By Tamera Manzanares
When Janet Panebaker thinks of hospice, she thinks of friendship. As a hospice volunteer, Panebaker will do anything she can to help out a patient or family – household chores, grocery shopping, errands. Mostly though, she just listens. “Patients are generally so kind, open and appreciative,” she said. “I’ve been amazed at the connections I’ve found with people in Hospice. They have such a wide range of interests, backgrounds and experiences, and they enjoy talking about it.”
Hospice provides care and comfort to people nearing end of life. For those involved – patients, caregivers, families, volunteers, nurses and hospice staff – it’s much more than that. It’s about the many ways they come together to create space for meaning and healing during one of life’s most difficult journeys. “I think it’s important for people to talk about end of life and the joys and wonderful things that can happen around that time in a person’s life,” Panebaker said.
Hospice Daffodils, an annual fundraiser for Northwest Colorado Health’s Hospice and Palliative Care program, is about the connections that make hospice special and the importance of sustaining this service in our communities.
Julie Gates is clinical supervisor of home services at Northwest Colorado Health and was a hospice nurse for six years. She said Hospice care is different than most medical care because it focuses on comfort not curing. Hospice staff accept death as a part of life and approach their work with compassion and sensitivity. “This is the most difficult time a family will ever have,” she said. “You have to be comfortable going in, holding their hands and guiding them through the process.”
Medical staff, including a medical director, nurses and Certified Nursing Assistants, manage patients’ pain and symptoms and make sure caregivers and families have the support and guidance they need to care for their loved one. Hospice teams include physical therapists, who help patients retain their strength as long as possible, and occupational therapists. Medical social workers and a bereavement and spiritual care coordinator help patients and families manage their emotions and spiritual needs. Grief support is available to families for a year after their loved one’s death. “There’s education at all levels of care,” Gates said.
Hospice teams are available 24-7 and travel to the far reaches of Routt, Moffat and Grand counties to care for patients. Last year, Northwest Colorado Health’s hospice staff logged more than 35,000 miles. Anyone who needs hospice receives it, regardless of their ability to pay. Care can involve medications, equipment such as beds, walkers and wheelchairs, oxygen and other supplies. Costs often exceed insurance reimbursement. Hospice Daffodils and private donations help cover this gap.
Heralds of spring, there is perhaps no better symbol of the solace and hope hospice provides than the daffodil. “Every time I see daffodils I think of a hospice patient that I grew attached to. It makes me smile to think I made a difference in their lives.” Gates said. “I hope when someone buys a bundle of daffodils they think of someone they love and it puts a smile on their face.”
Hospice Daffodils arrive on March 14. They can be purchased online today. Delivery is available for orders of 10 bunches or more and will occur on March 13 or 14. For more information, call 970-871-7609.