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What's Up Magazine

Hospice of Queen Anne’s

May 18, 2011 05:11PM ● By Anonymous

“We do not have to cure to heal,” wrote Dame Cicely Saunders, founder of the first modern hospice—St. Christopher’s Hospice in London, England in 1967. Having worked with dying patients since the 1940s, she advocated their right to a dignified and respectful death.

Since that time, helping terminally ill patients go gently into that ‘good night’ has been the mission of hospices worldwide and of over 3,200 U.S. hospices—the first of which was established in Connecticut in 1974.Today, one of every four Americans receives their services.

Hospice of Queen Anne’s has been active in Queen Anne’s County since 1985 and its Executive Director Heather Guerieri is proud of the new 11,235 square-foot Hospice Center in Centreville that was built and paid for in 2007.

The facility, which has six private bedrooms, a country kitchen, a chapel and tranquil gardens, provides a home-like atmosphere where the patient’s family can be with their loved one 24 hours a day. Both the patient and family are treated with dignity and compassion here.

Hospice, however, encompasses much more than its new facility. Its services can be rendered in hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and whenever possible, in a patient’s home.

“When a doctor refers a patient to us who has three months or less to live, we can accept that person,” says Guerieri. “Our staff consists of six nurses, 13 certified nursing assistants, three social workers, three bereavement counselors and one spiritual care coordinator. We also provide counseling services to bereaved families.”

She adds, “We help to prepare the family and the patient by asking what their wishes are and by helping them get their affairs in order. We reminisce with our patients. Our philosophy is to meet people where they are.”

Sometimes that “place” can be extremely difficult, as was the case with one young woman. It should have been a happy time for her. She was in a stable relationship with her fiancé, had a seven-year- old daughter from a previous marriage, and was expecting twins.

All was well except for the pain in her back that would not disappear. Assuming her pregnancy was causing her discomfort, her doctors delivered the infants pre-term. During that process, they were shocked when they discovered her inoperable bone cancer.

Although the young mother struggled to live and care for her infants, her cancer spread relentlessly until she could fight no longer. But hospice helped her heal. Volunteers took turns caring for her twins and hospice staff helped the engaged couple plan their wedding. The organization’s spiritual counselor married them in their home shortly before she died. “We not only helped her die, we helped her live,” says Guerieri.

Hospice of Queen Anne’s relies on its community for its success. When its volunteer board of directors—with the help of a private consultant—began a capital campaign in 2006 to build the Hospice Center, the community’s response was overwhelming. Within a year the campaign raised more than $3 million, which allowed the Center to be built in 2007.

About $450,000 of hospice’s annual $2 million budget is collected by donations from community organizations, businesses, and individuals. Its largest fundraiser is hospice’s volunteer-run facility, Estate Treasures, in Chester, which resells donated goods and has contributed more than $1million over the years. Medicare/Medicaid and clients’ private insurance also help defray costs, as do annual events hosted by hospice volunteers.

“Still in this economy it’s more difficult to keep our head above water,” Guerieri remarks. “We’re also expecting more budget cuts in 2013.” She’s confident, however, that the community will continue to value hospice’s effort to gently ease the passage from life to dignified death.