Hospice: 30 years of relieving suffering

Published 4:45 pm Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Volunteer Bob Field (right) visits with Hospice House patient Richard Myers at his home. (photo submitted)

A decade ago Calvin Carson knew little about hospice.
The organization had been around the area for 20 years but had yet to touch his life. Now Carson has seen hospice from every angle as a caregiver, a volunteer and a patient himself and he knows its impact.
“It has showed me that there are people out there who truly care about your life,” Carson said. “These volunteers are there to make sure you get everything you need to make your life easier – whatever stage you’re in.”
Executive Director Jean Eckert said for the past 30 years that has been the focus of local hospice efforts – pain management and relief of suffering.
“My perspective really is that it’s a God thing. These kinds of things don’t happen without good energy and good intentions that have been put on the hearts of our staff and our volunteers,” Eckert said.
Hospice this year commemorates three decades of service in Polk County and the Upstate of South Carolina. In the late 1970s, concerned citizens like Tracy Lamar, David Wells and Jack Allen put efforts in motion to create this new service, Eckert said.
“There were a lot of people here in our area who were dying and weren’t getting the proper attention and care that was available,” Eckert said. “It’s great to see it come to this level of care.”
Hospice has served 6,185 patients over the past three decades, with 14 area nursing, assisted living and retirement communities using hospice and palliative care services for their residents. On average, 170 volunteers assist in helping those patients and their families.
The role Hospice volunteers play is vital, Eckert said. These individuals provide a comforting and understanding ear because they are not afraid of saying the wrong thing or not knowing what to do for the person nearing the end of their life.
Carson began his journey as a hospice volunteer five years ago – pitching in with everything from letter mailing to 11th-hour duties in which a volunteer sits with a patient during their last moments if family members or friends are not nearby. Carson said it’s inspiring to think he may have put a little sunshine in someone’s life just as the volunteers are now doing for him.
Director of Outreach Marsha VanHecke said she’s seen numerous patients and patient families find a real connection with the volunteers.
“It’s such an intimate, dramatic part of life that it really makes people bond,” Van Hecke said. “The important thing for people to understand is that hospice is not just for people who are dying. It’s for people and their families. It can teach you how to help. It can explain things better.”
VanHecke said for many patients it also helps them overcome a hurdle in their recovery. She said that’s why many times the end-of-life terminology is misleading.
“We see it as being in a continuum – it means that for most of our patients they have a disease progression that is not going to be cured immediately but it doesn’t mean they are going to die in six days, in six months or even for some in six years,” she said. “Our goal is to give them a strong quality of life whatever their time left may be.”

Highlights of Hospice history
1980    Hospice of Polk County incorporated as a non-profit
1981    Hospice of Polk County served nine patients, and their families, in Polk County and Landrum
1993    Hospice of Polk County was Medicare certified
1995     Hospice of Polk County changed its name to Hospice of the Carolina Foothills to reflect an expanded service area
1996    For first time, Hospice served 100 patients in a year
2001    Hospice moved from Tryon Town Hall into its current Administration and Program Center in Columbus
2006    Hospice began offering Palliative Care
2007    The Founders Wing of the Administration and Program Center in Columbus was completed
2009    The Smith Phayer Hospice House in Landrum opened in March
2009    The Hospice Thrift Barn opened in Landrum
2011    HoCF spearheaded a collaborative venture with other healthcare providers in Inman, S.C., to open a Healthcare
Information Center

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