Hospice services help nursing homes

November 03, 1994|By TaNoah V. Sterling | TaNoah V. Sterling,Sun Staff Writer

Jo Ann Robinson said she could never repay workers at the Hospice of the Chesapeake for the care they provided when her husband, Ennis, was dying of cancer.

"They were my backbone," Mrs. Robinson said, remembering nights spent pacing the floor, not knowing what to do for her husband, who died last December.

"All I had to do was pick up the phone and a voice -- an angel's voice -- was there talking me through," she said.

The "angels" at Hospice of the Chesapeake last year helped Mrs. Robinson and nearly 400 other patients and their families deal with the approaching death of a terminally ill loved one.

This year, the Millersville-based organization has assisted 448 patients countywide. It is marking National Hospice Month in November by visiting area nursing homes to provide patients and families with information about programs offered by the non-profit group.

These include Camp Nabe, an annual weekend retreat for children who have had a death in the family. The kids participate in group discussions, grief exercises and other activities to help them cope with their loss.

There are also bereavement support groups for family members, and a nursing home program that allows nursing home patients to receive the same care provided to in-home patients.

"Hospice is really not a place, it's a concept of care," said Eileen Lacijon, director of clinical services at Hospice of the Chesapeake.

The group treats anyone with a terminal illness -- from cancer to AIDS -- once doctors have decided treatment has failed, or the patient has refused additional treatment or is in the final stages of a deadly disease.

Caren McKerahan placed her mother, Janet Rodgers, in the hospice nursing home program in May after the 68-year-old woman fell on the floor and spent the entire day there, unable to get up. Mrs. Rodgers is in the final stage of Muscular Dystrophy, a disease that slowly causes muscle failure. It becomes fatal when it affects the muscles that control breathing and digestion.

"I just wanted her to get extra-special care because I knew I wouldn't be able to be here all the time," Mrs. McKerahan said.

When Mrs. Rodgers was younger, her daughter remembered, "She was a real dancer. She was just as normal as you and I." But somewhere in her 40s, "she started falling a lot," Mrs. McKerahan said. "At first we thought she was tripping on rugs, but she would trip over a piece of paper." The disease had attacked her leg muscles.

At Bay Meadow Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Glen Burnie, Mrs. Rodgers has a hospice team: a nurse, who visits about twice a week; a certified nursing assistant, who comes by three times a week; a social worker, who visits about once a week; and a visiting friend, or hospice volunteer, who stops by at least once a week.

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