Hospice to offer more accessible hours

Hospice of Central Peninsula is expanding office hours at its Kenai Spur Highway location so that services are more accessible to anyone who needs them.

The new hours, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, give clients the opportunity to stop by before work, said Janice Nightingale, hospice’s executive director.

“What we heard a lot of last spring and this summer, is that people wanted to utilize our services, like loan closet and our library, but because our hours were 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. they couldn’t come before or after work” Nightingale said. “We were toying around with how we could benefit the community more and reach their needs, but knowing that we are a non-profit and don’t have the funding to stay open for 40 hours a week.”

So, starting Monday, the office will be open at 8:30 a.m., but what services can hospice clients receive within the new hours window?

The primary function of the volunteer hospice is to provide respite care for a caregiver who is watching over someone at the end of their life. All hospice volunteers go through training, a tuberculosis test and a background check, but as a volunteer hospice, Hospice of Central Peninsula cannot offer medical assistance or nursing to their clients. Instead they offer the gift of free time for those caring for the terminally ill.

“We are a buddy for the client,” Nightingale said. “We can do things around the house to make the family’s life easier like house cleaning or walking the dog, but the majority of what we do is sit and visit with the client so the main caregiver can do some things they need to do, even if it’s just relaxing or running some errands.”

Hospice becomes a part of the end of life support team, working alongside medical support to add comfort to the end of life.

“We follow the family and client’s lead as for what they are looking for. …We keep in touch with the doctors so we are on the same page with what’s going on at the end of life,” Nightingale said.

Hospice isn’t just for those looking for help in the final days, though.

“A lot of times, people won’t contact us until it’s really close to the end of life,” Nightingale said. “We like to get in touch with families three to six months ahead of time so we can establish a trusting relationship, and after a client passes, we have bereavement services, not just for clients and their family, for anyone in the community who may feel like they had a loss and need support.”

Hospice offers a loan closet, where they loan out durable medical equipment at no charge, such as wheelchairs, shower benches, crutches and walkers. The loaned items are available to anyone in the community as well.

“As long as someone needs it, they can borrow it,” Nightingale said.

There is also a library, which offers a variety of reading material and brochures for those seeking more information about caregiving, different terminal illnesses and how to handle grief.

“We have a variety of very specific brochures on loss, losing a sibling or grandparent,” said Lee Coray-Ludden, the bereavement coordinator. “And we have books on grief and caregiving support, on demetia and Alzheimer’s. It’s a great support tool for anyone that’s having to be a caregiver for a family and even for clients who are at the end of their life and are seeing themselves go down that road. They can get more information and prepare well.”

“We have one book on Alzheimer’s that is great, it talks about how to take care of yourself when someone has died and how to take care of yourself when you know you are ill,” added Toni Reitter, Hospice’s adminstrative coordinator.

In the summer, Hospice offers programing for children and teens struggling with loss through Camp Mend-a-Heart. They also offer different programs to help people create advance directives, which are legally binding documents stating a person’s wishes regarding their medical treatment.

“You name the person you want to make care decisions, what kind of treatment you want and how comfortable you want to be,” Nightingale said. “You can really get down to the nitty gritty of what you want.”

Although they are not legally binding, Hospice offers similar programs for children and teenagers, allowing them to detail how they would want to be cared for in the face of a terminal illness.

“It’s a good conversation starter,” Nightingale said.

All of Hospice’s programming and services are offered at no cost to the community. They rely on donations, grants and fundraising efforts, such as their annual winter wine taste and auction event.

A big supporter of Hospice has been the Kenai Peninsula United Way, which will be closing its doors on June 30, 2018.

“We are losing a big chunk of change,” Nightingale said. “United Way are doing what they can, they will forward agencies on the peninsula to Anchorage, so we’ll need to be proactive in working with the Anchorage United Way.”

The United Way raises money and distributes the funds to different non-profit groups on the peninsula.

Hospice of the Central Peninsula is located at 35911 Kenai Spur Highway, Unit 9, in Soldotna.

Reach Kat Sorensen at kat.sorensen@peninsulaclarion.com.

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