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- Fall 2003-

The Heart of Hospice

Advanced technology and the latest treatments are vital to modern health care, but there`s another aspect that distinguishes a true community health system from a mere service provider. That aspect is caring�the kind of caring demonstrated by Chester River Home Care & Hospice, a member of Chester River Health System.

Every year, the Home Care & Hospice staff of dedicated professionals and volunteers helps dozens of terminally ill patients and their families ease the pain and preserve the quality of the final days of life. They provide compassion, skill, and knowledge during an emotional time, touching the lives of families in ways that can`t be measured.

�I don`t know how I could have done it without them,� says Fairlee resident Doris Raleigh, whose husband, Robert Hope Raleigh, passed away in 2001 after a long and difficult struggle with Alzheimer`s disease. �They were always there when we needed them.�

Strengthening its commitment to hospice and all that it means to the community, the Chester River Health System recently welcomed the Kent Hospice Foundation and its volunteer and bereavement services into the health system.  Placing all hospice-related services in one organization, the merger will remove confusion over the roles of the two groups and allow the foundation to focus on fundraising activities. Most important, however, is the improved teamwork with which hospice workers�from doctors and nurses to social workers and volunteers�can care for patients and their families.

�We`re able to take more of a team approach, and there`s more continuity of care,� says Deborah Reeder, R.N., executive director of Chester River Home Care & Hospice.  �We have exceptionally talented and committed people who really believe in the value of the services we provide.�

Hospice services begin with a comprehensive home evaluation, following a referral from the patient`s physician. The team considers the patient`s medical situation, but also carefully evaluates the home environment and the needs of the individual and the family.
The staff includes a medical director, registered nurses, licensed social workers, certified nursing assistants, physical therapists, a pharmacist, a bereavement counselor, a minister, and more than 80 patient care volunteers. Nurses and aides are state-certified to deliver hospice care, which primarily involves assisting in the activities of daily living.  �Our goal is to make the patient as comfortable as possible,� says Kathy Neuman, R.N., clinical team leader and hospice coordinator. All care is overseen by the patient`s primary physician and coordinated by a hospice team that meets regularly.�  We take our direction from the patient`s physician, the patient, and the family,� Neuman says.

Volunteers are another important part of the program.  They receive 16 hours of initial training to prepare them for visiting hospice patients.  �I match the volunteer to the situation,� says Mary Beth Gardner, volunteer coordinator.

�They can be a big help to the family, and their support really means a lot emotionally.�

Volunteers often give family caregivers a much needed break to run errands or just spend some time alone. For caregivers who require a longer time off, the hospice staff coordinates with Magnolia Hall Rehabilitation & Nursing Center, a member of Chester River Health System, and other nursing centers to arrange temporary respite care.

Hospice care doesn`t stop when a patient dies.  Bereavement counselor Ann OConnor maintains contact with patients` families for up to 13 months after a loved one`s death. She counsels bereaved family members, coordinates and leads support groups, and provides educational materials.  OConnor also coordinates an annual service of remembrance for families, staff, and volunteers to commemorate those patients who have died during the year. Twice each year she organizes Camp Sunrise, a bereavement camp for families with children.

�There`s a spiritual component throughout the services we provide, and it continues with the support of the family after a patient has died,� OConnor says.

Doris Raleigh knows all too well that a survivor`s pain doesn`t end when a suffering loved one is gone.  �Every now and then it just hits me when I`m not expecting it,� she says, noting that she and her husband, Robert, were married for 52 years.  �If you can talk about it, it helps. Ann was really there for me, and the support group has been good for me, too. I just try to remember that the moment he passed away, his troubles were over.�

But for Chester River Home Care & Hospice, the caring never stops.

To learn more about Chester River Home Care & Hospice, contact the hospice office at (410) 778-1049 or (410) 758-3238.

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