Hospice gives families a choice | SierraSun.com

Hospice gives families a choice

It’s about living and dying. It’s about accepting death and preparing for it, for all involved. It’s about choice.

The Tahoe Forest Hospice program is continuing the 25-year hospice tradition in the United States by helping terminally ill patients and their families to face death by helping people choose and use services to control their pain, feel support and remain in the setting of their own homes surrounded by people they love.

TFH Hospice nurse Kristen Henderson said helping patients feel comfortable with accepting and facing death can be a rewarding experience for all involved.

“Comfort is our primary concern for patients,” Henderson said. Hospice health care providers including nurses and volunteers work with doctors with getting the patient’s pain better controlled as well as offering support for the family by frequent visits and emotional support.

“This is a very rewarding job,” Henderson said. “Dying is a natural process and if people have support going through it, it can be more comfortable for the patient and their family.”

“This is a very emotional job,” she said, continuing, “but it is a good feeling when able to be effective with the patient and with the family.”

Henderson has worked with home health and hospice care for the past 10 years.

According to Tahoe Forest Hospice Coordinator Eileen Knudson, studies show that most people are afraid of dying in pain or becoming a burden on their families. Nine of 10 people say they prefer to be cared for and die in their own home.

“Hospice offers a choice,” she said. “Many people think hospice is a place to go to die. Actually, hospice is a specialized program that provides compassionate care for patients facing the end of life in whatever setting patients choose to live. It advocates and encourages patients and their families to set the terms of end of life processes in order to maintain dignity and respect while remaining at home.”

The Tahoe Forest Hospice program was developed in March of 1999, when it obtained state licensure, and Medicare certification in July. It provides a team approach to meet the needs of dying patients, which encompass more than medical treatment of a disease. The team includes the primary physician, the hospice medical director, nurses, a medical social worker as well as a spiritual and bereavement counselor, dietitian, home health aide, homemaker and volunteers.

“Patients and families receive the most benefit from hospice when they choose it as soon as possible after learning of their terminal diagnosis. It is an option everyone should know about before they need it,” Knudson said.

The hospice program provides services to Nevada, Placer, El Dorado, Sierra and Plumas counties. Incline village and the surrounding Washoe county area will soon be receiving hospice services as well, Knudson said.

Hospice is currently celebrating its first year of service, with an overwhelming response from patients and families.

Said one family member, “Hospice allowed my sister to die the way she wanted – with no pain and lots of support here at home. They allowed us to handle our grief with support and are still helping. I cannot say enough good things about hospice and the people that are involved.”

Knudson said hospice would be unable to achieve such quality care without the dedicated and trained volunteers involved in the program. Hospice volunteers offered more than 200 hours of patient care and 50 hours of office support since the program started last year.

“Volunteers are a vital part of our hospice program,” she said.

The next hospice volunteer training program will be the fourth week in September. If interested in volunteer opportunities with Tahoe Forest Hospice, contact Susan Hassenplug LCSW at (530) 582-3534.

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