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Hospice: Offering Comfort and Dignity at the End of Life

November 23, 2010

Trees of Angels Events Help Raise Funding, Honor Families’ Lost Loved Ones

For individuals and families facing the final stages of a life-limiting disease, often the focus changes from medical treatment to comfort and pain management so that patients and their loved ones can focus on final needs and wishes with comfort and dignity.

The goal of hospice

The month of November is recognized as National Hospice/Palliative Care Month. According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO), hospice combines expert medical care, pain management, and emotional and spiritual support expressly tailored to the individual patient.

To ensure that patients and families in Washington Township Health Care District have access to quality end-of-life care, Washington Hospital has worked closely with Pathways Home Health, Hospice & Private Duty Hospice Foundation for many years.

Pathways provides compassionate, high quality patient and family-centered home health and hospice care, allowing those nearing end of life to spend their remaining days in the comfort and dignity of their home, assisted living facility or nursing home.

The team of caring support people at Pathways includes a consulting physician, nurses, home health aides, social workers, chaplains and volunteers. In addition to caring for patients, Pathways also offers individual and group grief support for up to a year following the death of a loved one.

Transitioning to end-of-life care

Oftentimes, end-of-life decisions—including the decision to enter hospice care—are made while patients are in the hospital. During this transition period, Father Jeff Finley, Washington Hospital’s spiritual care coordinator, and members of his team provide vital support to patients and their families, support that often falls outside the scope traditional health care services.

"I see spiritual care as support care, because not everyone is spiritual or religious," Finley explains. "There is a holistic aspect that can be just as important as the healing aspect. Our job can be as simple as holding someone’s hand or responding to someone’s needs in an environment where others don’t have the time or resources to do so.

"I call it a ministry of presence. We’re not nurses and we’re not social workers, who tend to be more treatment and resource oriented. But I’ve found that everyone wants to tell their story and we have the capability to sit down and listen to patients’ story and fill in when their families sometimes are unavailable."

Finley explains that just spending time with a patient can go a long way toward providing them with peace of mind and, when it comes time for patients to transition into end-of-life care, he says hospice care is a vital resource for both patients and families in the community.

"I think hospice does a fantastic job in providing support care in the home and even after care when someone leaves this world with support groups and follow-up calls to family," he says. "For me, it’s not just the process of dying but also the aftercare for grieving family members.

"Often we forget that families are as important as the patient. Taking care of a loved one—and these caregivers see their job as taking care of their loved one—is such a gift and it’s important to support them after a family member’s passing."

A continuity of care

Finley says Washington Hospital’s ongoing relationship with Pathways has provided an excellent continuity of the care for patients and their family members as they leave the hospital into home health care or nursing care facilities.

"We have such a strong relationship with Pathways and we have a lot of conversations with hospice staff before patients leave the hospital," Finley notes. "When Pathways’ staff members check in with us and we’ve been seeing a patient, there’s that immediate connection about the patient."

Ultimately, through hospice services, patients and families are able to focus on what is important to them with the comfort of round the clock access to advice, reassurance, home visits, spiritual care and grief support.

Trees of Angels

Each year, Washington Hospital Healthcare Foundation partners with local organizations and businesses to raise funding in support of local hospice care services. Next week will kick off the Trees of Angels campaign, which will bring together members of the community at tree lighting ceremonies across the Tri-City area, enabling families to join together in remembering or honoring loved ones.

Commemorative ornaments will be available for purchase and all funds raised from these events will benefit local hospice care services.

Upcoming Trees of Angels events:

November 29 – Tree Lighting at McDonald’s Restaurant on Mission Blvd., Fremont (6 p.m.)
December 1 – Tree Lighting at Nakamura Clinic in Union City (5:30 p.m.)
December 4 – Children’s Holiday Breakfast with Santa Claus and Ronald McDonald at Washington West (8:30 a.m.)
December 6 – Tree Lighting at Newark City Hall (6:30 p.m.)

If you would like to donate to the campaign or learn more about upcoming events, visit www.whhs.com/foundation/foundation-events/.

For more information about Pathways and local hospice care services, visit www.pathwayshealth.org or call toll-free (888) 755-7855.