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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Hi Joyce, Caring for someone as they approach the end of their life is challenging in the best of times. Now, during covid, it is a thousand times harder. My wish for you is to find a friend, someone who will listen (doesn’t have to have answers) that you can just talk with. Talk about the weather, the news, your fears, your concerns. You want a “touchstone”. Ask your hospice if having read the blog they could find someone for you. Who knows we may have started something that will bring comfort to many. It isn’t about having answers. It is about having someone who “sees you”. Blessings Barbara


Hi Lori, thank you for sharing. Yes, FaceTime, even Zoom is needed to be creative in supporting our Hospice families and significant others. The challenge with Zoom and other platforms is that so many of our seniors are technologically challenged. Almost everyone has a phone. Blessings to you in the work you are doing. Barbara


Rosemarie, social distancing has brought a new level to the loneliness to our grief, an added burden to our feelings. I hope you have at least one friend to talk with, who will listen. My blessings are with you. Barbara


Our hospice agency has been utilizing the volunteers in just the way you described. I will add that if the technology is available the use of Face time may also be a nice option, as the patient or family can connect a face to the voice of the person on the phone. This may give even more of a sense of connection to the patient/ family/ volunteer as well as perhaps an avenue of assessment not always available through voice only contact.

Joyce Marie Morentin

What a lovely read. I have a support group. I have hospice care. And yet, I still feel so needy and alone. My nose stings as I type this out.. I’ll forward this on to the hospice, with the hope, we can follow this example. Thank you, j

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