Faced with rising patient levels, Covenant Hospice is urgently seeking volunteers to fill a variety of support roles throughout a 16-county region of East Tennessee.
Hospice volunteers are part of an inter-disciplinary team working to “de-institutionalize” the dying experience and provide a more humane system of care for the dying and their families. Volunteers give the family added support during the last phase of a patient’s life, whether it’s sitting with patients and their families, performing light housework, shopping for groceries or preparing meals or other errands.
“The most difficult and most rewarding part of being a hospice volunteer is the same,” says Katie McLaughlin, who currently oversees about 15 volunteers as volunteer coordinator for Covenant Hospice. “Getting to know the family at this stage of the patient’s life is so rewarding but it’s often difficult when the patient dies. Still, the good outweighs the bad. Knowing you’ve made a difference in someone’s life when they needed you most is incredible.”
According to the National Hospice Foundation, a national organization that partners with the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization to improve end-of-life care, hospice volunteers are an essential part of an interdisciplinary team that addresses the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the patient and their family.
For that reason, McLaughlin says the main trait needed by hospice volunteers is compassion. “Volunteers have to have compassion for the family as well as the patient,” she says. “Hospice volunteers go into the assignment knowing the patient has about six months or less to live.”
In addition to working directly with patients and families in their homes, other volunteer areas include providing clerical help in the office, as resource contact for seminars and workshops, fundraising, public relations or aiding with community events such as Covenant Hospice’s monthly grief support groups or Katerpillar Kids Camp, a special weekend day camp for children under 12 who are grieving the loss of a loved one.
The first hospice program in Tennessee, Covenant Hospice now serves Anderson, Blount, Campbell, Claiborne, Cocke, Grainger, Hamblen, Jefferson, Knox, Loudon, Monroe, Morgan, Roane, Scott, Sevier and Union counties.