Hospice groups schedule forum on humane, holistic approach to terminal care HOWARD COUNTY HEALTH

February 23, 1993|By Dolly Merritt | Dolly Merritt,Contributing Writer

A 75-year-old woman, whose husband had a terminal illness, wanted to care for him at home during his remaining time, but she was physically unable to provide the round-the-clock care he needed.

She found a solution when the Hospice Services of Howard County provided an aide to administer 12 hours of daily medical care in the home, a volunteer to assist with errands, a clergyman who helped with spiritual concerns and funeral arrangements, and, ultimately, bereavement support services that helped the woman cope when her husband died.

It's a common scenario that Nancy S. Weber and Betty Hoover have witnessed many times as coordinators of hospice services. Ms. Weber is executive director of Hospice Services of Howard County. Ms. Hoover is admissions coordinator for the Visiting Nurse Association Hospice Inc. Last year, the two groups served more than 200 families in the county.

The organizations together will present a program -- HOSPICE: A Holistic Approach to the Final Stage of Life -- to educate people about what hospice groups do. Two evening programs are planned -- one from 7 to 9 tonight at the Charles E. Miller branch in Ellicott City, and the other from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. March 9 at the central library.

"A Gallup national study showed better than 90 percent of the people said 'yes' to the question of whether or not they would like to die at home," Ms. Weber said. "But many didn't know anything about hospice. If people out there don't know, they can't access the services. That's why we need to get out into the community."

The women also hope to attract people who are not yet in the midst of turmoil because "the more we can advise people when they are not in that crisis mode, the easier it is for them to ultimately take advantage of the services," Ms. Hoover said. Hospice incorporates a "team" of physicians, nurses, home health aides, social workers, spiritual counselors and volunteers, who work together to provide emotional support, medical equipment, child care, respite care, meals and all kinds of practical needs.

"Hospice is like a good friend," Ms. Weber said. "It recruits volunteers from the community who often have experience and want to give back. Often they have had some type of loss and some kind of experience with a hospice." Hospice Services of Howard County has 50 active volunteers; the Visiting Nurse Association has about 12.

Both women say the emphasis of hospice is comfort rather than curative measures. It also strives to maximize the quality of life and manage the physical symptoms of the illness.

"Dealing with terminal illness is a time of maximized everything," Ms. Hoover said. "Relationships in families become very intense. The family is the unit that is helping the person and they also need a lot of help. Hospice can support that support system with nurses and staff that have more intensive skills in dealing with those issues."

That can mean nurses who help prepare the patients and their families to cope with the changes, such as making funeral arrangements and financial decisions in advance.

Ms. Weber and Ms. Hoover plan to include in the program some pointers on listening skills for friends and family of a person who is terminally ill or is grieving. The program also will include information about insurance companies that cover home care.

"By pooling our resources, we will expand the area and get the message to a broader group," Ms. Weber said. "Hospice care is the best way I know to provide the terminally ill with the greatest dignity, the greatest quality of life and the greatest control for the individual."

For more information, call Betty Hoover at 358-7300.

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