For persons living with a life-limiting illness, hospices provide caring and comfort when a cure is no longer possible. For the nation’s hospices, National Volunteer Week – April 18-24, 2004 – provides an opportunity to recognize hospice volunteers, those individuals who play a key role in fulfilling hospice’s mission to care for dying people and their families.
Approximately 500,000 people volunteer in the nation’s 3,200 hospice organizations, providing more than ten million hours of service annually, reports the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. For many of these volunteers, their decision to give of their time began with the compassionate care a dying loved one received from their local hospice. The generosity of spirit and selfless support, characteristic of hospice volunteers, touches the lives of many people they serve, not just the dying patient. Offering care and compassion to others becomes an important way for many people to "give back" to hospice.
In Colorado, 1500 hospice volunteers provide over 70,000 volunteer hours annually - making invaluable contributions 365 days a year. Not only do volunteers helping dying Americans and their loved ones through the difficult journey at the end of life, but they volunteer in the office, assist with fundraising, help with education and outreach, provide grief support to families, and more.
"As more and more Baby Boomers are faced with caring for their elderly dying parents, the number of families being served by hospice will certainly grow. Volunteers ensure that these patients and families have a shoulder to lean on, a hand to hold, and aren’t so isolated" commented Cordt T. Kassner, PhD, Executive Director of the Colorado Hospice Organization.
Hospice is not a place but a kind of care delivered by an iterdisciplinary team that includes physicians, nurses, social workers, therapists, aides, clergy, and trained volunteers. Hospice provides expert medical services, pain management, and emotional and spiritual support to the dying and their loved ones.
The hospice movement in this country began more than 25 years ago by people who wanted to make a difference. Today, hospice is a recognized part of the health care continuum, serving more than 885,000 patients in 2002. Volunteers remain an essential part of hospice. In fact, the role of volunteers is built into Medicare’s regulations, which require that five percent of patient care hours be provided by trained volunteers.
"The roots of hospice are grounded in the dedicated work of volunteers who wanted to provide a more compassionate, dignified experience for the dying," remarked J. Donald Schumacher, Psy.D., NHPCO president and CEO. "Hospice volunteers are an integral part of the care team, sharing with patients, loved ones, and hospice staff in one of life’s most challenging journeys."
National Volunteer Week provides an opportunity to honor those who have given so much and inspire others through their example. Learn more about hospice and volunteering by contacting the Colorado Hospice Organization at 719-594-9233 or www.ColoradoHospice.org, or visiting www.hospiceinfo.org.