Hospice--One of Life's Most Valuable Services
Wednesday, September 12, 2018 | By Max Sherman, KHCH Board of Directors
On June 4 this year in my column entitled "Life's Final Journey Nothing to Worry About", I described the process of dying. In it I quoted the great sixteenth century essayist Michel de Montaigne who was once on the verge of expiring after an accident and found himself gasping for air, and attempting to pound on his chest to breathe. Fortunately he recovered. He later reflected that despite the trauma, he began to grow languid while feeling like he was being carried aloft on a magic carpet. From this he found that learning to die is not necessary. He noted, "If you don't know how to die, don't worry; nature will tell you what to do on the spot, fully and adequately. She will do the job perfectly for you; don't bother your head about it." Well he was partly correct in that we may know how to die but we generally need somebody else around to help either during the process or thereafter. Fortunately, we have hospice and while most people die in a hospital, many families choose hospice for end of life care.
The web site for the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, states that the term "hospice" can be traced back to medieval times when it referred to a place of shelter and rest for weary or ill travelers on a long journey. The name was first applied to specialized care for dying patients by physician Dame Cicely Saunders, who began her work with the terminally ill in 1948 and eventually went on to create the first modern hospice--St. Christopher's Hospital--in a residential suburb of London. Saunders introduced the idea of specialized care for the dying to the United States during a 1963 visit when she presented a lecture at Yale University. It was given to medical students, nurses, social workers, and chaplains and discussed the concept of holistic (treating mind and body) hospice care, and included photographs of terminally ill cancer patients and their families, showing the dramatic differences before and after the symptom control care. Hospice care is designed to give supportive treatment to people in the final phases of a terminal illness and focus on comfort and quality of life, rather than cure. The goal is to enable patients to be comfortable and free of pain so that they live each day as fully as possible.
According to Heidi Telpner in her book, One Foot in Heaven, hospice affirms life and does not hasten or postpone death. It highlights quality rather than length of life. She contends that death can be beautiful, peaceful, humorous, touching, tragic, disturbing and even otherworldly. Hospice care treats the person rather than the disease and provides family centered care involving the patient and family in making decisions. Care is provided for the patient 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Care can be given in a patient's home, a hospital, nursing home or in a private hospice facility. Most hospice care in the United States is given at home with a family member or members serving as the main hands-on caregiver.
We are indeed fortunate having local hospice services. It was started by eight nurses and numerous community leaders 42 years ago and continues today through the passion of a new generation of nurses, medical social workers, therapists, and support staff. According to their brochure, the group of nurses met at one of the member's home. They had no money, no office space and no supplies. Several community leaders volunteered to serve on their Board of Directors, as advisers and help with donations. Kosciusko REMC provided the office space. With the support of the community, the agency flourished. Today, Kosciusko Home Care and Hospice operates 7 programs: home care, hospice, the Help Center (locally-raised funds defray patient and family expenses), medication and dental assistance, Kid's Smile Kosciusko, Lifeline and private duty care. They also partner with REAL Services. A large portion of its funding comes from the K21 Health Foundation, United Way of Kosciusko County, county support, and local donations. The agency has grown to include 30 full-time and 20 part time employees. The Home Care and Hospice staff served 474 patients in 2016, totaling 16,122 visits and 178,000 miles driven by staff to care for patients. There were 111 veterans included among the number of patients. The Help Center distributed assistance funds and services to 861 Kosciusko County residents through the KCCF Good Samaritan Fund. The Medical and Dental Assistance provided vouchers for 707 clients for medication, medical supplies, and emergency dental assistance. All services are provided without regard to race, age, color, religion, sex, disability, national origin or ancestry. For more information call (574) 372-3401 or visit www.koshomecare.org.