Hospice staff and volunteers make ‘an indelible difference’ | Winchester Star

WINCHESTER – It’s National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, a time to thank the people who bring dignity to our last days.

In Winchester, the association Blue Ridge Hospice has 250 staff members and 160 active volunteers who work every day to help the dying and their loved ones.

“Hospice Palliative Care Month is an opportunity for us to educate the community about hospice palliative care services, how they can access them, and the benefits of having them at the end of their life,” Cheryl Hamilton Fried, President and CEO said Monday. CEO of Blue Ridge Hospice. “This is also an opportunity for us to thank our employees and volunteers for the time and sacrifice they give in caring for people at the end of their lives, which can be very difficult work.

Hospice staff and volunteers intervene shortly before a patient’s death to alleviate suffering and help family members during a tragic time. Services are available to anyone in need, regardless of the patient’s or their family’s ability to pay, but Fried said only about 50% of people in the United States take advantage of what the hospice has to offer. .

Blue Ridge Hospice Chief Medical Officer Dr Brendan Flynn said it takes a special type of person to work in a hospice, but the rewards can outweigh the harsh reality of knowing that unless you are a miracle, every patient will die in the very near future.

“The death rate in America is still 100%,” Flynn said. “But you can have a good result from something that you know will happen.”

When it comes to end-of-life care, a good outcome is one that allows the patient to maintain their dignity and die in the location of their choice while ensuring that their loved ones receive emotional and material support. full.

An example: Fried recalled a 43-year-old patient at the Blue Ridge Hospice inpatient care center at 333 W. Cork St. in Winchester whose greatest wish was to celebrate another Thanksgiving and Christmas.

“We used our volunteer department and our marketing department, and a lot of people here were involved to make sure we had decorations in his room,” Fried said.

Hospice staff and volunteers also contacted Cracker Barrel restaurant at 200 Front Royal Pike near Winchester to order turkey dinners for the wife and loved ones. Cracker Barrel responded by donating all meals for free.

Flynn, who is also a family physician, admitted there are definitely bad days in hospice care, “but if we’ve done our job right, we’ve made an indelible difference in the lives of this family and that of. this patient. … It’s worth these tough days because the difference we’re making is staggering.

In 2020, in the midst of a global pandemic, Blue Ridge Hospice staff and volunteers treated 1,298 patients, made 68,697 client visits and traveled a total of 845,260 miles to complete their duties.

“Our staff are just fearless,” said Flynn. “We owe them so much. “

Blue Ridge Hospice also meets the needs of the elderly or sick but who still have a lot of life. For example, when Viola Brown from Berryville turned 110 earlier this month, hospice staff threw a birthday party at her house with gifts and a cake.

The non-profit organization also offers free bereavement services to anyone in need, whether or not the loved one has been in a hospice.

“It’s part of our mission to provide this type of service because we have the expertise,” Fried said.

Additionally, Blue Ridge Hospice operates eight thrift stores across the region that sell donated items to raise funds for the organization. Last year, 19% of the association’s operating income came from its thrift stores.

Just as Blue Ridge Hospice is there for the community, it is also there for its staff and volunteers. Due to the sometimes difficult nature of their work, Fried said the organization requires significant training when someone is hired and then offers bereavement services as needed.

“We make sure to take care of our own and help them out when they have these tough days,” Fried said.

It can be difficult for patients, their families, and even their doctors to admit death is near, but the sooner a person contacts Blue Ridge Hospice, the easier the end-of-life transition can be.

“It is very important to get involved as early as possible so that we can develop relationships and help them live their last days as they want to live them, [and] the family can go through a proper grieving process afterwards, ”said Fried.

“Getting involved from the start to help with this aspect of quality of life is always a good thing,” added Flynn.

To learn more about Blue Ridge Hospice and its patient and community services, visit brhospice.org.

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