The role of the client care volunteer can include:
- providing companionship and support to both the client and their carers;
- respite for the carers while they attend to other matters or take a break;
- help with simple tasks such as shopping or visits to the clinic for treatment;
- taking someone for a drive;
- writing letters, singing, reading, writing someone’s life story;
- watching TV together or just talking when needed;
- answering the phone;
- making bereavement phone calls;
- helping organise a memorial service;
- providing hair & beauty treatments;
- providing some gentle massage.
Volunteers need to be patient, flexible, non-judgmental, understanding and accepting of other people’s beliefs and values. They need to be able to work within a team and provide support and encouragement to their peers. They also need to understand and accept the philosophy of hospice care. There are no formal qualifications or previous experience necessary – only the desire to be of service to hospice clients and their families/carers, and a willingness to learn from those they serve.
Perhaps one of the most important criteria is that volunteers should be happy to BE with people and not feel they have to fix things. It is about ‘presence’.
Volunteering for in-home hospice palliative care offers the intellectual and emotional stimulation of having to deal with ‘the big questions’ such as the meaning of life and death and gives an opportunity to reflect on one’s own values and priorities.
Client care volunteers tend to assess their own suitability after reading available information, attending introductory interviews and a mandatory 6-week education program.