By LANCE CRANMER email@example.com
WAVERLY, Ohio – It’s far too simple of a statement to say that it takes a special kind of person to be a hospice worker.
“It is a service that really touches the patient, as well as everyone around them,” said Sandy Lawhorn, the Director of Clinical Services for National Church Residences’ hospice team at Bristol Village Health Care in Waverly, Ohio. “It not only looks at a patient and their physical illness, it focuses on a broader spectrum of what is going on in their lives. Their social needs, spiritual needs, medical needs. To work in hospice and stay in hospice takes a special kind of personality.”
Sandy has spent 24 of her 31 years in the nursing profession focused on hospice care – the last five-plus year of which have been spent with National Church Residences.
“I feel like I’m blessed with some of the best staff here,” she said. “It is a stressful job. You get attached to the people, and eventually they pass. It’s difficult.”
However, Sandy said that her hospice co-workers have a strong sense of teamwork and pull together to help each other when things become difficult.
“I’ve heard my staff when one person has a rough week and has a lot going on, I’ve witnessed other members of the staff say, ‘Hey, can I see one of your patients for you this week?’ The staff we have is just wonderful. They are so supportive of each other. They understand when a person is going through a rough week and they find ways to help each other.”
When National Church Residences began to offer hospice services in southern Ohio, it was primarily residents who received hospice care.
Today, as the services have expanded, that has changed greatly.
“We are expanding more out in the community,” Sandy said. “We are growing beyond our borders more than we initially had. It is exciting to me to see that we’re growing and reaching out instead of being in the smaller areas that we were in when I first started.”
From Bristol Village, located in Pike County, the National Church Residences hospice team now offers hospice care in surrounding counties including Ross, Scioto, Jackson and Vinton – an area that is home to nearly 233,000 Ohioans.
“About six months ago we were in the low 50s (in number of patients),” Sandy said. “Now, for the last couple of months we have had about 75 patients. We’ve grown quite a bit in just the last few months.”
Sandy said that her staff includes five full-time RNs and three contingent RNs (with two more positions to be filled soon), three full-time aides and five contingent aides, two social workers, a volunteer coordinator, a bereavement coordinator, a spiritual coordinator and two office staff.
They serve National Church Residences facilities and have contracts to serve other outlying nursing facilities and also private patients.
“We are available 24/7,” Sandy said. “If they need pain medicine, if they need a visit, we always have an RN available. We will go to their home or their facility and address that need. If they don’t have a family that is able to visit often, we fill that gap. We take them gifts and play games with them. And we have a great group of vigil volunteers that go and sit with patients when they are in the last one-to-two days of their life.”
The National Church Residences hospice staff can also provide help with Medicare issues, provide necessary medical equipment and even offer bereavement services to grieving family members.
“All of those things are covered at no cost to the patient when they’re receiving hospice services,” Sandy said.
Every six months, the hospice staff conducts a life celebration to recognize clients who have passed away.
“It is a wonderful service, very informal, with a sit-down meal,” Sandy said. “We read each person’s name and light a candle for that person. Any family that is there can share whatever they want to share about their loved one and the staff shares some of their memories, too.”