Frances Shani Parker, eldercare consultant and Detroit, Michigan author of Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes, writes this blog. Topics include eldercare, hospice, nursing homes, caregiving, dementia, death, bereavement, and older adults in general. News, practices, research, poems, stories, interviews, and videos are used often. In the top right column, you can search for various topics of interest to you. You can also subscribe to this blog or follow it by email.
first time I volunteered at a nursing home, I was a high school student. A
smiling older woman savored applesauce I fed her. I still remember her joy whenever
I eat applesauce. This scenario came about as part of my service activities in
a school club I had joined. Many years later, I found myself
volunteering in nursing homes again and enjoying it even more.
former principal of a schoolwide service-learning school, I have no doubt that
service activities positively impact many students beyond just getting hours
needed to graduate, a requirement that didn’t exist back in the day when I was
a student. In addition to building character, performing service exposes
students to various careers in the healthcare field, improves their
self-esteem, and empowers them with the knowledge that they can really make a
difference in improving the world one person at a time. But good service is
always a win-win opportunity for both the giver and the recipient.
service activities with schools partnering with nursing homes, hospice
organizations, and other healthcare institutions can add wonderful layers of personal
growth and satisfaction for everyone involved.
The following student activities, which may overlap,
should be performed under the supervision of a teacher or coordinator after
partners plan together and agree on needs to be met.
Elementary and Middle School Students
1. Make biographical booklets of patients’ lives.
2. Make greeting cards and/or placemats for holidays.
3. Make fleece comfort pillows or other items.
4. Bake holiday cookies or other treats for
5. Make care packages such as decorated bags with
bottled water, cookies, crackers, tissues, candy, and reading material for
6. Visit nursing homes to socialize with residents,
showcase school-related activities, sing songs, or play games (Wii, checkers,
chess, bingo, etc.) with patients.
7. Exhibit school projects such as artwork,
photographs, science projects, booklets, posters, seasonal displays, etc.
High School and College Students
1. Do in-office work, including filing, faxing, and
preparing admission packets.
2. Host tea parties, movies, and other social events.
3. Provide one-on-one time and attention by reading
to, writing letters for, playing games with, or simply talking and listening to
4. Videotape, record, or make booklets of patients’
5. Assist families with yard work, cleaning out garages,
planting flowers, small paint jobs, and home-building projects (i.e. wheelchair
6. Assist patients and families by doing errands,
walking dogs, picking up groceries, etc.
7. If the age requirement of an organization is met, train
to become regular patient-care volunteers and take on a wide range of hospice
volunteer opportunities, including music therapy, pet volunteer program, and
general patient visits. This is a great time to give students hands-on
experiences in healthcare, especially if they are considering careers as a
medical assistant, nurse assistant (CNA), nurse, or doctor.
Note: Winner of the National Service-Learning
Partnership Trailblazer Award, Frances Shani Parker, a national consultant, has
been instrumental in implementing service-learning in school districts across
the country. Her bookBecoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homesincludes
a chapter on intergenerational partnerships between schools and nursing homes.
this video, teen volunteers at Suncoast Hospice share views on their fulfilling