The Volunteer

Raining volunteers takes responsibility. Not all volunteers are suited to help people in specific situations. I would inquire why the volunteer wanted to help? I would want to know if the volunteer had suffered a loss of a good friend or family member and how much time the volunteer could offer to help community members, i.e. what other obligations the volunteer had. Perhaps I would want to know their educational background, and if the volunteer was up to specific training? Next I would have a well organized cross section of literature and videos to educate the volunteer just as we have been educated in this module with issues pertaining to the capacity to understand patients and families situations, specifically those associated with end of life. Also I would ask if the volunteer is bi-lingual, I would go over Elisabeth Kubler Ross’s 8 stages of grief and other ways of explaining grief such as those written by Warden, Parkes, Shut and others. I would spend time with the volunteers and ask them to go around to visit people with staff and experienced volunteers before greeting people on their own. I would provide them with packets of information to go over carefully themselves before giving  them out to those in the community with needs. I would introduce them to teams that can specifically help people with Medicare, Palliative Care and Hospice needs. I would have a list of outreach people from various religious groups, who could provide visitation and support groups, and other support groups run by hospitals, and specific disease professionals, ie. heart, cancer, mental health, and diabetes. As a basic message I would encourage volunteers to remember that the most important thing is to be a good listening post so that they will know at what stage in the grief process people are and thus what kind of help can best help them now. Spiritually it is helpful to let patients and their families know that we want to give them the ability to exercise the most control over working within the confines of illness; we support their dignity as a person to be in the forefront of any advice or service that we provide. Let them know that no question is too many, and we are there in friendship. If there are financial considerations we should have a list of responsible and vetted professionals or organizations, who provide transparent advice. We will also need to know if they have a signed directive, and HIPPA sign-offs, specifically with whom are we to communicate with any information about them, but only if they wish to communicate. We want to reflect that we know that they are grieving because of a deep love that they have for another person, and at the same time will protect their privacy and try to make them as comfortable as possible. Remind these good people to take care of themselves and buddy up with family members to provide care for family members; remind families to look-out for each other and suggest services to family members suffering depression. Remind them to share good times even as they process grief.

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