Volunteers offer friendship and support. These can involve hospital or home based patient and carer support, providing pro bono expert advice, administrative support and assistance with fundraising.
The majority of palliative care volunteers work in the home or inpatient palliative care setting. They can offer a wide range of support: being with someone while their carer goes out, shopping, providing companionship, taking someone for a drive or to an appointment, writing letters, minding children, writing someone’s life story, singing, answering the phone, the list goes on …
The palliative care volunteer’s role is to strengthen the ability of the ill person to cope with life, to participate in as much as they can, and to live as fully as possible. Palliative care volunteers aim to support family in dealing with practical and emotional burdens.
Would you like to become a Volunteer?
There are many roles available to you if you wish to become a palliative care volunteer. It is an opportunity to be involved with people who are at one of the most critical phases of their life. Those wishing to become volunteers will usually have had some life experience that has touched them and made them more aware of the circumstances that face those living with a terminal illness. The desire to help others, learn more about grief and loss, and come to terms with their own mortality are all legitimate and worthwhile reasons to volunteer for palliative care service. Volunteering in 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.
Volunteers tend to assess their own suitability after reading available information and attending introductory interviews and orientation seminars. Volunteer Managers say that emotional strength grows as volunteers ‘walk the talk’ and support each other along the way. It is essential to be a good communicator and flexible in how they work. They also need to understand and accept the philosophy of palliative care. 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.
You can contact your local palliative care service to express interest or seek more information. Once you have selected and contacted the organisation of your choice, you will probably be invited to attend an interview. Some introductory training is required, and volunteers will be asked to continue to enhance their skills through experiential on the job learning and on-going training.