Volunteer Handbook with Expectations and guidelines

Expectations and Guidelines for Volunteers

Recording Volunteer Hours

It is very important to record all of your volunteer hours both in the community and if volunteering at home. This provides us with necessary documentation to maintain our non-profit (501c3) status and keeps our records up to date.


Nametags will be given to you at your orientation. According to state regulation, you must wear your nametag inour care centers.Residents and families also appreciate nametags so that they know who we are.


Personal appearance is important in representing Optage to those we serve, family members, visitors, and co-workers. In our environment, modesty is the norm. Your choice of dress and appearance must be respectful of the values and expectations of those we serve and with whom we work.


Volunteers should wear conservative and clean attire. Dress neatly and appropriately for your assigned duty. Examples of inappropriate dress include: short shorts, revealing tops, and offensive T-shirts. Undergarments should not be exposed. Some areas may require that your feet be covered at all times by socks in addition to appropriate footwear. Remember that your appearance reflects on the community you are serving. All volunteers must wear their volunteer name tags.


The volunteer and volunteer office will set up mutually acceptable schedules. It is very important that you call (leave a message if needed) if you are unable to come as scheduled. Reliability is extremely important. Residents, staff members and others will be depending on you.

Time Away

If you know ahead of time that you will be unable to come in as scheduled, notify the volunteer office so that they can update your plan of care.


If you are ill, please do not come to volunteer. Call and cancel your volunteer appointment. Do not come when in the contagious stage of an illness. You will not be allowed to work as a volunteer with any suspected or actual infection. If you have questions about whether you should come in to volunteer or not, call your supervisor or the volunteer office.

Change of Personal Information

Make any necessary changes to your volunteer profile at www.Myvolunteerpage.com.

Background Checks

Because we work with vulnerable adults, you are required to provide information for a background check, get fingerprinted and provide two personal references.

Tuberculosis Testing

Optage requires a Mantoux test (epidermal test for Tuberculosis) for all volunteers. This test will be given free of charge through Optage. If you are under the age of 18, a parent must give written consent for you to receive this test. A chest x-ray is required if the test is positive.

Visiting Pet Animals

It is the policy of Presbyterian Homes to allow companion animals to visit the facilities and grounds. The anticipated outcome of companion animal visits will be directed at resident satisfaction and life enrichment. The owner of the pet animal is responsible for the behavior of the animal.

Definition: All animals coming into the Community for short periods of time are considered "visiting animals." They can be animals who arrive with a visitor to see a specific resident, animals associated with a volunteer pet program, or the personal pets of staff.

Visiting Pet Animals Guidelines:

  • Residents’ families and friends, registered volunteers and staff may bring pet animals to visit.


  • Visitors who bring pet animals must sign in per the community’s guidelines.


  • A "Pet Release Form" and related processes must be completed and kept on file.


  • Visitors who bring animals to visit must respect and recognize that some residents and other visitors do not wish to have contact with animals.


  • Animal visitors must have current immunizations (including rabies). Documentation of immunizations and health records must be available upon request.


  • Pet animal owners are encouraged to consult with their veterinarian about the appropriateness of the temperament of their pet prior to visiting older adults. Animal visitors must be of appropriate temperament and suitable for visiting.


  • Animals must be under the control (leash or obedience trained) of owners or assigned responsible staff or volunteers. No retractable leashes are allowed. Leashes must be of a fixed length no longer than six (6) feet.


  • Visiting animals must be kept out of kitchen areas, sterile supply areas, medication rooms and dining areas during mealtime.


  • Exotic and/or domesticated farm animals are not permitted unless they are under the supervision of zoo personnel or trained animal handlers.


  • Visitors are responsible for the behavior of their animals at all times.


  • All pet owners must clean up pet droppings (either inside the building or on community grounds) and dispose of appropriately.


  • In the event that a pet creates a nuisance or otherwise jeopardizes the health, safety, comfort, treatment, or well being of the residents or staff, the pet will no longer be allowed to remain in the community and the pet owner is responsible for any compensation for harm or damage.


  • Any "clean-up" is the owner’s responsibility. Housekeeping may be contacted for assistance as needed.


  • Animals are not allowed on the furniture.


Medicine and Food

Volunteers are not permitted to supply or to assist any resident with any medication. Do not bring food or drink to residents without first checking with staff. By law, extensive training is required in order to assist residents who require help to eat.


Presbyterian Homes is not responsible for lost or missing items. Please leave valuables, such as purses, at home or in a locked place. Do not leave valuables unattended. If available, please use lockers for safe keeping of personal valuables.


Personal phone calls should be kept to a minimum. Cellular phone should be used only in an emergency. Please silence ring tones while in our communities.


Presbyterian Homes communities are tobacco-free. NO SMOKING or use of tobacco is allowed in any building or on the grounds.

Drugs and Alcohol

Possessing and/or using alcohol or illegal drugs in any form is prohibited.


Presbyterian Homes strives to maintain a safe environment for residents, families, visitors, staff, and volunteers. Weapons may not be carried on the grounds or into our buildings.


Parking may be available for volunteers in our parking lot. However, please do not use those spaces marked "handicapped" (unless you are authorized to do so).

Liability and Insurance

If a volunteer is injured while working in the scope of their volunteer duties on behalf of PHS, their health insurance is considered primary coverage.

Additionally the following would not be covered by PHS insurers:

● Damaged, lost or destroyed property and personal effects of a volunteer;

● Dishonest, fraudulent, criminal, or malicious acts of a volunteer.

It is important to understand the laws regarding automobile insurance and coverage. The owner of each vehicle is required to purchase liability insurance, which covers injuries sustained in an accident. When a volunteer uses their own car while volunteering for PHS, the volunteer’s personal auto liability insurance will, by law, be considered the primary coverage for any injuries.

In the event a PHS volunteer is using a personal automobile while volunteering on behalf of PHS, any damage to the volunteer’s vehicle would fall under their own personal automobile insurance coverage. Similarly, any third party property damage or bodily injury claims resulting from the volunteer using a personal a vehicle while volunteering on behalf of PHS would also fall under his or her personal automobile coverage.

For any volunteer driving a personal automobile on behalf of PHS, PHS requires that the vehicle is in good working order. PHS will also require evidence that the vehicle has valid liability insurance coverage with at least the minimum amount required by the state, and that the driver has a valid state-issued driver’s license.

PHS does not allow the use of a volunteer vehicle for any resident transport, especially non-ambulatory residents as most personal vehicles are not equipped with proper safety features required for resident transport, and the volunteer is not adequately trained in leading, securing and transferring residents.

If you have any questions regarding liability and insurance coverage, talk to your supervisor.

Accepting Gifts

It is the policy of PHS that individual volunteers (and employees) are prohibited from accepting gifts from residents or clients. Gifts are defined as cash and/or checks in the form of a tip or a gift, financial assistance in any form, gifts-in-kind ("things") and/or personal possessions. Residents are defined as current or former residents of any PHS Community (managed and/or owned by PHS), Creative Independence client, or family/friend of current or former resident/client.

However, we recognize that residents and clients have a right to exercise their own choices. If, after refusal of any gift, the resident or client is insistent upon giving the gift, it must not be used to the volunteer’s individual benefit. If a resident or client insists on giving a gift, contact the volunteer office for assistance.


We strive to keep the line of communication open between volunteers, the volunteer office and any assigned supervisor. The volunteer office is your resource for enhancing your volunteer skills and increasing your effectiveness. Do not hesitate to ask for help. Volunteers are expected to comply with the information in this manual. You may be assigned to a supervisor who will provide direction for your volunteer responsibilities. Any comments and/or problems should be addressed first to the supervisor and secondly to the volunteer office.


You will be dismissed as a volunteer should any of the following conditions exist:

  • Evidence of being under the influence of alcohol or illegal substances


  • Disruptive, abusive or inappropriate conduct


  • Excessive absences without notification


  • Criminal acts including, but not limited to, theft


  • Selling or soliciting


A volunteer may also be dismissed at the discretion of campus administration or the volunteer office for specific reasons which will be communicated to the volunteer at the time of dismissal.

Vulnerable Adult Reporting

The Vulnerable Adult Act is a law enacted by the State of Minnesota to protect an individual living in a community or who, regardless of place of residence, is unlikely to report abuse or neglect without assistance because of emotional status, physical or mental function. Presbyterian Homes has chosen to adopt the Vulnerable Adult policies and procedures for all residents.

Examples of resident maltreatment are categorized into three different areas: abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation. Examples of resident maltreatment that could result in immediate termination of your volunteer status include, but are not limited to:

  • Speaking to a resident in a manner intended to humiliate


  • Yelling or threatening a resident


  • Excessive use of force, or physical acts which cause pain, suffering or injury to a resident


  • Hitting, slapping, pinching, jerking, shoving, or burning a resident or making inappropriate gestures towards a resident


  • Ignoring residents who ask for or need assistance


  • Eating food from a resident’s tray


  • Any sexual contact toward a resident


  • Accepting money or a gift from a resident through unsuitable influence or trickery


  • Misappropriate or use of a resident’s property


In accordance with our State and Federal laws, all instances of resident abuse, neglect or maltreatment must be reported. Any employee or volunteer providing services in the community who has knowledge of abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult, or has reasonable cause to believe that a vulnerable adult has sustained an injury which is not reasonably explained must immediately be reported to staff.

Confidentiality and Privacy

Residents have the right to have personal information held in confidence. General information, such as resident’s interests may be shared with other volunteers, but even general information should be respected as confidential. Volunteers may not discuss confidential information with other volunteers, residents, family and friends or in the community. If a volunteer becomes aware of a distressing situation that a resident has not told staff, the volunteer should tell the resident that they are required to report the situation. Then the volunteer should inform the supervisor or volunteer office of the situation.

Do not discuss resident information in public places such as elevators, lobbies, dining rooms, halls, reception areas, and café areas. Do not share personal or embarrassing information about residents.

To respect the privacy of those we serve, please knock before entering a resident room or unit, identify yourself and explain the purpose of your visit. If curtain is closed, do not disturb the resident, unless they respond.

Information that you may learn about Presbyterian Homes or the site should also be treated as confidential. Any breech of confidentiality may result in discipline or termination of the volunteer position.

Photo Release

If you do not wish to have your photograph or image used for internal and/or external PHS purposes, please be sure to let anyone taking photos know this at the time they are taking the picture.

Corporate Compliance

Optage is committed to being a good corporate citizen of our community, state and nation. Our Corporate Compliance Program includes our Code of Conduct and a set of Compliance Guidelines. Additionally a reporting system ensures that suspected violations of our Code of Conduct, Compliance Guidelines, operational policies or any other law or regulation are brought to the attention of the Corporate Compliance Officer.

As a part of our Code of Conduct, PHS expects that volunteers and employees will:

1. Strive to deliver or enhance quality health care services

2. Comply with all applicable laws and regulations that affect our various businesses

3. Engage in ethical business relationships

4. Avoid either conflicts of interest or the appearance of any impropriety

5. Protect PHS’ property, and respect the property rights of others with whom we do business

6. Respect each other as human beings and health care professionals.

If you have any questions about this code of conduct, contact the volunteer office. Any volunteer who suspects that someone has violated the Code of Conduct, Compliance Guidelines, PHS policies or procedures, or any applicable State or Federal law, should immediately report his/her suspicion to the volunteer office, Site Leader, or the Corporate Compliance Officer. A volunteer, who, for any reason is uncomfortable reporting a suspected violation to any of the above-referenced individuals, is encouraged to call the PHS Corporate Compliance Helpline at 651/631-6168.


Consistent with the PHS policy and practice of maintaining an environment that is free from offensive behavior and remarks related to a volunteer's appearance, race, color, creed, religion, national origin, gender, pregnancy, marital status, disability, age, status with regard to public assistance, or sexual orientation, PHS strictly prohibits offensive behavior toward its employees and volunteers in the community by any person and in any form.

Offensive behavior includes, but is not limited to: sexual harassment, verbal and nonverbal harassment, and physical harassment. Offensive behavior prohibited by this policy also includes requests to engage in illegal, immoral or unethical conduct, or retaliation for making a complaint. If a volunteer engages in offensive behavior in the workplace, management will intervene as appropriate to the circumstance.

1. If you feel you are being harassed, report it to the volunteer office.

2. If you observe inappropriate behavior, report it to the volunteer office.

3. We do not tolerate any kind of harassment while volunteering here

Tax Deductions

When completing income tax forms, volunteers may deduct out-of-pocket expenses that have been incurred while volunteering at Presbyterian Homes. Those expenses may include use of personal money and mileage if an accurate account has been kept. We encourage you to consult your personal tax advisor regarding deductions related to volunteer activities

Resident Care

Do not assist residents with personal cares. Only the nursing or home care staff is allowed to help residents with their personal needs. Do not lift or move a resident, untie a restraint, or remove an alarm, even at resident’s request. Tell them you cannot do those things because you do not have the proper training, but you will find someone who will assist them, and then notify nursing staff.

Infection Control

Please use the following procedures to do your part in preventing the spread of infection:

  • Thorough hand washing is very important for infection control. Many of the residents have lower resistance to illness. Wash hands often: upon arrival, before and after working with a resident, before lunch and after using the lavatories.


  • Remain at home if you are ill.


  • If at any time you encounter resident body fluids, notify nursing staff for assistance.



Resident Distress

If you find a resident who is in distress, remain calm. Get help. When possible, stay with the resident until help arrives. Do not lift them. Check with your (volunteer office or site supervisor) for more detailed emergency information.

Emergency Procedures

Each Presbyterian Homes campus has a fire and severe weather plan specific to their community. Please discuss the emergency procedures with your volunteer office so that you are properly prepared. In case of fire, do not use elevators.

Personal Injury

Immediately report any personal injury or accident while volunteering to the site supervisor and volunteer office. Insurance may not provide coverage if the injury is not reported on the day it occurs. An incident report form must be completed.

Guidelines for Working with Residents

Address with Respect

Ask the resident how they would like to be addressed. Do not use endearments terms such as "dearie" or "honey," unless the resident specifically requests to be called by that name.

Call Systems

When returning residents to their rooms, please make sure the call systems are accessible to them.

Transporting a Resident by Wheelchair

  • Place resident’s feet on footrests if present, or ask resident to lift feet before starting to push the wheelchair.


  • Ask resident to place hands on armrests or in lap so their hands are not by the wheels.


  • Always inform resident you are going to move the wheelchair and where you are going.


  • Lock both brakes when wheelchair is to stay in once place – at all activities and in the dining room.


  • Exercise care when pushing a wheelchair around corners to prevent injury to resident from either a collision or contact with the wall. Remember to check ceiling mirrors.


  • In an emergency situation, call for assistance. Be calm and remain with the resident until help arrives.


  • When entering an elevator, pull the wheelchair into the elevator backwards. When you leave the elevator, push it forward.


  • Use elevator controls to hold the door open when more than one wheelchair is going into or out of the elevator at a time. Remember to release the door control when finished, so that others may use the elevator.


  • When going outside, push the automatic door opener.


  • When taking a resident who wears a code alert bracelet outside for a ride, please ask your supervisor for directions.

  • Push all wheelchairs. Do not pull them from behind.


Communication Techniques

  • Introduce yourself to the residents by name and position as a volunteer so they don’t have to guess who you are.


  • Face the person. Eye contact, facial expressions, lip movement and gestures all give the listener additional cues to understanding.


  • Be positive! Saying "Good Morning" instead of "How are you?" initiates more positive conversation rather than focusing on the person’s illness.


  • Show a friendly interest in each resident. Be natural, patient and sincere.


  • Ask the resident how they would like to be addressed. Do not use endearments such as "dear" or "honey" unless the resident specifically requests to be called by that name.


  • Touch in appropriate ways like a hand on a shoulder or arm or holding hands.


  • Talk directly to the resident, not through his or her friends, family or staff.


  • Try not to interrupt residents, put words in their mouths, or anticipate what they will say. Allow residents time to think and respond.


  • Be a good listener.


  • Encourage others to talk by limiting your own comments.


  • Try rewording the statement or question if it is not understood the first time.


Communicating Techniques with the Hearing Impaired

  • Face them and speak in a normal tone of voice. Do not speak from the hall or from behind them.


  • If you sense they don’t hear you, speak lower and slower.


  • Do not speak one word at a time. Speak naturally, but keep the information simple in content.


  • Do not turn your head away, laugh while you talk, or move your head constantly.


  • Hearing impaired persons have difficulty monitoring the loudness of their voices. The deaf person does not know if they are talking too loudly or it they need to speak louder because the environment is noisy.


Communication Techniques with the Visually Impaired

  • Introduce yourself by name and position as a volunteer and explain why you are there.


  • Let the resident know who else is nearby.


  • Move slowly and stand or sit at their level.


  • Briefly describe the layout of the room and what is going on.


  • You may quietly comment on important things occurring, an amusing incident or the arrival of new people.


  • Leave items where the person has placed them.


  • If you leave the person alone, leave them near something they can touch or maintain contact with their surroundings.


  • Let the person know if you are leaving, even for a short time, and make a brief comment when you return.


  • If transporting the resident to another location, explain the new location and who is present.


  • Be aware that some people may have partial vision and see only a portion of what is in their field of vision.


Communication Techniques with those with Memory Loss

  • Approach with an open, friendly, relaxed manner. If you are tense or hurried, the individual may become tense and resistant.

  • Identify yourself and look directly at the person.

  • Speak in a clear, low-pitched voice. High-pitched tones convey anxiety and tension.

  • Use short, simple words, sentences and questions. For example, "Are you cold?" or "Please come with me."

  • Use yes or no questions; avoid those that require decision-making. Example: Instead of asking, "Would you like to go for a walk or listen to music?" First ask, "Would you like to go for a walk?" If the answer is no, then ask, "Would you like to listen to music?"

  • Present tasks in individual steps and ask the person to do them one at a time.

  • For example, "Here are your glasses." "Remove them from the case." "Put on your glasses."

  • Accompany verbal communication with appropriate nonverbal cues or signals. A smile is an important part of nonverbal communication.

  • If the person becomes upset in a situation, remain calm and remove whatever is upsetting the person or remove the person from the upsetting environment. Respond to what you think the person is feeling so that they will sense you understand.

  • Avoid arguing or reasoning. Use distraction rather than confrontation.

  • Physical expressions of caring, such as gentle touch, will usually be understood and may calm an upset individual.

  • Provide appropriate praise and reassurance.

  • Additional information on memory loss may be obtained from the Volunteer Director.

Escort Techniques for Residents Who Are Safe To Walk

  • Check with staff to be sure that the resident is safe to walk.


  • Approach a resident from the front. Introduce yourself.


  • Offer your arm or hand for support.


  • Walk with people at their own speed.


  • Never help a resident in or out of a wheelchair, chair or bed, or to the bathroom.


Resident Rights

  • Respect the privacy of each resident. Knock on their door, explain who you are and why you are there, and wait for permission to enter a resident’s room. If there is no response, then slowly enter and ask for permission again. A resident may not hear you the first time.


  • Soliciting and selling are not permitted.


  • Verbal, physical, mental or financial abuse of residents is not tolerated.


  • Signing of legal documents is not allowed. If a resident wants you to serve as a witness for a will or other document, refer them to staff.


  • Refer any resident complaints or concerns to the volunteer department immediately.


  • A copy of the Resident’s Bill of Rights may be obtained from the Volunteer Director.


Suggestions for Positive Interactions

  • Treat the resident with respect.


  • Encourage residents to be active physically and mentally.


  • Encourage residents to participate in recreation programs or independent leisure activities.


  • Let the resident make decisions.


  • Encourage the residents to do as much for themselves as they can and allow them ample time. Do not do things for residents that they can do.


  • Encourage visiting. Give the resident time to respond.


  • Genuinely praise residents for their accomplishments.


  • Give residents equal attention when involved in group situations.


  • Treat residents as adults by promoting their dignity and self-esteem.


  • Do not criticize or contradict the residents. Do not criticize the staff or community in front of the resident. If any concerns or problems arise, go directly to the Volunteer Director.


  • Be cheerful. Keep a sense of humor and a positive attitude.


  • If you have a question, ask!


Volunteer Benefits

We hope that you will feel fulfilled as you share your gifts with our residents and will enjoy the time spent with them. Some of the benefits of volunteering include:

  • Personal satisfaction from helping others and contributing to the community


  • Personal growth from learning new or enhancing current skills


  • Opportunities to make new friends


  • Opportunity for career exploration


References are provided. The Volunteer Office will be pleased to give volunteers references for such areas as employment, schooling, and other positions. Volunteer hours are always a positive on applications for school and employment.

Recognition of volunteers is viewed as an ongoing process. Volunteers have the right to know that what they do is worthwhile and beneficial.

Thank You for Your Gift of Time!

It is important that your volunteer experience with Optage and Presbyterian Homes be a mutually rewarding one. Please share your concerns, stories and suggestions with Volunteer Services.

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