Hospice and Palliative Care of St. Lawrence Valley continues upward patients-served trend
The following story originally appeared as a “Progress 2016” story in North Country This Week.
In 2015, Hospice and Palliative Care of St. Lawrence Valley saw the growth of many programs and continued providing quality care for patients, support and education for families and the community.Hospice served a total of 487 patients which accounted for 31,794 days of care, far surpassing previous year. Throughout 2015 the number of patients cared for each day was significantly higher than in years past with those numbers reaching 100 patients or more on 10 occasions.
With the support of one another, the staff stepped up to the challenge and succeeded in maintaining a high level of care for patients and support for their families when they needed it most.
The Palliative Care program celebrated one year of providing services for residents in St. Lawrence County with unprecedented growth, admitting 109 new patients and nearly tripling the number of patient visits completed in 2014.
Intended as an extra layer of support, Palliative Care focuses on the management of symptoms related to a chronic illness - no matter the diagnosis, and helps to address the stress and anxiety patients may experience navigating life with an illness. This specialized care is provided by a team of physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, social workers and can involve other disciplines according to the needs of the patient and family.
Staff assess the patient’s condition and engage the patient and family in decision making about the proper course of treatment. Patients seeking help from the Palliative Care team can continue to be assisted with symptom management and emotional issues with follow- up by a nurse or social worker.
Due to the increase of patients served and the need for additional resources for the families, a case manager was added to the staff this year to link patients and families to services that will help ease the burden of the illness on the patient and family.
The community educator has increased stops at festivals, health fairs and community organization meetings to increase awareness about the services Hospice provides.
In total, 120 presentations were made available on topics including caregiver education, grief, Palliative Care and general information about hospice care. Education is available to any community group or organization and can be made specific for the needs of the group. This is a great way to learn the variety of services of which community members can take advantage.
Hospice continued to offer opportunities to help educate and support caregivers as they often assume that role with little warning or preparation.
A monthly Caregiver Support Group began meeting in January of 2015 and continues to be well attended. The groups address a different topic each month and, most importantly, offer a place for caregivers to interact with others who were experiencing a similar situation.
Groups are held on the second Thursday of the month from 3 p.m. - 4 p.m. at the Hospice Center and are free of charge. Any caregiver is welcome; a Hospice affiliation is not required.
The Family Support Services department continued offering support to Hospice family members and the community as they encounter grief.
Bereavement services include one-on-one counseling, support groups and education. Support groups include Grief Gardeners (meets year around) for anyone affected by grief and Surviving Widowhood for those grieving the death of a spouse or partner.
Special workshops offered in 2015 included the Grief During the Holidays series and a six week group entitled Living Shattered Dreams for survivors of suicide.
In 2016, parents who have lost a child will have the opportunity to attend the Mending Broken Hearts support group and Bereavement Coordinator, Kay DePerno will be trained to address grief caused by perinatal death.
In addition to Hospice families, 320 community members were provided with bereavement services. Groups and counseling continue to be available to anyone in the community experiencing the loss of a loved one.
Hospice staff also continued their partnership with schools in St. Lawrence County providing immediate response, counseling and support in the aftermath of school tragedies. Three school districts received these services in the 2014-2015 school year.
With the support of a grant from the Northern New York Community Foundation, Stewart’s Holiday Match and a gift in memory of Christian House, another edition of the workshop “When Grief Comes to School” was offered for school counselors, staff and other professionals who work with youth.
Thanks to this generous support, each attendee was given a Grief Toolbox containing activities to help students process grief in the event of a death. Having all of the materials ready when needed allows the school staff to focus on the immediate needs of the students.
Critical services provided by Hospice are greatly assisted by volunteers. Direct patient volunteers go into the home with patients and families. They may help with a variety of household tasks, or, may just visit with the patient while their caregiver gets some much needed rest. These volunteers are always needed.
The first opportunity for volunteer training of 2016 is scheduled to begin during the last week of February. Trainings are flexible and can be completed at the convenience of the volunteer. Patient care is not the only way to contribute, there are many opportunities for individuals who would like to help Hospice in other ways. All volunteers are greatly needed and appreciated.
Community support is essential to helping Hospice provide quality care beyond what is covered by insurance.
After the closing of Violi’s Restaurant, Hospice’s popular gourmet brunch - Tastes of Autumn found a new home at the Massena Country Club and experienced continued success with the spring version of the event, Tastes on the River hosted by The Gran View. Both events supported by local businesses and guest chefs were very well attended.
Swim a Mile for Hospice, held at Postwood Park, added the option of a half mile leg to allow new participants to “get their feet wet.” This also allowed the option for kids age 12 and older to participate.
The new addition was very well received as 33 new swimmers joined the event for the first time. Swim a Mile for Hospice is planned for August 6th, 2016 once again at Postwood Park.
Hospice is also very grateful to many community groups, families and other organizations who host events and other activities to encourage support. These contributions of time, talent and financial support ensure that nursing and personal care, palliative care, bereavement and spiritual care and expensive medications are available to Hospice patients and families when they need it most.
While 2015 was a year of incredible growth for Hospice with services being extended deeper into the community, Hospice said thank you and so long as several longtime staff members retired.
Executive Director, Brian Gardam closed the 20-year chapter of his leadership of the organization in October and Director of Finance, Mac Shoen retired in December after 16 years of service.
In 1983, a small group of concerned community members came together to begin a discussion as to how end-of-life care would be addressed in St. Lawrence County.
Sitting at the table was Dr. Sandra McCloy who would become Hospice’s Medical Director. For more than 30 years she held the position and provided invaluable guidance as the organization evolved. Her number one concern has always been what is best for the patient and her responsibilities have been provided with the utmost compassion.
Fortunately for Hospice and the patients and families it serves, she will continue providing services on a part-time basis.
Assuming the important role of Medical Director is Dr. Gary Berk who has been affiliated with Hospice for many years. He is Board certified in Hospice and Palliative Medicine and will serve the organization and patients very well.
Hospice anticipates another great year of providing comfort and dignity to patients and support for those who care for them. It is a privilege to serve the North Country community.
For more information on any of the services provided by Hospice please visit www.seriousillness.org/slc or call 265-3105.