During volunteer training, we watch a recording of the late Dame Cicely Saunders explaining how she founded the modern hospice movement and its interdisciplinary model of care. The phrase that says it all is this: “vulnerable friendships of the heart.”
We all feel vulnerable when family or friends are facing death or loss. We feel uncertain about how to approach without intruding, how to support without presuming. This is the difficult terrain hospice volunteers navigate daily.
The members of MaineHealth Care at Home’s hospice team have clear assignments: the medical director, the nurse/case manager, the social worker, the chaplain, the home health aide.
Coastal Family Hospice Volunteers are part of that team, but our role is open-ended. Our volunteers act as friends and neighbors for those who have none. They visit those who have no visitors. They sit vigil by those who might otherwise die alone. It is difficult terrain, but it is terrain they are prepared for. They offer “vulnerable friendships of the heart” and find it deeply satisfying.
Volunteers are assigned cases, and asked to provide 2-4 hours of care a week. Sometimes more, sometimes less, sometimes in tandem with others. Flexibility and responsiveness is crucial — those hours are usually determined by the patient‘s convenience.
Volunteers document their patient contact, and are asked to complete eight hours of continuing education per year. We are licensed by the state and so must be sticklers on required paperwork.
Finally, hospice volunteer service isn’t for everyone … it takes someone with strong social skills, the ability to listen without judgement, a flexible schedule so they can respond to patient needs as they change, and poise in the face of the emotional and physical challenges at end of life.
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, please call (207) 593-9355 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Our 9-week, 30 hour training course is offered once a year, usually in the Spring, on Wednesday afternoons 1-4pm, with one longer class (10-4pm). One absence is allowed. The long session is mandatory.
The only cost is a materials fee of $45, to be paid at the first session of the class.
Here is an outline of the course:
1) Intro to hospice, to Coastal Family Hospice, and to each other
2) MaineHealth Care at Home and the transition into hospice
3) What it means to volunteer
4) Listening & Communication
6) Facing our personal losses [Class runs 10am to 4pm]
7) Common illnesses at the end of life, Pain and symptom management
When death is near / comfort care
8) Grief, loss and transition
9) Nuts and bolts of volunteering/celebration