In Italy, volunteering is a social activity whose importance is constantly growing. The research on volunteering in the field of palliative care is showing how this kind of intervention may strongly support families and professional caregivers. However, only a small number of studies has directly analyzed these informal caregivers who dedicate their time to dying persons and their relatives.
This study aims at investigating psychological variables that are relevant in the voluntary activities of palliative care. A questionnaire was administered to 71 volunteers from important organizations in Northern Italy, which perform support activities in families, in daily care centers or hospices. The questionnaire assessed their death anxiety levels, representations of death, coping strategies, levels of burnout and stress, and dehumanization of patients. Furthermore, 52 volunteers completed an implicit association task aimed at assessing whether God was more strongly associated with Abstraction or with Reality.
Keywords: Volunteer, palliative care, representations of death, implicit image of God, dehumanization, burnout.