The Center For Hospice and Pallative Care - It's All About Living

By+Shelly M. Kurz

Ask anyone to play the word association game with “hospice” and it is highly unlikely the word “living” will be the first one that comes to mind. In reality, though, living and improving the quality of life is what hospice is all about.
Established in 1978, the Center for Hospice and Palliative Care, Inc. has remained committed to its mission to improve the quality of living through hospice, home health, grief counseling and community education. “Most people are surprised to learn that there are more than twenty hospice organizations within the eight county area we serve,” says Amy Judd, Director of Community and Provider Relations. “We’re different than most, though. We’re not-for-profit and we’re local so the money raised here is given right back to our own community. We also have programs that other hospice centers don’t offer, such as Heart Wize, our heart disease program, memorial services and a wide variety of bereavement programs including grief camps for kids, support groups for men, a monthly tea for women, a retreat for daughters who have lost their moms, art therapy and so much more.” The Center for Hospice’s bereavement programs are not limited to those who have received hospice care. Anyone in The Center for Hospice's eight county service area seeking help dealing with grief from the loss of a loved one is welcome.

There are still numerous myths that surround hospice and what the Center for Hospice and Palliative Care really means. For example, hospice is often mistaken as a place when, in fact, it’s a philosophy. “The hospice philosophy is all about how to live your life at the end. The palliative part is about comfort, not curing,” explains Amy. “Our caregivers provide medical, spiritual and emotional care that allows patients to live each day in comfort and with dignity, while we also counsel and comfort family members.” Hospice House, however, is a physical place and the Center for Hospice operates two of these seven-bed facilities, one in South Bend and a brand new one in Elkhart County. Hospice House provides a comfortable, home-like environment for patients who are temporarily without caregivers, patients who need symptom management before returning home and those requiring respite care.
Another misconception is that the Center for Hospice should only be called during the last few days of life. The fact is, it’s never too early to call. “The sooner you get hospice on board, the better your life will be because we’ll provide resources such as a social worker, a spiritual care counselor and anyone else you need to help answer your questions,” says Amy. “We hear all the time from people that they just wish they would have called us sooner.”

Anyone is welcome to call and inquire about hospice services. Addressing questions and concerns early can alleviate many difficult situations in the end. The Center for Hospice’s advance directives program encourages patients, their family members and their physician to have an open and honest conversation about final wishes when it comes to medical care and treatment. That way, decisions can be made in plenty of time with the advice and input of everyone involved. “No attorney is necessary, just a signature and two witnesses,” adds Amy. Free advance directive forms are available at www.centerforhospice.org or by calling Amy at 574.243.3711.

Just as some think hospice is only available at the end of life, many others are under the impression that it’s a service offered only to cancer patients. In 2008, less than half of the Center for Hospice’s patients had a diagnosis of cancer. Hospice care is available to patients with many terminal diseases including heart, lung, kidney, dementia and Alzheimer’s. Hospice care isn’t just for the elderly, either. Anyone facing a life-limiting illness, regardless of age, is encouraged to contact the Center for Hospice.

Facing the loss of a loved one is difficult enough without adding the guilt that sometimes comes from associating a call to the Center for Hospice with giving up on treatment. To the contrary, getting hospice involved means making the choice to take control of the situation with a compassionate, caring and skilled team of nurses, home health aides and trained volunteers who will help manage pain and other physical symptoms through the appropriate use of medications and teachings. With hospice, the patient, family and caregivers all benefit from the emotional support and spiritual counseling that’s provided. That support doesn’t end when a life does, either. The Center for Hospice makes grief counseling services available to families and caregivers for up to 13 months, or longer if needed, following the death of their loved one.

The Center for Hospice and Palliative Care relies heavily upon the generosity of the communities it serves to help fulfill its mission. Both financial support and committed volunteers are vital to the success of the organization. Donations can be made through memorial and honorary gifts, wills, estates, annual contributions, Circle of Caring and the Helping Hands Society. Volunteers are always needed, especially in the outlying areas in which the Center for Hospice serves. Training programs are held regularly for such volunteer opportunities as patient care, extended care, 11th Hour, Hospice House, office and clerical, bereavement and fund raising. “It’s our people who make the difference,” admits Amy. “I’ve heard them called angels many times.”







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