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Friday, October 12th, 2007

Hospice program opens doors

November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month

By Shelley Grieshop

Grand Lake Hospice, a division of Grand Lake Health Systems, recently received i. . .

ST. MARYS - Rhonda Moeller quietly recalls the wish of a dying woman whose only desire was to attend her granddaughter's wedding, still months away.
"She wasn't doing well and we all knew she probably wouldn't make it to the wedding," says Moeller, the hospice and palliative care coordinator for Grand Lake Hospice. "So we came up with another idea."
On her death bed, the woman penned her advice for a strong, happy marriage and passed the written wisdom on to the young bride and groom as a wedding momento. It was a cherished piece of the grandmother's heart, Moeller says.
"There are many ways to help those who are dying other than standing with them at their bedside," she adds.
Instead of death, the staff of the newly-licensed hospice program focuses on life and the future, they say. The organization, based in an annex building across from Joint Township District Memorial Hospital in St. Marys, serves residents in a 30-mile radius including Mercer and Auglaize counties, as well as portions of Shelby and Allen counties.
The nonprofit hospice program offers its services to any person - regardless of where they've sought medical treatment - who is diagnosed with six months or less to live. No one is turned down.
After years in the planning stage, Grand Lake Hospice passed a rigorous survey process before obtaining their state license in August, says Moeller, a registered nurse who first became involved with hospice years ago while working in Pennsylvania.
The local organization has on staff a physician, nurses and nursing assistants, a social worker, volunteers and spiritual guidance offered by the Rev. Bruce Head, a local pastor with 36 years experience in counseling. The group borrowed the national hospice motto, "It's About How You Live," and thoroughly believe in the idea.
"We're not about dying but redefining hope," Moeller explains.
Teri Lowe, a volunteer coordinator for the agency, finds, trains and retains volunteers for a variety of services for patients and is always looking for more, she says.
"We have people who work one on one with the families and some that make items for us and never enter a patient's home," she says.
Lap robes, quilted prayer cloths, handcrafted greeting cards and colorful rosaries are some of the items crafted and provided to the dying and/or their families. Currently, the hospice program has about 20 volunteers on staff.
Grand Lake Hospice also helps patients and their families find community resources they may need and offers bereavement meetings at the office on the second Tuesday of each month.
Organizers of Grand Lake Hospice say the agency fills a missing link in the Grand Lake Health System. The health organization now cares for patients full circle - from birth to death, the women say.
"We are blessed that these people are allowing us to come into their families at such a critical time in their life and we don't take that lightly," Moeller says.
Lowe agrees.
"Death is inevitable for all of us. We consider it an honor to work with these families," she adds.
The women describe their hospice team as a family and they believe their close ties with one another makes their program unique and successful. Often their job brings them to tears. That's when they turn to each other for support.
"We're human, and we cry, too," Moeller explains. "But this type of work is like a calling for us. It's what we love to do."
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