Profile in Care

Taking a closer look at Big Ben Hospice. Big Bend Hospice

In 1983, Big Bend Hospice was established by a group of local volunteers who wanted to help those who were dealing with life-threatening illnesses. Today, with 250 employees serving more than 1400 families a year, it provides patients with emotional and physical support during the final phases of their life.

{mosimage}“Compassionate health care at the end of life should be a fundamental human right,” said Pat Law, the chief financial officer and interim CEO of Big Bend Hospice.

Through the use of “care teams” made up of the patient’s own doctor, a hospice nurse, a home health aide, a family support counselor, a chaplain and a specially trained volunteer, each patient is encouraged to live as fully as possible with the time he or she has left. Big Bend Hospice serves Leon, Gadsden, Liberty, Wakulla, Franklin, Jefferson, Madison and Taylor counties. The organization is committed to providing the best hospice care in North Florida, and plans for growth revolve around enhancing hospice services.

One of the main priorities is to recruit and retain nurses.

“We are very fortunate to have a team of more than 135 nurses . . . but as the number of patients we serve grows, so does our need for nurses,” Law said. “Finding the health care professional who has not only the medical expertise but also the passion for hospice work requires a person who views hospice care as a calling.”

Another priority is to ensure that those people who need care can get it.

“We have advisory councils in each county to help us learn how we can improve outreach to African-Americans, Latinos and Hispanic populations who have traditionally been underserved by hospices,” Law said. Big Bend Hospice continues to reach out to different communities through local social-service organizations, as well as with local media. Educating physicians about the services Big Bend Hospice provides will help patients better understand the options available to them.

In Tallahassee, Big Bend Hospice House offers a 12-bed inpatient facility for those patients who can’t be cared for in their own home. However, the house always is full, and patients wait to be transferred in.

“Providing additional inpatient beds to meet the needs of our area will be a major focus in the next few years,” Law said.

Law also stressed the importance of grief support for both the patients and their families. Big Bend Hospice provides special programs for children and teens through area schools to help them cope with the loss of a loved one. There also are programs to help people who have lost a loved one to suicide. All Big Bend Hospice grief services are available to everyone who is grieving, regardless of whether they used Big Bed Hospice services or not.

“With Big Bend Hospice as (a) guide … support, comfort and hope are provided to the entire family during this frightening time in life’s journey,” Law said. – Erica Bailey

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