By Meg Moss, Chamber of Commerce Executive Director
Hospice. It can be a scary word. Okay, it is a scary word, and a scary thought. But receiving hospice services for someone who is nearing the end of their life can be a very rewarding experience for both the patient and the family. Hospice is about living, and hospice care providers can promote personal dignity and focus on the patients’ quality of life.
I personally worked for a hospice organization as a Hospice Care Coordinator before coming to work for the Sanford Area Growth Alliance. I worked with referring physicians, nursing homes and hospitals, as well as patients and families to ensure all parties were familiar with the eligibility requirements of hospice care, and services offered for a person receiving hospice. It was a tough job mentally and emotionally. There is a lot of love and care that goes into working with these families.
I recently spoke with Charlotte Walton, Regional Volunteer Manager for Liberty Home Care and Hospice, about her experience working in the hospice line of work. “It’s a blessing because I get to experience all aspects of life and death and I get to watch our staff be a blessing to so many families. Our staff does everything from assisting in personal care, to ordering needed medical equipment, to offering social work and bereavement services. I look forward to going to work because I know hospice care makes a difference.”
“Liberty also helps families by providing them with the Five Wishes document” stated Walton. Five Wishes is a living will that talks about one’s personal, emotional and spiritual needs, as well as their medical wishes. Five Wishes is a simple document that gives you the opportunity to talk with your family, friends and doctors about how you want to be treated if you become seriously ill. Your family members will not have to guess what you want.
I asked Walton about her area of hospice specifically, which involves recruiting and organizing volunteers. “Volunteers are the heart of hospice.” Walton shared that there are opportunities for direct care and indirect care. “Sometimes volunteering is as simple as calling a patient and giving them a “tuck in”, asking them if they need anything or if they are in any pain.” If the patient does report any medical need, the volunteer relays that to the nurse, who can be by the patient’s side at any time of the day or night. “Volunteers make lap blankets for patients, send greeting cards to patients, and bereavement cards to families. And we’re starting a pen pal program so that hospice patients can have something to look forward to.”
For those who have family members nearing the end of life, hospice services may be just the care you need. What I learned when I worked in the hospice industry is that it’s a myth to say that a patient passes away almost immediately after accepting hospice care. In fact, a patient is qualified for hospice by having a terminal diagnosis but may continue a productive life up to a year or longer. Most patients and their families say they “waited too long before taking advantage of hospice services.”
If you have questions about hospice care for a loved one, or are interested in volunteering, Walton can be reached at Liberty Home Care and Hospice by calling their Sanford office at (919) 774-9522.