This program brings together persons with a meditation or spiritual practice and individuals facing the final months or weeks of life. The Tara Home Volunteer Caregiver Program encourages a mutually beneficial relationship between people who are cultivating a "listening mind" and heart, and people who need to be heard and seen. Volunteer caregivers provide practical, emotional and spiritual support to men and women with terminal illnesses. Each volunteer receives thorough training, on-going supervision, and support from a community of like-minded individuals. No prior experience in health care is necessary; Tara Home operates on the knowledge that we each have the capacity to empathetically care for another. 

Therefore, Tara Home volunteers are required to have achieved the ability to manage both mind and emotions in order to be present and open to what is happening in the moment, without judgment and without the need to control. This capacity is acquired and fostered through various spiritual practices, including meditation, tai chi, yoga, etc. 

Tara Home is a Buddhist project operating through the auspices of FPMT (Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition) and the Land of Medicine Buddha in Soquel, California. Of course, the values of mindfulness, compassion, and reflection are not exclusive to Buddhist practice which simply forms the basis of our approach. Thus, we welcome all spiritual traditions for both patients and volunteers. As a community we have this precious opportunity to explore our own relationship to death and dying through our service to this project.

The following policies apply:

Protect residents' confidentiality at all times. 

Provide companionship and support to residents and/or visitors. Help with meeting personal needs* including transferring, bathing, toileting, administration of medication that has been pre-measured and/or packaged. Preparing, serving and helping to feed meals and snacks. Helping with light housekeeping and laundry. Keeping cabin clean; including resident’s room, bedside table, commode, disposing of soiled diapers etc. 

Arrive on time for your shift, and read the highlighted portions of the communication log since your last shift. Listen to the report from the previous caregiver and ask questions that occur to you. Ensure you understand the scheduled and as-needed medication requirements. 

Record in the communication log the significant events of your shift. Include the time, the care you provided, requests made by resident and your response, visitors' names, and any other information you feel would be useful. Be objective. (What did you see, what did the resident say etc.) Be as brief as possible and write clearly. Familiarize yourself with the routine to be followed when that resident dies. 

Call if you need help, regardless of the time. Call if you are uncomfortable or unsure about a situation. The Volunteer Coordinator will clarify instructions or provide direction as needed and Hospice will provide direction when issues of comfort or pain management need to be addressed. 

When your shift is relieved, stay long enough to ensure the next volunteer is adequately briefed. 

If you are unable to make your scheduled shift, find a replacement. If you are unable to find a replacement, notify the Volunteer Coordinator well in advance of your scheduled shift. 

You are not required to do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. You are required, however, to notify the Volunteer Coordinator of any care that you are unable to provide so that adequate arrangements for that care can be made. 

Be aware of boundary issues. You are not in any way to mention, push, or discuss your own spiritual beliefs or practices. 

You must follow Universal Precautions – this is to protect yourself, the resident, the resident’s families, other volunteers and the community at large. This includes frequent handwashing, wearing gloves and disinfecting surfaces.

Some Final Thoughts:

Protect residents' confidentiality at all times. 

There is a powerful asymmetrical relationship between you and the resident at Tara Home; remember that the resident has no control at this stage of life and that any power or control is in your hands. Use it for their care and remember that none of this is about you – be very careful not to bring your personal business into this setting. To that end, it is immensely helpful for you to routinely review the Five Precepts which you will receive during the training. 

Remember to quiet yourself and to take cleansing breaths before you arrive for your shift so that you can tune into what’s happening at Tara Home and whatever it is that our resident and any family members might be needing from you. 

Try to increase your comfort with silence. This is an important skill at Tara Home and one we may not have much opportunity to practice in our interactions with others at home or work.