Local hospice program provides home comfort for final days

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The hospice program provides a special kind of care for clients and their families, as well as services available for the Socorro community. Since 2009, Sharon Long has been the home care and hospice manager.

Long said the hospice program offers support to the client and family during a difficult time. Long says the No. 1 goal of the hospice program is to make sure the client is as comfortable as possible.

Submitted Photo: Bottom row left is Christi Edmonds, Mary Lerma, Nancy Schlieper, Sharon Long, Gloria Padilla, and Dolores Beames. Top left is Elma Frieberg, Blanca Acosta, Michelle Tombs, Lisa Salaz, Leon Keller, Claire McMahon-Thomas, Mary Graham, and Josefina Portillo.

The hospice program also offers bereavement support through a medical social worker, where workers stay in contact with the family after the passing away of their loved one. Socorro General Hospital’s home care hospice is one of the regional facilities of Presbyterian Healthcare Services..

“It’s a fantastic program that gives us piece of mind to care for a loved one during their last days with us,” said former hospice client Rick Baca.

Rick and Diana Baca had parents in the hospice program. Rick said the program offers medical training on how to deal with loved ones in the hospice program.

Rick said hospice teaches clients what to do, that’s why they relied on it.

Diana said people in hospice can get referrals from everybody. Diana’s mother lasted 11 months on hospice and Rick’s mother and father lasted a month each on hospice.

“They make a person comfortable during a difficult time,” Rick said. “I was relieved when hospice helped take care of my dad. They picked me up morally together with their medical expertise.”

Diana said the program was great, the nurse was always on schedule with medications, and she and Rick could call with any questions they had. They provide a trained person available 24/7, she said.

“Hospice doesn’t kill people, it saves people’s lives,” Rick said.

Within the hospice program a team of seven nurses, three therapists, one medical social worker, one doctor and two home health aides work together to provide input for the people in the hospice program.

“We have the community and medical support,” said caretaker Claire McMahon-Thomas.

Every year, the hospice program hosts a memorial that takes place at the senior citizen center. The memorial is for family members who have lost a loved one. At the memorial, family members have the opportunity to get up and share their experiences of the program and memories of their loved one, Long said.

McMahon-Thomas said not every family is ready to lose their loved ones and the hospice program helps families prepare. They ask families questions about the power of attorney, living wills and funeral arrangements. It is one of the hospice processes that helps to plan for the passing of a loved one, Long said.

According to Long, the hospice program has experienced some changes over the years, including the ability for medications and medical supplies to be home delivered. Clients are offered 24-hour care and an RN is available seven days a week. A future goal of the hospice program is to provide service at the Good Samaritan, Long said.

“We want to educate the public not to fear the word ‘hospice,’” nurse Elma Frieberg said. “It’s providing comfort for the patient and the family.”

Frieberg said when the patient passes away, the hospice nurse takes care of the necessary work for the state requirements.

“It’s about neighbors helping neighbors,” Long said.

The cost of hospice services is $140 per day and medicare pays all of the cost.

Families with children can also take advantage of hospice services. In the last three years, three children have passed away under hospice care in the Socorro Community, Frieberg said.

“We cover the entire county of Socorro, and if people were aware of the services we could provide more support to the patients and their family,” Frieber said.

McMahon-Thomas said the hospice program are always in need of volunteers to help cook a meal or listen, and they hope in January to get more volunteers. Frieber said hospice provides nurses aid and social worker services for all the hospice patients. They usually have regular hour visits with clients, and if needed, they stay longer and can visit more than once a day, depending on the problem, Long said.