. Not everyone feels qualified to handle the emotions that come up when working in hospice care—and that’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Utilize the Preliminary Visit
Preliminary visits for volunteers are crucial—it’s when you’ll introduce yourself to your patient for the first time and start to learn more about them. You want to utilize this time as efficiently as you can. That doesn’t mean you should bombard your patient with questions—not everyone wants or can handle that kind of questioning—but don’t be afraid to ask about your patient either. Preliminary visits are also the best time to judge whether you and your patient are a good fit for one another. Not every volunteer will gel with every patient. If it doesn’t seem like it will work out, let the patient know that you’re grateful for their time and that the hospice care center will find them a more suitable match.
Never Assume, Always Ask
Consent is key when it comes to doing things for your patient. For some patients, you may have to do quite a bit for them. Other patients will value their independence and prefer you didn’t help them with certain things. If they can answer, it’s always a good idea to ask whether the patient would like help before you start to do something new for them. Assuming one thing when your patient wants something else is a fast way to create a more difficult situation for yourself and the patient.
Familiarize Yourself With Emergency Procedures
As a volunteer, you need to know that you shouldn’t render medical care you aren’t qualified to administer. One of the most important tips for volunteering in a hospice care setting is to know the proper procedure in the case of an emergency. A good rule of thumb is to call for or contact a qualified hospice nurse or your volunteer coordinator if you don’t know what you should do in a situation. While it’s unlikely that you’ll run into a problem like this, it’s still a crucial element of caregiving you need to know.
Be an Attentive Listener
Many hospice patients find comfort in the companionship that volunteers provide. That’s why active listening is so pivotal to your patient, whether they are talking with you casually or describing how they need you to assist them. Being a good listener is one of the key qualities of a good volunteer in hospice care. Actively listening to their needs so that you can effectively respond to them is crucial in volunteering. However, many hospice patients also simply like having someone to speak with. Showing that you pay close attention to what they say is a great way to show your patient that you care about them.
Stick To Positive Personal Subjects
It isn’t uncommon that patients will take an interest in the volunteers they spend time with. There is nothing wrong with opening yourself up to your patient—as much as you’re comfortable with doing. Because hospice care is supposed to focus on the patients themselves, though, it’s a good idea to refrain from bringing your own struggles or issues into the conversation. Hospice care patients have a lot of their own issues to worry about, and we don’t want to add our problems on top of theirs. Whenever possible, stick to more positive subjects of conversation when speaking about yourself.
Be Patient in the Early Stages
Building a relationship takes time, no matter what setting you’re in. In a hospice care setting, these relationships can be particularly difficult to develop. During the early stages of your relationship with your patient, have some patience as you’re waiting for them to open up or speak to you. Patients in hospice care have a lot on their minds and may not wish to open themselves up to a new person. Don’t push them to do or say anything they don’t want to. Remember that we are here to help them in whatever way we can, even if that means it takes a while for a relationship to develop.
Respect the Patient’s Desires
Each patient will have unique desires. What may work for one won’t necessarily work for the next. If you have a patient who doesn’t wish to talk very much, don’t take it personally. Allow them their space. The most important thing to remember about working in a hospice care setting is that the patient always comes first. As much as possible, we want to accommodate whatever we can to make their hospice experience a positive one.
We here at Soulistic Hospice treasure our volunteers and know how important they are to what we do. If you’re looking to volunteer yourself, or if you need hospice care in Arizona, Soulistic Hospice would love to accommodate you.