Hospice donors, staff, volunteers provide vital service

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Life is a joy and a struggle.

We enter this world, we grow up, most of us become parents, then we watch our parents and loved ones pass away, and finally leave this world ourselves.

If we're fortunate, we have help dealing with the struggles in our lives -- medical staff at birth, family when the baby is brought home. Friends and family and professionals when we're sick, professionals when family members pass away.

Only relatively recently, however, has the end of life received the attention it deserves.

Such care -- hospice -- isn't designed to cure, because the time for struggle has passed. Instead, it strives to focus the medical, social, emotional and spiritual services needed to allow the terminally ill to pass away in peace, comfort and dignity.

Hospice brings an interdisciplinary team of professionals into play -- physicans, nurses, medical social workers, therapists, counselors and volunteers -- that provides services designed for the individual patient and family.

While caring for the dying is as old as mankind itself, the first American hospice movement didn't begin until the 1960s, and the first official organization, the Connecticut Hospice, began providing services in 1974.

Medicare identified 2,265 hospices as of January 2002, but that doesn't count more than 200 volunteer hospices throughout the United States. Forty-four states licenced hospices as of 1998, and that same year, hospices served more than half a million Medicare patients throughout the nation.

But not all hospice patients are covered by Medicare or other medical insurance. And, many families are grateful for the services the local hospice has provided.

Thus, Community Hospital Health Foundation has brought the two sides together nine times through the annual An Evening for Hospice.

With touching testimony of those who have been comforted by hospice, as well as the entertaining talents of world champion auctioneer Joe Frazier and ringman Cal Siegfried, participants were taken on a emotional roller-coaster ride from tears to laughter on Sunday evening.

And in the end, more than $27,000 was raised to make sure Community Hospital's hospice services continue to be provided whenever there is a need.

We don't want to think about the end of life -- whether ours or a loved one. But we appreciate all those who do what they can to ease the pain when the time comes.

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