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Hospice Volunteers: Showing Compassion During Moments that Matter

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Hospice Volunteers: Showing Compassion During Moments that Matter

In honor of National Volunteer Week, UnityPoint Hospice would like to say “thank you” to all of our current volunteers and encourage you to make a difference in the lives of both hospice patients and their families by joining this group of outstanding volunteers. Acts both big and small impact the lives of hospice patients and help to improve overall quality of life. With a wide variety of volunteer options available at UnityPoint Hospice, you’ll certainly find the right one for you.

The kindness and compassion that hospice volunteers offer to UnityPoint at Home hospice patients doesn't go without notice. Both hospice patients and their families find comfort from the acts of kindness and services provided by hospice volunteers. Helping families find dignity and peace in this otherwise trying and stressful time in their lives is rewarding for both patients and volunteers. The ability to provide this service would not be possible without the multiple volunteers that spend their time in our facilities and patient homes. Their time and efforts allow patients and family members to focus on spending time together in their remaining days.

Many family members that have been with a loved one through their hospice stay find themselves drawn to volunteering themselves. Knowing the importance of being with an individual through their final moments is especially meaningful for people who’ve been through hospice with loved ones before. Once a volunteer has completed approximately 14 hours of training, they’re able to begin working with our hospice patients.

Find out what program is right for you by reading more about our hospice volunteer programs!

Working Directly with Patients

Hospice volunteers can work directly with patients, providing respite breaks to family members and caregivers, running errands, and lending emotional support and companionship. Volunteers are matched up with a patient, and then spend time with them and keep them company. Volunteers can also stay with the patient to allow caregivers or loved ones to take a break and take care of themselves.

NODA – No One Dies Alone

No One Dies Alone (NODA), also known as 11th Hour Companions, is a special program provided by UnityPoint Hospice for our patients who are near their final journey. This service is provided to patients who are expected to die within 48 to 72 hours and wish to have someone with them in their remaining time. The presence of a volunteer provides a great sense peace and dignity. A nurse, chaplain or social worker can request that a volunteer sits with a particular patient if they do not have family to do so. Volunteers provide support to hospice patients either in their homes, nursing communities, at The Taylor House Hospice in Des Moines or at the Paula J. Barber Hospice Home in Fort Dodge.

Mary Lou Olauson, a NODA volunteer says, “I’m honored to be present during those final hours. Personally, I get back so much more than I am ever willing to give.”

Volunteers like Mary Lou ensure our patients have the opportunity to be surrounded with support and compassion in their final moments.

Paws With A Purpose

We can’t help but smile when our hospice volunteers with our Paws With A Purpose program enter our doors. Paws With A Purpose launched In June 2012, and now has over a dozen handler/dog teams in the Des Moines metro area. The program utilizes trained handlers and animals to ensure our patients reap the full benefit of this wonderful program. Our animal therapy sessions typically last 20 minutes and can take place at Taylor House or a patient’s home. This gives patients the ability to interact with both volunteers and their dogs.

Therapy dogs bring joy and delight to hospice patients and their families facing difficult times. With the ability to distract patients from their current pain and anxiety, therapy animals help patients achieve a decrease in heart rate and blood pressure. In addition to physical health, animal therapy helps hospice patients socially and emotionally. Our employees at Taylor House also look forward to our therapy dogs when they make visits.

We Honor Veterans Program

The We Honor Veterans Program is another important program that helps to support those who’ve done something incredible for our country. Through companionship and specialized care, we’re able to honor the service our military veterans provided to our country. To help make our veteran patients hospice experience as comfortable as possible, we offer a vet-to-vet volunteer program. Veteran hospice volunteers have a better understanding of what our veteran patients have experienced and can help provide companionship and support.

Bereavement Support Volunteer

Hospice care is unique in that it provides care for not only the patients, but their loved ones as well.. Bereavement volunteers help provide assistance to those grieving from the loss of a loved one. This includes follow-up visits and phone calls to ensure family members receive proper support throughout their grieving process. Volunteers will go through an additional training process to make sure they are equipped to address both emotional and spiritual needs.

Indirect Patient Care Volunteering Options

Angel Hands

Through the Angel Hands program in Fort Dodge, families are able to make memories that will last a lifetime. Offered to hospice patients in Fort Dodge, Angel Hands is a program that gives loved ones the opportunity to create molds of individuals’ hands clasping their loved ones. This process helps to solidify a memory in the form of a beautiful keepsake. By using the same process as dentists do to create molds of teeth, a cast is formed. After this, a plaster is poured to create the final casting.

For larger families, fingerprint keepsakes can also be made. Volunteers will work with patients to create a heart using their fingerprint and their families. A small collage is made within a picture frame including a quote or a photo of the patients choosing. Though it seems simple, it is a great way for loved ones to make memories last a lifetime.

Teen Hospice Volunteer Program

A teen hospice volunteer program was established in Des Moines for those who are interested. Due to the sensitive nature of hospice work, teens don’t typically volunteer directly with patients, but they can assist in many different ways, through helping with yard work and outside projects at Taylor House, hanging holiday decorations, and baking cookies and treats for patients and their families. . It is an excellent way for teenagers to learn more about hospice and make a difference in the lives of others.

Hops for Hospice

Since 2012, Hops for Hospice has raised over $50,000 for the Comfort Therapy programs at Taylor House. With hundreds of guests attending each year, it is no surprise that it takes a wide variety of volunteers to make it all possible. Many alternative therapy programs benefit from this fundraiser, including Paws With A Purpose, massage therapy, music therapy, art therapy and more. This event is made possible from the hard work of volunteers in the months leading up to and the day of the event.

Hospice Ball at UnityPoint Health - Fort Dodge

The Trinity Hospice Ball is an event held to celebrate and remember those who we’ve lost while celebrating their lives. The Hospice Ball helps to raise funds to benefit the care of the patients in hospice facilities. Without these funds, therapies like music, massage and Angel Hands would not be possible.

Become a Hospice Volunteer

No matter what your skillset, there is a place for you in one of our hospice volunteer programs. Some volunteers work directly with patients, while other volunteers are called to the mission of hospice by assisting with fundraising efforts, special projects and clerical work that supports clinical services and patient care.

Whatever your interest, whatever your passion, there is a place for you to help. We offer volunteer training that provides in-depth education about the end-of-life process, care and comfort measures, and the goals of hospice. Sign up today to learn more about this rewarding volunteer opportunity and learn how you can help other in your community.