To be truly alive: motivation among prison inmate hospice volunteers and the transformative process of end-of-life peer care service

Am J Hosp Palliat Care. 2014 Nov;31(7):735-48. doi: 10.1177/1049909113506035. Epub 2013 Sep 26.


Some US prisons are meeting the growing need for end-of-life care through inmate volunteer programs, yet knowledge of the motivations of inmate caregivers is underdeveloped. This study explored the motivations of inmate hospice volunteers from across Louisiana State (n = 75) through an open-ended survey, a grounded theory approach to analysis, and comparison of responses by experience level and gender. Participants expressed complex motivations; Inter-related themes on personal growth, social responsibility and ethical service to vulnerable peers suggested that inmate caregivers experience an underlying process of personal and social transformation, from hospice as a source of positive self-identity to peer-caregiving as a foundation for community. Better understanding of inmate caregiver motivations and processes will help prisons devise effective and sustainable end of life peer-care programs.

Keywords: end of life; hospice volunteer; peer-care; prison hospice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Attitude to Death*
  • Caregivers / psychology*
  • Female
  • Hospice Care / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Louisiana
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation*
  • Peer Group
  • Prisoners / psychology*
  • Terminal Care / psychology*
  • United States
  • Volunteers / psychology*