14
Mar
2014

Volunteering in hospice palliative care

By admin in Blog

My love for hospice and palliation was born in 2008, when I began volunteering at the Canuck Place Children’s Hospice in Vancouver, BC. It was there that I developed my profound love and respect for end-of-life care. To say the experience was transformational would be an understatement. The relationships that I developed with children and their families were exceptionally intimate, as I companioned them through their journey of ups and downs. Earning the trust of an individual or family during such a vulnerable time was always a privilege, and it kept me coming back for more.

I would come off a shift more energized than when I had started, and found myself waiting all week for my hospice visit to come around again. The experience was profoundly positive, and while I know I was helping others, I almost felt selfish about how much I was getting in return.

 When I tell people what I do, I’m often asked about the (perceived) morbidity of the work. Isn’t it depressing? My love for hospice palliative care draws lots of strange looks and concerns about my mental health! I tell skeptics that helping a person reach happiness, comfort and fulfillment (whatever that means to them) at end-of-life is an incredible privilege, and that being able to facilitate a person’s journey with compassion is a beautiful gift. Yes, of course there is sadness, but your ability to empathize and act with compassion will reflect well in the relationships you build. In hospice volunteering, the ability to feel sadness is not a weakness – it’s a tool to remind you why this work is so important.

 I attended the last round of Calgary’s Inter-Agency Hospice Volunteer Training, partly for my own interest and partly for a Master’s project I’m completing. I was impressed and warmed by the diversity in the group of trainees – there were people of all ages (the oldest was in her 90’s!), of numerous ethnicities, and various career backgrounds. Think you might not fit in? Think again! The palliative hospice care community is so welcoming and passionate, you’ll feel like part of the “family” in no time.

 What does the literature say about volunteering in hospice?

  • ·         Hospice volunteering is extremely fulfilling and satisfying. (Chevrier, Steuer, & MacKenzie, 1994; Claxton-Oldfield, & Claxton-Oldfield, 2007; Leete, 1994; Pascuet, Beauchemin, Vaillancourt, Cowin, Ni, & Rattray, 2012; Payne, 2001)
  • ·         Positive relationships with patients lead to positive personal growth. (Andersson & Öhlén, 2005)
  • ·         The presence of hospice volunteers has a huge positive impact on patients and family members. (Weeks, MacQuarrie, & Bryanton, 2008)
  • ·         Hospice volunteering allows for an opportunity to develop meaningful relationships and learn profound life lessons. (Planalp, Trost, & Berry, 2011)
  • ·         Hospice volunteering contributes directly to peaceful and comfortable quality of life, which are considered some of the most important aspects of care. (Addington-Hall & Karlsen, 2005)
  • ·         Spending time in hospice improves self-reflection related to death and dying, as well as greater comfort in addressing end of life issues. (Stecho, Khalaf, Prendergast, Geerlinks, Lingard, & Schulz, 2012)

 

What would my role as a volunteer look like?

That’s for you and your hospice volunteer coordinator to decide! I’ve seen guitarists sing and play for people in their rooms, and pianists performing in the lounge. I’ve seen artists help patients paint a legacy piece, and bakers bring in fresh treats and loaves of bread. You can tailor your role to fit your comfort and skills – the unanimous philosophy is that everyone has something valuable to offer.

 How do I start?

Hospice volunteering isn’t for everyone, but if you think you might be interested, contact one or more of the following Calgary area hospices to see how you can get involved:

 

Santuari Hospice

3500 26 Ave. NE (Peter Lougheed Centre, Unit 42)

Ph: 403‐943‐5742

 

Agape Hospice (Salvation Army)

1302 8th Ave NW

Ph: 403‐282‐6588

www.agapehospice.ca

 

Rosedale Hospice

920 7A Street NW

Ph: 403‐284‐5195

www.hospicecalgary.com

 

Foothills Country Hospice

Box 274, Okotoks, AB T1S 1A5

Ph: 403‐995‐4673

www.countryhospice.org

 

Carewest Sarcee Hospice

3504 Sarcee Road SW

Ph: 403‐685‐6460

www.carewest.ca

 

Intercare: Chinook Hospice

1261 Glenmore Trail SW

Ph: 403‐258‐0040

www.intercarealberta.com

 

Intercare: Southwood Hospice

211 Heritage Drive SE

Ph: 403‐252‐0620

www.intercarealberta.com

 

 

Have you volunteered in Hospice? Share you experience with us below!

 

Any topics you’d like us to address in our blog? E-mail us at info@aspencarecalgary.com, or connect with us on Twitter @AspenCareYYC.

 Amanda

 

 

 

 

References

Addington-Hall, J. M. & Karlsen, S. (2005). A national survey of health professionals and volunteers working in voluntary hospice services in the UK. I. Attitudes to current issues affecting hospices and palliative care. Palliative Medicine, 19, 40-48.

Andersson, B. & Öhlén, J. (2005). Being a hospice volunteer. Palliative Medicine, 19, 602-609.

Chevrier, F., Steuer, R., & MacKenzie, J. (1994). Factors affecting satisfaction among community-based hospice volunteer visitors. American Journal of Hospice & Palliative Medicine, 11(4), 30-37.

Chevrier, F., Steuer, R., & MacKenzie, J. (1994). Factors affecting satisfaction among community-based hospice volunteer visitors. American Journal of Hospice & Palliative Medicine, 11(4), 30-37.

Claxton-Oldfield, S. & Claxton-Oldfield, J. (2007). The impact of volunteering in hospice palliative care. American Journal of Hospice & Palliative Medicine, 24(4), 259-263.

Leete, E. B. (1994). Becoming a hospice volunteer. American Journal of Hospice & Palliative Care, 11(2), 27-32.

Pascuet, E., Beauchemin, L., Vaillancourt, R., Cowin, L., Ni, A., & Rattray, M. (2012). Volunteer satisfaction and program evaluation at a pediatric hospice. Journal of Palliative Medicine, 15(5), 567-572.

Pascuet, E., Beauchemin, L., Vaillancourt, R., Cowin, L., Ni, A., & Rattray, M. (2012). Volunteer satisfaction and program evaluation at a pediatric hospice. Journal of Palliative Medicine, 15(5), 567-572.              

Payne, S. (2001). The role of volunteers in hospice bereavement support in New Zealand. Palliative Medicine, 16, 107-115.

Planalp, S., Trost, M. R., & Berry, P. H. (2011). Spiritual feasts: Meaningful conversations between hospice volunteers and patients. American Journal of Hospice & Palliative Medicine, 28(7), 483-486.

Stecho, W., Khalaf, R., Prendergast, P., Geerlinks, A., Lingard, L. & Schulz, V. (2012). Being a hospice volunteer influenced medical students’ comfort with dying and death: A pilot study. Journal of Palliative Care, 28(3), 149-156.

Weeks, L. E., MacQuarrie, C., & Bryanton, O. (2008). Hospice palliative care volunteers: A unique care link. Journal of Palliative Care, 24(2), 85-93.