The Story of Hospice ...the concept of care

The Story of Hospice
...the concept of care
by Jennifer LB Leese

The word "hospice" stems from the Latin word "hospitium" meaning guesthouse. This word was originally used to describe a place of shelter for weary and sick travelers returning from religious pilgrimages. During the 1960's, Dr. Cicely Saunders, a British physician began the modern hospice movement by establishing St. Christopher's Hospice near London. St. Christopher's organized a team approach to professional caregiving and was the first program to use modern pain management techniques to compassionately care for the dying. New Haven, Connecticut was the first hospice to open in the United States, opening in 1974.
Today there are more than 3,200 hospice programs in the United States, including Puerto Rico and Guam.
Hospice of Washington County is one near us. Hospice programs cared for nearly 885,000 people in the United States in 2002.
Hospice is not a place but a concept of care. Eighty percent of hospice care is provided in the patient's home, family member's home and in nursing homes. Inpatient hospice facilities are sometimes available to assist with caregiving.
"We have spent a great deal of last year focusing on awareness and education," said Dawn Jones, community relations director at Hospice of Washington County. "We are seeing growth."
The sad thing about it is that most people think they can't afford hospice care. "But if you have Medicare or Medicaid it's a free benefit for you," informs Dawn. Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurance companies cover hospice care. Hospice of Washington County, Inc., provides care to all residents of the county regardless of their ability to pay.
HWC was licensed by the State of Maryland to provide hospice care. Last year they celebrated their 25th year. Today, HWC remains the sole provider of hospice care for patients with a life-limiting illness and support for their families.
Hospice care includes skilled nursing, homemaker and home health aide, volunteer services, pastoral and social work services, and dietician and pharmacist consultation. This group of individuals is referred to as the Interdisciplinary Team. These professionals, under the direction of the Hospice Medical Director and the patient's attending physician, plan the health care services that are to be provided.
Along with their skilled staff of doctors, nurses, social workers, and counselors, HWC has roughly 150 volunteers. "I think our volunteers are what makes Hospice unique. We are able to incorporate our volunteers into the community. They are doing it because it is their way of giving back."
Volunteers are your neighbors. They are men and women of all ages. They work various jobs or are retirees. Many of them have taken care of seriously ill family members and understand how much help is needed when someone is ill.
Volunteer training is designed for those individuals interested in helping hospice patients and families. Currently they offer patient care volunteer training in the fall and spring with morning and evening sessions. Volunteers need to attend a 24-hour training program, learning about the hospice program and enhancing communication and interpersonal skills. Training prepares them to explore the physical and emotional challenges faced by terminally ill people and their families. The program, beginning in April, is a 4-day training session that will run from 9:00AM-3:00PM Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Tuesday. "In four days you're totally done.
"We're really trying to work around those who want to volunteer. We want to get volunteers up and running sooner."
Volunteers are matched up with patients who have similar interests.
"We do ask our volunteers to commit to at least 4 hours a week," says Dawn. There is no limit as to how many hours you can volunteer.
HWC is seeking volunteers of high school age who may be seeking to fulfill their community volunteer hours for graduation. This youth volunteer program seeks to supplement the support that their patient care volunteers and office volunteers provide. Youth volunteers will be able to choose from a variety of opportunities according to their interests and availability. Support in the office may include filing, copying, answering phones and mailings. Patient-care support may include light housework, garden work, or delivery of supplies to homes. There are also several marketing projects, which are in need of additional help.
"We are always trying new things," admits Dawn Jones. "Our orientation and training program for youth volunteers consists of two 1 1/2 hour training sessions that will provide students with an overview of hospice care and a briefing on issues of confidentiality. We will also cover routine health care practices such as proper hand washing techniques."
Roles of volunteers can range from working in the office to visiting patients to becoming a patient care volunteer.
"Not everyone is lying in bed, some volunteers take patients shopping, to lunch, to doctor appointments, to the salon, or even just to sit in the park. Some volunteers sit and watch movies with the patients while munching on popcorn or pizza--whatever they like. Being a good listener is very important, and of course the passion." Dawn says that to be a volunteer is to be someone who can be a good friend. "They do the things that a friend would do...running errands, going to the grocery store for them, or sitting and playing cards or reading them a book.
"We are always looking for new volunteers.
"We need volunteers for hairstyling and massage therapy. Anyone who is licensed to do this special talent and would like to help hospice patients feel better about themselves should call us." Because some of the patients can no longer get out, it would mean a lot to them to get their hair styled or to receive a manicure or massage. "Traditional medicine isn't always the cure. Art and music therapy also can enhance a person's life."
Volunteering is all based upon patient needs and what they like--it's all about how they want it to be. "We allow them to be the driver of the ship," says Dawn. "Hospice is not a cookie-cutter mold where every patient receives the same thing. Some patients are on their own without family members or relatives at all or have none nearby. So for them a volunteer can mean all the difference."
End of life care encompasses the family background; it has to because you aren't just physically taking care of a patient, you are there for them spiritually
To volunteer, call 301-791-6360 and ask for the volunteer director.
The board of directors at Hospice of Washington County is all volunteers. They are primarily businessmen and women from the community. "We have a banker, CPA, doctor, attorney, a funeral director--they just come from all walks of life."
Those who take care of the patients are very important as well. This area begins with Medical Director, Frederic Kass. The medical care patients receive is under the direction of the medical director in collaboration with the patient's attending physician. Registered nurses provide individualized pain and symptom management to the patient while home health aides assist with personal care and activities of daily living. Social workers assist the patient and family with emotional support and access community resources that they may need. Bereavement counseling is provided to the family for thirteen months following the death of their loved one.
Usually a patient's regular family doctor will refer them to Hospice. Sometimes a family member refers them, or patients can refer themselves.
End of life care can be an extremely challenging, but rewarding experience. HWC is here to assist the patient, the family, or health care provider. A person with a life-limiting illness has goals and aspirations and their goal is to help see that occur.
Hospice care is a special kind of recognizes the individual person and family as having specific needs when time is of the essence.
* Healing Hearts for Adults: This is an education/support forum intended for anyone experiencing the loss of a loved one and is open to anyone in the community.
* Healing Hearts for Parents: This is an education/support forum intended for parents or grandparents dealing with the loss of a child, and is open to anyone in the community, either after a long illness or sudden death.
* Bereavement Counseling: Bereaved hospice families will be contacted in a variety of ways during the first thirteen months following a patient's death. A bereavement counselor does an assessment, an individualized plan of care is completed, and the family/individual will be offered a variety of the following services. These services may also be accessed by anyone in the community who has sustained the loss of a loved one. Individuals and families living in Washington County who were not associated with HWC prior to the death of a loved one, but seek grief and bereavement support may attend bereavement counseling at HWC. death.
* Hospice is also available to facilitate support groups in public or private schools at the request of the school counselor and school principal. They are also available for Crisis Debriefing for companies when in need due to loss of an associate or public disaster.
* Good Grief Workshop: This workshop is provided for school age children with an understanding on the significance of loss, exploring the feelings of loss, and understanding loss to help friends who are grieving the loss of a loved one.
Contact the Grief & Bereavement Department at 301-791-6360 for more information on any of these classes.
Patients want and deserve to be cared for in their homes and Hospice of Washington County provides this opportunity in the most caring, efficient, and cost effective way.
Hospice of Washington County, Inc., 1500 Pennsylvania Ave., Hagerstown, MD 21742. For more information or questions, contact the community liaison at 301-791-6360 or visit