Volunteers are an essential part of palliative care and are able to offer the gift of time, a listening ear and help with a multitude of things beyond that possible for doctors, nurses and professional staff to give.

What role do volunteers play?

Volunteers play an important and specific role in Southern Adelaide Palliative Services. (SAPS). They make themselves available to support patients, families and staff. Volunteers can work in the community (when people are cared for at home), in Laurel Hospice, Bereavement Counselling and Groups, the Wellbeing Service (Complementary therapies – massage, reiki, aromatherapy and more), Client Biography Service, Fundraising and Raise Community Awareness around palliative care with the Laurel Palliative Care Foundation or even administration support.

Who volunteers and why?

Volunteering in palliative care is not for everyone but those who do it genuinely enjoy their work. People often become aware of palliative care through a close encounter with death. They may have had a partner die, or another family member passes away. Perhaps they cared for a loved one at home, or have been employed in the area. Some volunteers simply have a genuine interest in this area and seek voluntary work as a way to develop their skills and knowledge. Unfortunately, the subject of death and dying is avoided by much of the population in our western world and many people only realise its importance through personal experience.

What can volunteers at the hospice do?

  • Help with dishwashing and laundry
  • Provide companionship
  • Arrange flowers
  • Sit with or read to patients
  • Help with meals
  • Give hand/foot massage
  • Support visitors & comfort familiesOthers visit people at home to…
  • Provide companionship & share activities
  • Help with shopping
  • Give carers a break
  • Attend appointments & help with transport
  • Support carers
  • Listen & chat

Volunteers can also…

  • Provide bereavement counselling and assist with bereavement groups
  • Offer complementary therapies at the Wellbeing Centre, i.e. massage, aromatherapy and meditation
  • Provide the Client Biography Service – record client’s narrative, transcribe and compile a completed biography which is presented to client and/or caregiver
  • Assist with fundraising
  • Raise community awareness around palliative care
  • Provide administrative support to the Volunteer Service

What rewards do volunteers obtain?

Volunteers say that working with people who are close to dying is very rewarding and not at all depressing. People are often very honest and ‘real’ at this time and are keen to make their remaining life as meaningful as possible. Humour is an important part of the work and sometimes helps to put it all in perspective. Laurel Hospice, our hospice at Flinders Medical Centre, Bedford Park is a place where laughter is often heard along with tears and a lot of talking and reminiscing as people use this valuable time to make sure things are not left unsaid.

Despite the risk of emotional vulnerability, volunteers find that the rewards include the privilege of sharing important moments with patients and their families, the opportunity to re-assess their own lives and the special satisfaction that comes with helping.

What attributes do volunteers have?

Our volunteers have some life experience, and are emotionally mature, friendly, have a good ear for listening and have some time to spare.

How do I become a volunteer?

When selected, volunteers participate in a 4-day training course to ensure that their knowledge in palliative care is current, existing skills are updated and they become familiar with the specifics of the organisation.

To find out more and request an information pack please contact the SAPS volunteer service on 8275 1732 or email rghsapsvolunteers@health.sa.gov.au