A life lived well…to the end

                                                                                                                                                                Photo by Shari Harris
Some of the special people at Three Rivers Hospice are, from left: Kim Bell, Jessie Wolfe, Lori Toto, Mary Hutchison, Wayneth McComas, Keysa Stokes, Jaclyn Lebo, Connie Whitener and Tiffany Breeden.

By Shari Harris

The Three Rivers Hospice Licking office is a non-descript store front on Main Street. One looking in from the street sees little to indicate the special services the hospice provides to people at what can be the most stressful time of their lives.
The staff of Three Rivers Hospice respond to referrals from nursing homes, hospitals, doctors and family members, of people who are diagnosed with terminal illnesses and are anticipated to have less than six months to live. Their nurses, home health aides, bereavement coordinator, chaplain, social worker and volunteers work together for a single cause, to provide end of life care that helps patients and families through their difficult time.
“The end of your life is just as important as the beginning of your life,” says RN Coordinator Tiffany Breeden. Hospice is there to make sure that the time remaining can be lived to the fullest. Breeden describes hospice workers as special people. They have to be caring and understanding of the special challenges that face patients and families at end of life, as well as have a lot of patience.
When a patient choses to be on hospice care, it doesn’t mean they are “giving up.” Perhaps it could be better expressed that they are shifting the emphasis of their fight to living every remaining day to its fullest, with hospice providing support, comfort or respite to aid in that pursuit.
Three Rivers Hospice has eight offices, all in Missouri. There are three South offices, with Mtn. Grove the parent office for Licking and West Plains. Michael Gawlak is the administrator of the South offices and is located in Mtn. Grove. The Licking office opened about ten years ago and its staff covers an area in a one-hour radius from the office, or 100 miles from the parent office in Mtn. Grove. This includes all of Texas and Dent counties, and most or part of Phelps, Pulaski, Reynolds and Shannon counties.
Medical Director Dr. Scott Roush is the only Hospice and Palliative Medicine Specialist in Missouri. He cares for the hospice patients if their attending physician is unable to follow them on hospice services. Dr. Roush and as many of the team members as possible attend Interdisciplinary Group Meetings every two weeks. Every patient is reviewed to ensure they are receiving all the services they need.
The nurses review documentation and evaluate patients when they are referred to hospice. They determine the person’s needs and follow each one to ensure their medical needs are met. An on-call team is available at all times. Home health aides may be needed to assist with bathing, light housework, light meal preparation and companionship. RN Coordinator Breeden, with several years of field work experience, organizes and supports the nursing staff so they can provide the patients with the care they need.
To help with spiritual needs, Chaplain Mike Bell is available. Bell can also provide counseling and does Bible studies at several long term care facilities where Three Rivers Hospice sees patients. Some may be surprised that a nursing home patient may receive hospice, but end of life care is a specialty and about 50 percent of their patients reside in nursing homes.
Kim Bell provides social work services to the hospice. She can help find resources for patients and families. She also helps with durable powers of attorney, insurances and end-of-life decisions.
Mary Hutchison, Bereavement Coordinator, attends bereavement services. During that difficult time in the weeks and months after a loss, she checks in with loved ones, for up to 18 months. She also provides support groups for families to help them through this difficult time.
Volunteer Coordinator Kayla Ramsey recruits volunteers. Volunteer time must be five percent of patient care time. Volunteers sit with patients, spending time and offering companionship. They also assist in the office. The hospice currently has around a dozen volunteers. Even nursing home residents can be volunteers and spend time visiting with hospice patients in their facility. The hospice is always looking for more volunteers. If you think you are one of the special people who work well in hospice settings, contact Ramsey at 573-674-1127.
RN Coordinator Breeden credits Office Manager Jessie Wolfe with holding the team together. Her organization keeps things running smoothly.
As a team, the hospice tries to help the patient cross at least one thing off his or her personal bucket list. Success is measured in the level of peace a person can achieve in their final days and in the ability of loved ones to carry on in the absence of the bereaved.
If you would like more information about Three Rivers Hospice, their office hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. They are at 121 S. Main Street in Licking, but until the current social distancing restrictions are lifted, it may be better to call them at the previously mentioned number.



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