Letters to the Editor

Viewpoint: Has the Hospice Partners team touched your life?

The weekly Parade magazine that was inserted in the June 20 edition of The Tribune had a great article about hospice nurses and the hospice team that helps people with terminal illnesses achieve their goals at the end of their lives (“At the end of life, they offer comfort”).

The major goal expressed by the patients in the article was to die at home and not in a hospital. One patient talked about how the support from the hospice team made things “a whole lot easier.” We want the community to know that the team of professionals and volunteers at the nonprofit Hospice Partners of the Central Coast is here to provide end-of-life care to the residents of our community and to make things “a whole lot easier.”

Our goal is to provide terminally ill patients a means to achieve what they need most as they reach the end of their life: freedom from pain, emotional and spiritual support, and the ability to control the direction of their own care. The focus of hospice care is not so much about dying as it is about attending to the needs of living. Hospice serves to support quality of life by helping families adjust to and cope with the physical, emotional and spiritual challenges of a life- threatening illness.

The Parade article touched on the different type of professionals who normally make up the hospice team. Hospice Partners prides itself on comprising a team that is at a level above the majority of hospices in this country. We do not believe that “minimum requirements” for hospice care is the standard that should be acceptable in our community. Our team includes three physician medical directors, registered nurses, home health aides, medical social workers, physical and occupational therapists, dietitians, spiritual counselors, bereavement counselors, hospice musicians, trained in-home volunteers, office support staff and office volunteers. In 2008, Hospice Partners received accreditation from the Community Health Accreditation Program, indicating our agency practices at a high standard as assessed and observed by an independent survey body.

Why do we stand out? Because of the qualifications of our staff and the breadth of our team.

Some examples:

Many hospices do not employ dietitians. Hospice Partners has three registered dietitians who work collaboratively with our patients and their families and assist with nutrition, hydration and feeding recommendations, an often overlooked and misunderstood modality of end-of-life “comfort care.” A knowledgeable hospice dietitian can often reduce a patient’s need for narcotics or other medications and improve the person’s quality of life.

Most hospices do not have musicians on staff. Hospice Partners believed that music could have a palliative effect for our patients, so we sought and received a grant that allowed us to have one part-time musician for a pilot program. Within six months, we realized the benefit of his music to our patients was so significant that we offered him full-time employment. Today, we employ three full-time hospice musicians who are part of the Spiritual Care Department.

Bereavement care is mandated by Medicare for hospice providers, but how a hospice accomplishes bereavement care is not defined. Many programs opt to send grief literature to the bereaved and offer phone calls for support. We have always offered one-on-one individual counseling for our bereaved and, many years ago, Hospice Partners’ bereavement team recognized a need in the community for expanded counseling services.

The bereavement staff wanted to respond to calls and requests from community members “outside” the families and friends of our agency’s hospice patients. To meet that expanding need, our bereavement department has slowly evolved into the Hospice Partners’ Center for Grief, Education and Healing. The center’s focus is to provide bereavement counseling, grief education, support, training and resources to individuals, families and professionals in our community.

The Parade article asked “Has a hospice-care team touched your life?” and directed readers to share their story at a website. Our Hospice Partners team asks a similar question — have we, at Hospice Partners, touched your life?

If you would like to share your story with our hospice team, send it to Hospice Partners of the Central Coast at 277 South St., suite R, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401, or e-mail it to rmcevoy@wilshirehcs.org. Reading the stories on how we have touched the lives of many in our community will reinforce the passion we have to take care of the dying in our community.

Ron McEvoy has been involved with hospice since 1984, is the husband of a hospice nurse and has been employed with Hospice Partners since 2002, guiding their fundraising activities.