Health Report: Fairbanks Foundation Health Partners sees return of Hospice Volunteer program

Published: Mar. 15, 2022 at 4:18 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - As COVID-19 cases continue to drop in Fairbanks, Foundation Health Partners (FHP) have decided to bring back their hospice volunteer training program.

According to Rebekah Capen, a Social Worker for Home Health and Hospice Foundation Health Partners, the program is seeking to train both officer support volunteers as well as those who assist patients. She said “For hospice, the volunteer part of our program is very important. They’re able to do things for our support staff and our patients that staff aren’t able to do.”

“There’s kind of two different areas of volunteering,” Capen explained. “There are patient care volunteers, and those are volunteers who are trained specifically to go into patients’ homes and offer support to patients and their family members and caregivers - and they do that in a variety of ways. Sometimes it’s just companionship, life reflections, leisure activities, those types of things, or they offer respite for caregivers, the opportunity for caregivers to be able to leave the home and to be able to go do some self-care for themselves, or run errands and do some things that they’re maybe not able to do because they’re in that caregiving role for the patient.”

Capen continued, “There’s also office volunteers that help just support our mission here, able to just help patients contact their nurses when they need to reach them and through the office, and then just some support with filing and clerk stuff in the office as well. Those volunteers are really important too. We have volunteers that do about 20-30 hours a week in the office which really just support our staff and allow us to be able to do the best job possible getting patients their care in a timely manner.”

The program was put on hold for the last two years for the safety of those in hospice due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But as cases drop, FHP is seeking to build back up their pool of volunteers.

“We’re really excited because after two years, especially our patient volunteers [are] able to start going back into patients’ homes,” Capen elaborated. “We are now offering the training for the first time in two years. It used to be a training that we did twice a year and we would recruit anywhere from 6-10 volunteers every time we did the training. So we had a really good pool of hospice volunteers for our patients. In the last two years, we haven’t been able to offer that training, and so we’re really excited to be able to start and have patient care volunteers go back into patient’s homes. So we need new volunteers to just build up that support pool for our patients.”

According to Capen, the training will last for several weeks and cover a wide range of topics to ensure volunteers are well prepared. ”Our training program is anywhere from 4-6 weeks and we go through a variety of different topics. So it’s a commitment of about 16-20 hours of training. You go through an interview process with the volunteer coordinator; then the topics in the training, we really like people to feel like they have a good foundation in the care that they’re going to be able to give patients. So in that training, you’re going to get a thorough introduction of the hospice philosophy of care, the different cultural dynamics that you might see, being truly present with the patient at end-of-life, living with illness fully, psycho-social dynamics during that time of life, family dynamics, and then bereavement and grief support is also another key part of that volunteer training.”

The training is set to begin May 17th, and those interested are encouraged to contact the FHP’s Hospice facility to sign up. The number is (907) 458-3090.

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