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March 6, 2017

Oswego County Health Department's Hospice Continues to Serve Patients Across Oswego County

OSWEGO - Each year for more than 25 years, across Oswego County, the Oswego County Health Department's certified hospice program has provided support services to hundreds of terminally-ill county residents and their families.

The dedicated team of nurses, home health aides, volunteers and other professionals provide nursing services, social work, bereavement counseling, medical equipment, physical and occupational therapies, and spiritual care to county residents and their families at a critical time in their life.

Any Oswego County resident who has been diagnosed with an advanced illness, who is not receiving aggressive or curative medical care and who wants to improve their quality of life, is eligible for hospice services. As the only certified hospice based in Oswego County, the health department is able to provide services to local residents by local residents. On-call services are available seven days a week, around the clock.

"Oswego County Hospice is a holistic and family-centered program," said Vera Dunsmoor, supervising public health nurse for the Oswego County Health Department. "Our services address the physical, psychological, spiritual and social concerns of patients and their families."

Hospice patients continue to receive medical care from their own physicians, who work closely with members of the Hospice care team.

"Hospice care can be provided in your own home or in a nursing home," said Dunsmoor. "Whenever possible, care is given in the familiar setting of the patient's home. In addition to providing care, hospice teaches family members the skills they need to assist the patient, and prepares them for changes in the course of the patient's illness."

Rhonda L. Hutchins of Oswego made the choice to accept Hospice care for her father, Duane A. Kerfien, during her father's illness in 2015.

"I think the most beautiful thing I have heard said about the Hospice program is when Vera Dunsmoor said that a family and patient invite Hospice into their lives when it's the hardest invitation they will ever make," said Hutchins. "That is a very profound and moving statement, but not nearly as profound and moving as the blessings that invitation brings. These nurses, case managers, care givers and volunteers quietly enter the lives of the patients and their families, and bring a sense of peace and comfort. They first take the time to get to know the patient, not the disease and what the disease is doing.

"They are always compassionate, caring and respectful of the dignity of the patient. They answer all the hard questions with honesty, but softened with compassion and caring. They recognize the anger, confusion, fear and sense of loss the patient and family are feeling, but never judge and always understand."

When a patient is referred to Oswego County Hospice, the hospice staff meets with the family and gathers information about the patient to discuss the admission criteria and develop a plan for hospice services. The Hospice staff works with the patient's physician throughout the process. Qualified expenses are reimbursed by Medicare, Medicaid and private health insurance.

In 2016 Oswego County Hospice served 165 patients while another 313 family members received bereavement services. Bereavement services are available for more than a year following the loved one's death. In addition to the health department staff, currently there are 26 volunteers who work with patients and their families, and seven more volunteers who help with administrative work in the hospice office.

"I can't begin to express the gratitude and respect I have for the Oswego County Hospice staff that helped my dad and my family during his time under their care," said Hutchins. "From the first visit of the nurse to his end of life when all the details and necessities were handled by these wonderful people, they were there for us, doing the things we didn't know how to, didn't know needed to be done, or couldn't do. His end of life was blessed not only with being in his own home and surrounded by family, but by those individuals who accepted that invitation to become his and our care givers in a time of need -- care givers giving freely of their compassion, caring, time and energy to make an end of life graceful, filled with dignity, care, compassion and love."

For more information about the Oswego County Health Department's Hospice program, call the hospice office at 315-349-8259 weekdays between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. or visit oswegocounty.com/health/hospice.html.

FAMILY CHOSE HOSPICE CARE - Rhonda L. Hutchins is pictured with her father, the late Duane A. Kerfien, during a happier time in the family's lives. Hutchins and her family chose the Oswego County Health Department's certified hospice program to help them through the illness and death of her father. (Photo courtesy of Rhonda Hutchins.)

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