A Roaring Fork Hospice experience
Post Independent Staff
Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series following Marcia Haberman and her family in their experiences with Roaring Fork Hospice.
BATTLEMENT MESA ” Marcia Haberman is not a public person.
She’s never been one to intentionally draw attention to herself. It’s simply not her way.
But Marcia has decided to go public about her experiences with Roaring Fork Hospice, a nonprofit agency affiliated with Valley View Hospital. The agency’s staff provides medical and supportive care for terminally ill patients.
Marcia feels so strongly about hospice’s comforting, nurturing care that she is willing to share her journey so that others can understand what it can do for patients, their families and their friends.
“They’re more than marvelous,” said Marcia of the Roaring Fork Hospice caregivers who come to the Battlement Mesa home she shares with her husband Chuck Haberman. “Their kindness and gentleness … there are not enough adjectives to talk about these people.”
Marcia, 70, was diagnosed with cancer last year. She said her family physician, Dr. Diane Dill, referred her and Chuck to the Roaring Fork Hospice team at the end of February, as Marcia made the decision to ease off of aggressive therapies and approach the end of life in comfort, and surrounded by care and love.
“We didn’t know about hospice,” said Chuck. “Before this, we thought hospice was only for indigent care.”
With Dill’s guidance, the Habermans soon learned what hospice can do for people who are entering the final stages of life ” and for those who love them.
“Dr. Dill is my source of faith within the medical community,” said Marcia.
Patti Miely is one of Marcia’s nurses who visits her regularly at home. She’s part of a team of nurses, social workers, counselors, massage therapists and volunteers at Roaring Fork Hospice.
Miely said one of her biggest frustrations is that not enough people know about hospice or that it is available to anyone who lives in Garfield, Pitkin and Eagle counties with a terminal illness that no longer responds to cure-oriented treatment.
“I just wish I could get out and tell people about it,” Miely said. “People need to know this kind of care exists. And it’s not just for people with cancer. Heart disease, kidney failure … it doesn’t matter the illness, we’re here.”
Currently, six patients are being treated by Roaring Fork Hospice.
“It’s cyclical,” said Miely. “The most we’ve treated at any one time is 18.”
However, Miely thinks if more people knew about the service, more would use it.
“I’m passionate about this,” she said. “People worry about calling me at 3 in the morning if they need me, and I love it. I love my work.”
John Lutgring, a social worker and bereavement counselor at Roaring Fork Hospice, said that even if patients and their families and friends have heard of hospice, it can be difficult to move towards hospice care.
“When people are faced with these decisions, they’re often in a protective mode,” he said. “The knee-jerk reaction is hospice means bad news. It speaks too loudly to what’s really going on.”
But Marcia and Chuck said that when hospice came into their lives, so did a sense of support and compassion.
“Frankly, I don’t know how anyone could manage to get through this alone,” Marcia said. “These people bring such joy into our lives.”
“They bend over backwards to help,” Chuck said. “They offer a multitude of services. With a blink of an eye, we needed a hospital bed, and it was here. Marcia needed a wheelchair, and it arrived, Johnny-on-the-spot. Even things we don’t know we need they provide.”
“And they’re never hurried,” said Marcia. “They feel like family, like we’ve known them forever. We trust them completely.”
The Habermans’ daughter, Suz Hutchinson of Grand Junction, agrees. She said the hospice staff members treating her mother have helped her and her four brothers and their families by supporting them ” answering their questions, listening to their concerns, and just being available.
“They’re our extended family,” Hutchinson said.
A team of nurses trades off visiting the Habermans twice a week ” to take Marcia’s vital signs such as her blood pressure and temperature. The nurses assess her pain management medication, and go over any physical issues she may have.
They bring medicine to the house, thus eliminating numerous trips to the pharmacy.
There is laughter ” and lots of talking. Sometimes, Marcia will nap while the nurse on duty talks with Chuck or one of the couple’s five grown children and their families who are visiting.
A physical therapist is part of the team, too, as is a massage therapist.
“When Marcia needs physical therapy, or massage, they’re right here,” Chuck said. “It’s part of the service.”
“When people ask me what they can do for me, I say, ‘Send a contribution to hospice on my behalf,'” added Marcia. “I feel that strongly about it.”
Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518
The word “hospice” comes from the Latin word “hospitium,” meaning guesthouse. “It means respite,” said Roaring Fork Hospice nurse Patti Miely. She said that throughout time, civilizations have had various ways to care for those nearing the end of life.
In the United States, the first modern hospice was established in 1974 in New Haven, Conn. Now, more than 3,000 hospice programs exist in the United States.
Roaring Fork Hospice is one of those programs. In affiliation with Valley View Hospital, it provides medical care, primarily focused on the patient’s comfort and symptom control.
The agency accepts Medicare, Medicaid and health insurance for its services. Hospice also accepts tax-deductible contributions.
For more information, contact Roaring Fork Hospice at 1906 Blake Ave., 945-3434, and visit http://www.vvh.org, go to outpatient care and click on “Roaring Fork Hospice.”
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