Jackson County Times

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Friday, November 27, 2009

Covenant Hospice, Ready to Help in Time of Need

By Sid Riley

Covenant Hospice is headquartered in Pensacola, and has eleven district offices which provide services to thirty-five counties of lower Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. The local office in Marianna is located downtown, across from the Court House at 4440 Lafayette Street.

Covenant Hospice was licensed in Florida in 1983, and opened their Marianna office in 1992.

They serve a four county area from this office, which includes Jackson, Washington, Holmes, and Calhoun Counties. They employ 75 people in the Marianna district, and have some 200 volunteers assisting as they deliver their services. Their staff includes RN’s, LPN’s, Social Workers, Hospice Aides, and Chaplains. The Chaplains provide professional, non-denominational support to patients and their families.

Some relevant statistics on the 2008-2009 activities in our District include;

● Served 574 patients with life-limiting illnesses and provided bereavement services to their families.

● 35% of these had cancer, and 65% had non-cancer illnesses.

● Average daily workload was 126 patients.

● 191 volunteers provided 7,700 hours of service.

● Average length of stay for patients was 104.5 days.

Their stated objectives are:

● Relieving Pain and Suffering for patients

● Bringing Comfort, Dignity, and Choice to the period leading up to death.

● Facilitating reconciliation with family and loved ones.

● Supporting survivors as they deal with grief.

● Educating the community, including health care professionals, about end of life care and methods of symptom control.

Covenant Hospice is a non-profit corporation, funded through a variety of sources, including Medicare, Medicaid, Private Insurance Providers, fund raising events such as the “Garden Gala”, donations, and charitable participations such as United Way. They also provide their services when no method of payment exists. Last year the local office delivered almost $150,000 in “Charity Care.”

“One of the most frequent comments we hear from family caregivers is that they wished they had known about hospice care sooner,” commented Dale O. Knee, President and CEO of Covenant Hospice. “Many were simply unaware of hospice as a possible option. Our focus on pain and symptom control in addition to emotional, social, and spiritual support enable patients and their families to make the most of every remaining day.”

In conversations with Branch Director Stephanie Gustason, and Merian Milton, Community Educator, we asked how the staff was able to cope with constant involvement with grief and death situations. “We have internal programs designed to assist our staff members if they are having any problems coping with these issues”, explained Gustason. “We can not help but become emotionally involved in many instances. Our Chaplains assist staff members by reinforcing their vision of what they are accomplishing, and to help them cope with any emotions they are feeling from client involvements. However, most of the staff is very motivated and enjoys a deep feeling of confidence and fulfillment from the role they play.”

“Another aspect of being a Hospice worker is the impact it has on your own outlook on life,”, Merian Milton added. “It makes you realize what is really, really important…and what is actually just something to deal with. Family, friends, relationships, and strength of character come to the forefront and material, financial matters become secondary.”

Covenant Hospice can be reached at 850-482-8520. They are always actively seeking and training volunteers.

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