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Thirty Years Since Medicare Hospice Legislation Recognized Value of Hospice Volunteers

ALEXANDRIA, Va., April 16, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Thirty years ago, the legislation creating the Medicare hospice benefit was passed, enabling tens of millions of Americans to avail themselves of the highest quality care at life's end from the nation's dedicated hospice community.  Additionally, this federal legislation created one of the most compassionate corps of trained volunteers seen anywhere in the healthcare community.


In recognition of National Volunteer Week, April 15-21, 2012, the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, the National Hospice Foundation, FHSSA, and the Hospice Action Network are honoring the hospice and palliative care volunteers who bring compassion, support and dignity to those facing a serious, life-limiting illness.

NHPCO reports that in 2012, an estimated 458,000 hospice volunteers provided more than 21 million hours of service to hospice programs.   

It is federally mandated, under Medicare, that five percent of all patient care hours be provided by trained volunteers. This requirement underscores the important role that hospice volunteers play in caring for the dying and their family caregivers.

These volunteers bring companionship to people in the final months and weeks of life, often a time when people find themselves cut off from the community, isolated and alone.  They bring respite to family caregivers who are caring for dying loved ones and struggling with their own grief and loss.  They provide valuable support with local outreach efforts, fundraising events and administrative tasks.

"We are grateful to our volunteers every day of the year but National Volunteer Week is a time when we can celebrate all they do and remind everyone that hospice and palliative care volunteers are angels working among us," said J. Donald Schumacher, NHPCO president and CEO. 

Hospice began in this country over 30 years ago as a largely, volunteer-driven community movement.

Notably, April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day, a day of national outreach emphasizing the importance of advance care planning.  Hospice and palliative care providers frequently serve as resources to educate their communities about advance care planning with volunteers often playing a key role in these efforts.

"The synergy between National Healthcare Decisions Day and National Volunteer Week allows us to honor those volunteers who work diligently to emphasize the importance of advance care planning. To this day volunteers continue to be at the heart of hospice," added Schumacher.

To learn more about hospice, volunteering or to find a hospice in your community, visit NHPCO's Caring Connections at or contact the HelpLine at 1-800-658-8898.

Jon Radulovic
NHPCO Vice President, Communications
Ph: 703-837-3139

SOURCE National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization
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