Joy Sexton, RN, BSN, Hospice Director
Many patients and their loved ones find profound solace and support in hospice care. With a closer look at the true face of hospice, it’s easy to understand why.
The hospice philosophy emphasizes living, not dying, making the most of the days and weeks remaining in the patient’s life. That includes being relieved of pain, receiving care in the familiar surroundings of home, having patient and understanding professionals answer questions around the clock, being with family and friends, enjoying favorite activities and much more. This is why so many people who have been touched by hospice care believe it has given patients and families the best possible experience at the end of life.
The Jewish Social Service Agency (JSSA) Hospice has been, for 30 years, delivering hospice care to patients and their families of all faiths and backgrounds in Montgomery County. JSSA Hospice is rooted in 120 years of JSSA expertise, compassion and Jewish values and its team of professionals has training in and sensitivity to Jewish cultural traditions and customs. The voices of the people who deliver and receive JSSA Hospice care best express why hospice care is an exceptionally valuable experience. Here’s what some of them have to say:
Nurse: Guila Ohayon, RN, JSSA Hospice Nurse since 2003
“I work for hospice because I saw there was a need to provide expert care for patients at end of life. I first had the opportunity to see hospice in action while working at a nursing home where I witnessed first-hand how hospice improved the lives of patients and helped families with their grief. Hospice work is not about dying; rather it is truly about living as fully as possible until the end. I grew up in Rockville and wanted to give back to the community that I am a part of…and being Jewish, I wanted to work for JSSA Hospice because it reaches out to both the Jewish community as well as the greater community. Hospice work is deeply rewarding. It uses every clinical skill that I have learned during the 15 years I have been a nurse, and it stretches me professionally in ways that I couldn’t’ have imagined. It is an honor to help patients and their families navigate this final passage.”
Volunteer: Hope Gleicher, JSSA Hospice volunteer since 2007.
Hope describes her JSSA Hospice volunteer work as rewarding as well as enjoyable. Because she meets patients when they are already ill and their time is short, Hope says, “We can usually dispense with pleasantries pretty quickly and focus on whatever really matters. It reminds me to appreciate the moment.” Not having known the patients before their illnesses, Hope doesn’t wish for how they used to be as she might with one of her own relatives, and as a result she can be extremely patient. “It’s a really privileged and often deep connection – a little bit medicine, a little bit nursing, a little bit therapy and a lot of friendship. Even just for one hour a week, we have a chance to make a real difference in how people experience this stage of life. Hopefully, the time spent matters to them and to their families.”
Family member: Harry Rosenberg (wife Barbara Filner was a JSSA Hospice patient in 2007)
Mr. Rosenberg describes the remarkable and unanticipated change that occurred after Barbara began to receive hospice care. “It was like being in the arms of a guardian angel. JSSA Hospice immediately improved our quality of life….Hospice moves you from a situation of great uncertainty, pain and exhaustion into a realm of comfort and security at a time when you need it the most. For the first time in months, Barbara and I both relaxed…the nurses were well trained, loved their jobs, and communicated that love. We trusted them implicitly. With the help of your loving staff, and knowing that you were always available, together we were able to ensure that Barbara was comfortable, aware, confident and not fearful during the remaining days of her life…Losing my wife was one of the worst experiences of my life. We were a great partnership. But because JSSA Hospice allowed Barbara to live out her life on her own terms, I also remember it as one of my greatest experiences.”
Family member: Gladys Kraft (whose husband Stephen was a JSSA hospice patient for ten months).
From a letter sent to JSSA Hospice on November 30, 2011.
I am writing to thank all of you at JSSA Hospice who had a hand in helping my husband Stephen and me during the more than ten months that he was a hospice patient. We felt supported in every way possible, so that he was able to live out his life as he wished it, in the comfort of his own home. All of the nurses who came or responded to my phone calls were most helpful and reassuring….I never felt the need to call our doctor…and I certainly didn’t need to call 911. I also want to say a special thanks to the social workers. I’m embarrassed to admit that, as a social worker myself; I was reluctant to call on them. When I finally did, they were really there for me and came through with the kind of support that made me realize how critical they are to us, the families, in the hospice program (and it gave me a real touch of professional pride)….All of you at JSSA Hospice made it possible for Steve to live his life fully and at home until the day he died. That is what we both wanted, and I shall always be most grateful to every one of you.
Social worker: Allison Donadio, LGSW, with JSSA Hospice since 2010
“When I visit patients and their families I listen to their concerns, provide emotional support, and connect them with community resources that might be helpful. It is an honor to be present with people as the end of life draws near. I believe that the comfort, support, and guidance provided in hospice care help make a difficult time easier for both our patients and their families.”
Coping with a terminal illness is a crisis for any individual or family. Hospice care is designed to provide comfort and support to the patient and loved ones, even offering bereavement support to the family for a year after the patient dies. Our community is fortunate to have the option of hospice care with its personalized and compassionate approach. Don’t let the sweeping rhetoric of health care reform make you think otherwise.