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Christine Wilson, Director of Advancement
Becoming a Hospice Volunteer Can Be Good For Your Health
Hospice of the Chesapeake
. https://www.hospicechesapeake.org

Becoming a Hospice Volunteer Can Be Good For Your Health

Flower arranging. Data entry. Playing an instrument. Quilting. Community outreach.

These are five of dozens of different ways a retiree can volunteer for a hospice organization. And in four of them, one may never see a patient.

Volunteering is not only good for your community – it’s good for you, too. The Corporation for National and Community Service wrote in a recent brief, “A growing body of research shows an association between volunteering and mental and physical health benefits. In particular, older volunteers report lower mortality rates, lower rates of depression, fewer physical limitations, and higher levels of well-being.”

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, about 62.6 million people in this nation volunteered through or for an organization at least once between September 2014 and September 2015. Of those, the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization reports that about 430,000 are trained hospice volunteers.

But not all these volunteers work directly with patients. The NHPCO reports that while 60% of hospice volunteers assist with direct patient care, 20% provide indirect care by supporting the clinical teams while 19% provide general program support.

That means if someone just can’t imagine caring for a patient, there are plenty of other ways to help people live as fully as possible, even at the end of life. Hospice organizations find that many people who start off as an administrative or indirect support volunteer have a change of heart once they learn more about the care and services provided by patient care volunteers. They may take small steps to serving directly with patients and find themselves experiencing a heightened sense of purpose.

Those first brief, but meaningful encounters with patients, often begin with the healing arts. These are comforting, calming practices that include comfort touch, aromatherapy and reiki. Other ways people can donate their time is through therapeutic pet visits, offering musical performances bedside and as a licensed cosmetologist offering haircuts.

Whatever way one might consider giving of themselves to help a hospice patient and their family, hospice organizations are required by law to provide training. No one will be left wondering what they are supposed to be doing.

Even when you’re dying, there can be a lot of living to do. Hospice volunteers not only make more special moments possible for the patients and families they serve, but also for themselves by helping them to live a more fulfilling, healthier life.

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