Using Hospice Volunteers During COVID

I was Zooming with a hospice today for Q & A’s and the subject of not being able to use volunteers because of Covid came up. WHOA!!! What do you mean you can’t use volunteers because of Covid? They are more important now than ever! We just have to use them differently.
Because of social distancing and lock downs, significant others, whether their hospice person is at home or in a nursing facility, are so very much alone.
The fear, worry, and concerns brought about by end of life situations  are compounded by the isolation imposed by covid and this pandemic. Often there is limited contact and physical support from family, friends and neighbors. The primary care person/significant other is alone with their thoughts way too often and for too long. It is a very scary time.

SO the phone and your volunteers become a valuable asset to hospice care. How? Assign a volunteer to each family whether the patient is in their home or a residential care facility before the death, as soon as they come on service. 

The volunteer’s job is to make daily phone contact, become a friend, a resource person. The person that asks, "Do you need anything? How are things going today? Did you sleep well last night? What are you having for dinner?" All friend-like questions and concerns. 

The volunteer offers reassurance, is a contact with the hospice nurse, social worker or chaplain, and reports back concerns. The volunteer is an extra pair of eyes and ears, as well as emotional support for the family/significant other during a time of increased insecurity, fear, and confusion.

Follow through with this use of volunteers following the death. Use the same volunteer who has now become a familiar friend.

A daily call for the first few weeks following the death helps again with the isolation. The church ladies aren’t bringing in casseroles and the family generally isn’t dropping by (due to wanting to keep loved ones safe from Covid exposure). 

This lack of normal contact intensifies the normal grief patterns. Having a volunteer making daily phone contact as bereavement support provides a “look out” for possible grief pathology. Also, just having a friend check in each day is reassuring and comforting during these challenging times.

A wonderful part of the hospice program is using volunteers as support for families. That service doesn’t need to stop just because of Covid. We just have to think outside of the box for creative ways to provide the best, most comprehensive end of life care for our patients and families.

Something More... about Using Hospice Volunteers During COVID
Hospice volunteers could read the section of Gone From My Sight that applies to patient with the family caregiver.  "Dad is sleeping more and not interested in food?  Then let's turn to page..."  This will also clear up the unknown about what to expect next in Dad's care.  If there seems to be a resistance to administering pain medications, read applicable sections of the booklet, Pain At End of Life to clear up any misconceptions.

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Anne, I would too. Palliative care recipients could use a volunteer program. Great idea! Can you make it happen for your program? Blessings! Barbara


Bravo Virginia!!!! I’m thinking a lot of hospices would love to clone you. We need creative, outside the box thinkers during this challenging time of covid. Many blessings to you. Barbara


Hi Randi, I’m glad you shared your situation. You’ve found the area that you can help and also where it doesn’t work for you. Good self care! Would you consider putting your comments on my Facebook page Barbara Karnes RN group (if you do Facebook). I think you would get some good comments to your question. Blessings to you in the work you are doing. Barbara


Hi Tina, of course share the blog, or any of my blogs, with whoever you think they might help.
That’s what I write therm for—to be of help. Give your dog a pet for me. Blessings! Barbara


Hi Myra, To answer your question of why haven’t more hospices thought of using their volunteers in this way: I think Hospice has become so enmeshed in regulations to satisfy medicare that they have forgotten that the origins of hospice care came as the result of thinking outside the box. Covid and this pandemic is forcing hospice to be creative——something so many haven’t done for a long while. Thanks for asking. Blessings! Barbara

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