Pleasanton Weekly

News - December 2, 2011

Holiday Fund: Hope Hospice -- guiding people through their final days for more than 30 years

Holiday fund will go for people who can't afford service

by Glenn Wohltmann

Most people go out of their way to avoid thinking about death, but for more than 30 years, Hope Hospice has been providing guidance and support for people -- and their loved ones -- as they near the end of life.

The organization is bigger than ever, with 160 employees and volunteers, but the need is also growing, said Larry Lakes, Hope Hospice's CEO.

"This year in our hospice program we have about 400 people, and in our grief support and individual meetings we probably help 1,500. These meetings are for people in the community, whether or not they've been in our care as well," Lakes said. "Baby Boomers are becoming a large group of people aging in life, so the amount of hospice care that's needed is increasing each year."

Lakes also pointed out that more and more doctors are recognizing hospice programs and are referring patients, adding to the demand.

"Hospice care is for people to have the best quality of life in their last months," Lakes said. "Our mission is to provide the absolute best quality community care for patients and family members dealing with an end of life situation."

While hospice is designed for people in their final days, generally with six months or less to live, he said people in hospice programs tend to live longer.

Hospice care is unique because it works to meet the needs of those at the end of life but also supports the emotional and spiritual needs of the family as well. Hope Hospice care is provided regardless of the ability to pay and relies on contributions such as those raised by the Pleasanton Weekly Holiday Fund.

The holiday fund and any of the fundraising that we receive is first to cover hospice care for patients (and their families) who can't afford it on their own," Lakes said, adding much of the money would go toward support groups.

Hospice care is provided in a patient's home so that they can live their life as fully as possible, with dignity, and surrounded by loved ones. The patient and family receive support and education from a Hope Hospice team including a doctor, nurse, home health aide, social worker, chaplain and homecare volunteer.

Working with the doctor, the team develops a personal care plan, allowing the patient to remain in control of his or her health care decisions. As death nears, telephone advice and emergency is available 24 hours a day.

There's also a videographer who volunteers his time to interview patients and have them put their life stories and comments in a video format.

Hope Hospice will also support the family with funeral plans and for up to 18 months after the patient's death with bereavement support. The organization, one of the oldest in the country, provides several opportunities throughout the year for people to take time to remember their loved ones, including the annual Hike for Hope and Lights of the Valley: A Celebration of Light, this year being held in Livermore on Dec. 6, in Pleasanton on Dec. 7, in Dublin on Dec. 8, and in San Ramon on Dec. 13.

"It's a time for people to come together to remember loved ones," Lakes said.

Hope Hospice also is hosting workshops on how to handle the holidays and for grief support. For more information about Lights of the Valley or the workshops, call 829-8770 or visit www.hopehospice.com.

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