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July 18, 2006 > Voices InHealth Helps Viewers Understand Hospice

Voices InHealth Helps Viewers Understand Hospice

Compassionate Comfort Care Improves Quality of Life

Because most of us don’t want to think about our own mortality, we don’t often talk about how it will be or what to expect when it’s time for our lives to end. But death is an inevitable part of life and you don’t have to go it alone. There is support and care available for you and your loved ones. It’s called hospice care and you can learn about it on an upcoming program on InHealth, A Washington Hospital Channel on Comcast Channel 78.

“There are a lot of myths out there about hospice care,” said Deborah Stinchfield of Pathways Hospice, which provides hospice care in the tri-city area and works closely with Washington Hospital. “We wanted area residents to better understand hospice so that when the time comes, they can take advantage of all we have to offer. The ‘Understanding Hospice’ Voices InHealth program provides an overview of hospice, addresses some of the myths and shows one family’s experience.”

Hospice offers compassionate care and guidance through what can often be a difficult process. It focuses on comfort care when a cure is no longer an option and is generally for patients who have a life expectancy of six months or less. While many people receiving hospice care have cancer, it’s also available for those with end-stage heart disease, lung disease and dementia, as well as other types of life-limiting illnesses.

“Our goal is to improve the quality of each day so every day is the best it can be,” says Nancy Jackson, a hospice nurse who meets with the families of hospice patients at Washington Hospital. “We aggressively manage symptoms and provide physical, emotional and spiritual support to the patient and their support system while nature takes its course. When symptoms are managed, the patient and family have a much better quality of life.”

Hospice care involves a team-oriented approach tailored to the patients’ needs and wishes. The team includes nurses, physicians, social workers, spiritual counselors, home health aides and hospice volunteers.

Nurses coordinate the hospice care team, make home visits and teach loved ones how to provide care. Chaplains and social workers are available to help meet emotional and spiritual needs. Home health aides assist with personal care while hospice volunteers offer practical support and companionship.

In most cases, the individual remains in his or her home. Hospice care can also be provided in nursing homes and other senior care facilities. When hospice patients must return to Washington Hospital for medical care, they stay in the Hospice Room, which provides a homey feel and recliners so family members can stay with them.

‘Understanding Hospice’ Debunks Myths

“One of the biggest myths is that hospice care somehow signals giving up or a lack of hope,” Stinchfield said. “That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Hospice is all about hope. It’s a realignment of hope to quality of life. Patients are able to live out their final days free from pain so they can focus on what’s important to them, whether it’s enjoying special moments with loved ones or taking care of unfinished business. It also gives loved ones the opportunity to be part of the process.”

The “Understanding Hospice” Voices InHealth segment begins by providing a brief history of the modern hospice movement and includes practical advice about getting and paying for hospice care. For those over age 65, hospice is covered by Medicare. Medi-Cal and most private insurance also cover hospice care.

The program highlights a couple who are benefiting from hospice and a Pathways volunteer who was so impressed with the end-of-life care her father received she wants to help others. Their poignant, honest comments allow viewers an inside look at what to expect from hospice.

“Several years ago my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer and we called the hospice team to come in and help us,” said Debbie Borges, Pathways volunteer and Fremont resident. “They were like angels that came into our family. They educated us about the needs of my dad, talked about medication, and about our needs as individuals. We felt so supported through the dying process that it really gave our family a chance to be together and not be so afraid.”

Borges visits with patients and provides support to loved ones. She helps with practical needs and gives caregivers a break so they can recharge, run errands and take care of personal issues.

“The patient and family are completely supported 24 hours a day because the hospice team is always just a phone call away,” added Stinchfield.

For more information about Pathways Hospice, call (888) 755-7855 or visit

The ‘Understanding Hospice’ Voices InHealth program will begin airing on the InHealth Channel on Friday, July 21 and Sunday, July 23 at the following times: 7:30 a.m., 3:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.

For more information about Washington Hospital and the InHealth Channel, visit, click on “For Our Community” and select “InHealth Channel” from the drop-down menu or call (800) 963-7070.

The InHealth program schedule is published weekly in the Tri-City Voice and posted on Washington Hospital’s website at InHealth Channel 78 is available to Comcast subscribers in Newark, Union City and Fremont.

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