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Palliative Care: Volunteers

What is a Palliative Care volunteer?

Palliative Care volunteers at Barwon Health are an important part of the team. They are highly skilled, trained, and experienced and provide support to patients and their loved ones. Clients include patients, carers, and the patient’s family. Volunteers do what they do because they want to be there, and they want to help. Volunteers are of all ages, and a wide range of backgrounds.

What is the role of a Palliative Care volunteer?

The palliative care volunteer’s role is to strengthen the ability of the ill person to cope with life, to participate in as much as they can, and to live as fully as possible. Palliative care volunteers aim to support families in dealing with practical and emotional burdens and to assist them in coming to terms with bereavement.

Palliative Care volunteers provide …

  • Practical help
  • Companionship
  • Comfort
  • Compassion

Volunteers are selected and trained by individual palliative care organisations, and are covered by the agency’s policies and insurance.

Training includes communication and listening skills and a basic understanding of living with a terminal illness, the dying process, bereavement, loss and grief.

Volunteers are trained in confidentiality and must adhere to ethical guidelines.

There is no cost to the client for volunteer services. Clients are not expected to give volunteers anything in return. Volunteers give their time freely. Palliative care volunteers generally commit a regular time each week to the program. They may assist in a hospice or hospital setting, or with caring for people at home.

Patients and family members often feel more comfortable talking to someone who is not as emotionally involved as family and friends. Palliative care volunteers have the time to listen while people talk about their feelings in an open and unhurried way.

What Palliative Care volunteers do …

Volunteers may be involved in:

  • Listening - ‘just being there’ for the ill person, for the main carer, and for other family members
  • Assisting with feeding and other care
  • Helping the patient to move around the house and to the toilet and bathroom transporting patients to and from appointments
  • Accompanying patients on outings
  • Facilitating shopping
  • Running errands
  • Assisting patients with writing and reading
  • Helping patients with their recreation and hobby activities
  • Giving the home carer a break by sitting with the patient
  • Preparing light meals and drinks
  • Providing contact with family and friends after the person has died
  • The volunteer also contributes to the patient’s care by being alert to their changing needs.

What Palliative Care Volunteers don’t do …

The palliative care volunteer does not:

  • Provide nursing care
  • Make decisions about the need for medication, or measure out doses
  • Do housework
  • Cook main meals
  • Provide intimate personal care
  • Lift the patient, although they may assist others to move the patient.

Making contact with a volunteer

The patient or family can ask to be put in touch with a volunteer (using the contact below) or a palliative care team member may suggest a volunteer, especially if the patient has no family, or when family members are fully stretched. The co-ordinator of volunteers, the volunteer and the client jointly decide on the amount of contact. This is often a weekly visit of up to three hours.


How do I request volunteer support?

Referral can be made via email, telephone or fax. Please include the following information:

  • UR number
  • Patient name
  • Support type e.g. respite / companionship / transport
  • Phase / complexity

Please ensure patients who are referred for volunteer support do not require assistance with feeding, medication, toileting or other nursing type care – our volunteers are unable to assist with these tasks.

Please also ensure transport requests are submitted with as much notice as possible.

For further information on how to become a volunteer, how to access the volunteer services or to make a referral for volunteer support please contact the Palliative Care Volunteer Coordinator by calling (03) 4215 6161 or click here to complete a Volunteer Application Form.

Last Modified: Tuesday, 05 July 2022