While volunteer support for patients and caregivers is not included in home health benefits, it is actually mandated as part of the hospice benefit. When Medicare law defined hospice care in America in 1982, it required that volunteer hours equal at least five percent of the hospice provider’s total patient care hours.
Trained volunteers play an important role in the interdisciplinary hospice team that also includes physicians, nurses, social workers, clergy, administrators and various therapists that provide physical, emotional and spiritual comfort to persons with life-limiting illnesses.
Volunteers allow the caregivers to run short errands, relieve stress on the family, and provide emotional support. These are individuals who agree to provide services without monetary compensation. Patient care volunteers provide psychosocial support during the remaining days of the patient’s life, while bereavement care volunteers provide psychosocial support to the surviving family following the patient’s death.