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Tap into the hospice volunteer network

Develop an app or website that provides a way for caregivers and 500,000 hospice volunteers to connect

Photo of Tom Short
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Who is your idea designed for and how does it better support family caregivers as they care for a loved one with dementia?

The idea is designed for dementia caregivers. There are already almost a half million hospice volunteers in the US, many of whom have years of experience providing weekly respite for caregivers of dementia patients. These volunteers collectively have given thousands of hours of their time because they care and want to help.

It seems only natural that they would be more than happy to share their experience with other caregivers, if asked.

The essential idea here is that of the nearly 500,000 hospice volunteers in the US, there are likely many thousands of them who work with dementia patients and have learned how to support these patients through their own trial and error. 

Taken together, these volunteers represent a vast trove of experience and wisdom. Unlike the primary caregivers for dementia patients, hospice volunteers choose to provide this support, and therefore might be more pre-disposed to sharing what they've learned with others. 

This idea could be realized by working through a national hospice organization, like, and/or via establishing partnerships with various individual hospice organizations across the US. 

Initially some research would be needed to identify alternatives for identifying hospice volunteers who have the requisite experience; and then figuring out what the best channel would be for helping caregivers connect with them. This could be anything from a video-enabled mobile app to a web forum to local support groups. 

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

I could ask around at a local hospice organization to see whether they have any ideas about this, and whether they'd be willing to explore it further.

What skills, input, or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

The OpenIDEO community would be a great place to tap into for ideas around different ways to help connect the two primary actors in this use case. On one side are the family primary caregivers for dementia patients, and the patients themselves; and on the other side is the sub-set of hospice volunteers who have experience working with dementia patients as respite caregivers.

What would be the best way to give the family members of patients access to these volunteers (and vice versa)?

How long has your idea existed?

  • 0-3 months

This idea emerged from

  • An Individual

Tell us about your work experience:

I've worked in and around enterprise collaboration/enterprise social platforms for over 15 years, looking at how companies can better leverage the knowledge and expertise of their employees. I'm also finishing up hospice volunteer training (next week).


Join the conversation:

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Tom,

Great to have you in the challenge and thank you for sharing your idea. I like the way you are using an existing resource and expertise.

What could incentivise the hospice volunteers to do this as well as their existing volunteer duties, which I imagine take up a lot of time? Could there be the option for payment?

What sort of training do you have a hospice volunteer?

Would this idea be used for caregivers of people with early or mid-stage dementia?

Is there any chance you could find an image to go along with it? Images help grab attention and tell a story. You should be able to use the Edit Contribution button on the top of your post and follow the instructions to add images from there. Looking forward to seeing more of your inspiring insights on OpenIDEO.

Photo of Tom Short

Thanks, Kate. Image added. Incentive should come from self-motivation of the volunteers, who already care about the work they do. Being asked to share what they've learned with other caregivers who need their help would be a great acknowledgement of their service. A byproduct of these information exchanages could also be emotional support for the hospice volunteers. Even without pursuing it directly, just the act of sharing one's experience with someone else who might benefit from it could be very validating and emotionally supportive for the hospice volunteers, who otherwise may not have any other outlets for regularly sharing what they've learned with people who are truly interested and seeking it.

I would think some type of gamification could also be added, with some badges, perhaps, that are awarded based on votes from caregivers, that acknowledge the quality of a hospice volunteer's input around a given type of dementia (it is not just one thing).

Regarding training, I'm not sure what other hospices do, and whether states have their own varying requirements or not. Hospice By The By requires completion of classroom training and self-paced video and textbook material that includes quizzes to confirm understanding.

Also, on a final note, this idea is very consistent with a number of others in the Staying Connected category. I didn't read through all 39 out them (may be more now), but after browsing through several I realized a couple of things:
1. The idea of an app or website designed to help caregivers find ideas to use with their patients is prevalent in this category, and consistent with what my idea is in that regard
2. I didn't see any that proposed leveraging the wisdom of the crowd, as it were, with a crowd comprising hospice volunteers, which is what I think makes my contribution here unique. If there is another one that does this then we can definitely combine this one with it.

This could either be a nice augmentation of one of the app/website submissions; or one of them would be a welcomed addition to this one. Just depends which tail you want to wag the dog, as it were.