In Deschutes County, over seventy percent of people who die of natural causes are hospice patients at the time of death. This is one of the highest hospice utilization rates in the United States, and a testament to the perceived value and quality of hospice services available in Central Oregon.
Partners In Care was the first hospice in the state to begin seeing patients back in the early ‘70s. Over the years, its staff has grown to over one hundred and eighty and patient care volunteers number around one hundred and thirty. In 2015, over nine hundred patients received hospice services in their homes by the Partners In Care team, and over three hundred were patients at Hospice House.
Moving past these statistics, what makes hospice care even more special here is the existence of Hospice House located in Bend. Hospice House is a six-bed freestanding specialty hospital where the most comprehensive end-of-life care is provided to both the patient and their family members. It is the only such facility in Oregon east of the Cascades, and one of only three in the state. It is not a long-term care facility or housing as its name might suggest.
About half of all patients will be discharged back to their homes once their symptoms such as pain have normalized and can again be managed at home. Some may use Hospice House for up to five days to provide respite for their family caregivers. Others will spend their final hours or days at Hospice House where their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs are met by some twenty highly-trained staff who provide care reflective of the patient’s values and beliefs.
“So many people approaching the end of their lives find unparalleled support and profound solace for themselves and their loved ones when they enter Hospice House,” said Medical Director Lisa Lewis, MD. “They may come through the door feeling fragile, fearful or confused, but soon experience a sense of relief to know that every detail and concern will be addressed—with compassion, respect, and dignity.”
The hospice philosophy emphasizes living, not dying: making the most of the days, weeks, or months remaining in a person’s life. At Hospice House, life is affirmed and celebrated in many different ways. Pets are welcome inside the patient’s room and in a new off-leash Pet Park. Spacious suites accommodate family members overnight; and meditative garden spaces provide a beautiful environment just outside each room. Music creates an auditory sanctuary. Complimentary therapies such as massage help to ease anxiety. Life review and spiritual support assist in release and closure.
Hospice House staff and volunteers share that when people learn about the work they do, they frequently comment on it being “depressing” work. Clinical Supervisor Jenni Carver-Ross says it is just the opposite. “It is a privilege to serve people at this tender time in their life. It is life affirming and inspiring,” she says. “Some call us ‘angels’ for the comfort we can bring about; in fact we are doing what we would want for ourselves and our own family members.”
Dr. Lewis agrees, “Every patient is ‘me.’ They are ‘my family.’ When my own parents died, neither they nor my sister and I had the full spectrum of hospice care available to support us. We are so fortunate to have this wonderful community asset right here in Central Oregon.”
Marlene Carlson is Director of Development & Communications at Partners In Care and liaison to Friends of Hospice, a supporting organization of Partners In Care. Visit PartnersBend.org or FriendsofHospiceOregon.org for more information