Friday, November 29, 2013

School-Healthcare Volunteer Partnerships: Students Help Hospice Patients and Families (Video 1:46)

Most young people have no idea what hospice means or what role they can play in improving lives of terminally ill patients and their families. When partnerships take place between schools and healthcare organizations such as hospice, there are several bonuses. In addition to improvement of academic and affective skills, students become more familiar with aging, illness, caregiving, death, and grief. They also learn about career choices they may not have considered. Patients and families benefit from the many services these young volunteers can provide.

Some hospices and other healthcare facilities have teenage volunteers doing the following assignments:

1. Perform in-office work including filing, faxing, and preparing admission packets.
2. Host tea parties, movies, and other social events at nursing homes.
3. Provide one-on-one time and attention by reading to, writing letters for, playing games with, or simply talking and listening to patients.
4. Videotape, record, or make booklets of patients’ life reviews.
5. Assist families with yard work, cleaning out the garage, planting flowers, small paint jobs, and home-building projects (i.e. wheelchair ramp).
6. Assist patients and families by doing errands, walking dogs, picking up groceries, etc.

My earliest memory of feeding a nursing home patient was not after I became an adult hospice volunteer. It was during my high school days when I joined a school club that encouraged me to make a positive difference in people's lives through service. Cleveland High School art students share a partnership with Hospice of Chattanooga that also creates service opportunities. In this video, students create ceramic hearts for hospice families. The hearts serve as symbols reminding families of their deceased loved ones. Grateful heart recipients have the support of knowing that students cared enough about their healing to make special hearts to connect with theirs.

Note: Winner of the National Service-Learning Partnership Trailblazer Award, Frances Shani Parker, a national service-learning consultant and former school principal, has been instrumental in implementing service-learning in school districts across the country. Her book includes a chapter on intergenerational partnerships between schools and nursing homes.

Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback and e-book editions in America and other countries at online and offline booksellers.

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