Thursday, March 27, 2014

Hospice Volunteer Screening Process

Can you imagine letting someone you have never met before into your home to sit with your relative while you go out and run errands?

What if the relative your relative was terminally ill, diagnosed with 6 months or less to live, and you were incredibly stressed at the prospect of caring for them until they die?

This situation is essentially what most families on hospice care are asking hospice volunteers to do for them.  Volunteers are asked to visit patients and families about one time per week for one to four hours per visit.  During a time that a hospice volunteer is spending time with a patient, the patient's family member might go out to pick up groceries, get maintenance for their car, or go to a doctor's appointment they had been putting off for some. 

So much is asked of the individuals involved in this situation.  The patient and the family must trust that the hospice volunteer is a trustworthy trained individual who will be responsible and compassionate when caring for the patient.  The volunteer must trust the family will respect and value them as one who truly wants to help.  What a high stakes relationship this can be with both parties being so vulnerable!

Due to how delicate the relationship can be between the volunteer, the patient, and the patient's family, hospice volunteers are required to undergo extensive screening and training before they are allowed permitted to begin their volunteer assignments.  This certainly is not the type of volunteering you can just show up and start in one day! 

Federal laws require all individuals who will be exposed to private patient information to complete background checks before volunteering.  Medi Hospice screens all volunteers by having them complete a state and national background check.  Face to face interviews with all potential volunteers are conducted by the hospice volunteer coordinator.  In addition to that, volunteers must provide the contact information of three references who can be called to verify this hospice volunteer program is a good fit for the applicant.

The screening process is quite extensive.  Volunteers might feel like they are applying to a job with all the listed requirements.  These measures are taken to protect the hospice organizing the volunteer program.  Hospices do not want to send in just anyone to care for these families dealing with such end of life issues.  Safety for patients and families is always at the forefront of these actions. 

Hospices want to ensure the be sure the best possible administered by the best, most compassionate people.  That way all involved can feel comfortable with the volunteer services being provided.  Any fears or worries a family will feel when inviting a stranger into their home to care for a loved one can be eased, at least a little, in knowing that a well screened, qualified, compassionate volunteer is being sent into their home.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Saint Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is a special time of year for many lovers who might exchange cards and heartfelt messages, go on dates, and enjoy quality time together.  Working in hospice as a volunteer coordinator, I have come to value time spent with others.  Confronting mortality with hospice patients and their families has provided me a better understanding that we are all given a limited time on planet earth.  Though it can be sad and difficult for us to understand, death is just as much a part of life as is birth.  At the end of life we say goodbye to those we love and go our separate ways.

Goodbyes such as this are hard.  When one watches their life long spouse pass away as a terminally ill hospice patient, the surviving spouse is left with grief that might be harder to cope with on special days such as Valentine's Day.  Time previously spent conversing over a hot meal might then be spent alone, making life that much more difficult to handle.  A special day of  the year many lovers use to exchange heartfelt moments and enjoy quality time together could no longer retain that meaning to someone grieving. 

Because of moments like this, Medi Hospice in a total family care approach keeps contact with the loved ones of patients for a 13 months after their loved one has passed away.  Bereavement support is an essential piece to hospice care.  Mailings about grief, telephone calls, group support meetings and even visits from hospice staff to family members help them work through the grief process.  All this is done with genuine compassion and concern so that families may better deal with emotions of loss in a healthy, positive way.  That way the first Valentine's Day without your partner will hopefully be a little easier to get through.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

2014 National Patient Safety Goals

Hospice in the United States is strictly regulated by the Joint Commission on Health Care.
Take a look at the 2014 Home Care National Patient Safety Goals as developed by the JCHC.

- Identify patients correctly
     Use at least two ways to identify patients.  For example, us the patient's name and date of birth.  This is done to make sure that each patient gets the correct medicine and treatment

- Use medicines safely
     Record and pass along correct information about a patient's medicines.  Find out what medicines the patient is taking.  Compare those medicines to new medicines givne to the patient.  Make sure the patient know which medicines to take when they are at home.  Tell the patient it is important to have their up-to-date list of medicines every time they see a doctor.

- Prevent infection
     Use the hand cleaning guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization.  Set goals for improving hand cleaning.  Use goals to improve hand cleaning.

- Prevent patients from falling
     Find out which patients are most likely to fall.  For example, is the patient taking medications that might make them weak, dizzy, or sleepy?  Take action to prevent falls for these patients.

- Identify patient safety risks
     Find out if there are any risks for patients who are getting oxygen.  For example, fires in the patient's home.

These are some of the basic standards which home health care organization must meet to qualify as an accredited institution caring for patients as designated by the JCHC.  More information can be found on their website.

The Joint Commission of Home Care

Medi Home Health & Hospice seeks to meet and exceed these standards in our care for patients and their families.  Every Medi staff member, including hospice volunteers, are educated on the basics of hospice.  We strive for excellence and personal attention in our care, to create a safe, comfortable environment for all.  

Each volunteer completes a comprehensive hospice training to become prepared to support and visit terminally ill patients.  Volunteers must be comfortable with the special task of caring for others who are at the end of their life.  If you are interested in learning more about volunteering for hospice, please contact our office at (804) 282 - 4301.