COVID-19 presented a huge challenge for our ‘Hospice in the Home’ program which supports people with a terminal or life limiting illness to be cared-for at home. Not only do we serve vulnerable people and their carers, many of our volunteers are also considered vulnerable. At the same time, visiting restrictions at in-patient facilities has made our clients and their families more determined to continue care at home.
Initially, in early 2020, we paused in-home support, and had volunteers offer emotional and social support over the phone. This time allowed us to review our infection prevention protocols and create new COVID-safe volunteering guidelines designed to minimise risk of COVID-19 transmission for service users and volunteers. We resumed in-home support in late 2020 and have continued to update the COVID-safe volunteering guidelines in response to changes in pandemic conditions and government regulations.
The organisation also secured several grants to upgrade technology and build capacity to operate online. We were able to conduct volunteer recruitment, training, engagement, and development activities online, and continue our community engagement events, resulting in maintained momentum and visibility in the community.
Adapting to change
The willingness of our volunteers to adapt, comply with constantly changing requirements, and become fully vaccinated for COVID-19 has ensured the maintenance of a high-quality service.
In 2021, a team of 74 active volunteers safely provided over 1200 hours of in-home support to 30 clients and their families. 47% of Hospice in the Home participants achieved their wish to die at home (well above the national average of around 14%) and most stayed home longer because of the support they received. To date, there has not been any transmission of COVID-19 related to our service.
Strategies to support our volunteers
Continuing our monthly volunteer meetings via Zoom helped volunteers stay connected to the organisation and each other. It also provided an opportunity for us to personally communicate the COVID-safe Volunteering Guidelines and provide training and development related to COVID-19, while continuing education related to their volunteer position.
The weekly newsflash emailed to volunteers each Friday has become a valuable way to communicate changes to volunteering guidelines, government regulations and COVID-19 risk level, and provide information from trustworthy sources about COVID-19 infection, prevention and vaccination.
The organisation provides the required personal protective equipment and Rapid Antigen Test kits to our volunteers so they can protect themselves, work safely with the people we care for and monitor their health on an ongoing basis.
Enquiries about volunteering with Warrnambool and District Community Hospice should be directed to:
Leona van Duynhaven
Phone 03 5563 3220 or