Hospice on San Juan Island

Posted October 31, 2016 at 5:49 am by


By Louise Dustrude

Fac­ing the end of life, most peo­ple would pre­fer to die at home sur­round­ed by their loved ones rather than in a hos­pi­tal hooked up to mod­ern-day machinery.

Hos­pice exists to help peo­ple make that choice.

The offi­cial Medicare-affil­i­at­ed Hos­pice of the North­west, in Mt. Ver­non, can pro­vide pain med­ica­tion. It offers doc­tors and nurs­es, pas­toral coun­sel­ing if desired, and var­i­ous therapies.

Medicare requires hos­pices to pro­vide a vol­un­teer com­po­nent, but it’s obvi­ous­ly imprac­ti­cal for vol­un­teers to come here from the main­land — per­haps for a one-hour vis­it — and so we have a sec­ond group here, Hos­pice of San Juan, com­prised total­ly of volunteers.

There are cur­rent­ly 41 vol­un­teers, not all avail­able at all times of the year. The vol­un­teers have the choice to accept a par­tic­u­lar “case” or not for any reason.

They can pro­vide care­giv­er respite, help with chores, edu­ca­tion, var­i­ous ther­a­pies, grief sup­port, and a ser­vice called music and mem­o­ry for patients with demen­tia. Some will walk dogs; oth­ers will bring their dogs to bright­en the patien­t’s day. They may dri­ve patients around the island or to med­ical appointments.

The two groups col­lab­o­rate in many ways to help their clients; and both have durable med­ical equip­ment to lend.

THE WORD “HOSPICE” comes from the same root as “hos­pi­tal­i­ty,” not “hos­pi­tal,” accord­ing to Mar­iluz Vil­la, M.D., who heads up the local vol­un­teer group.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, some patients can’t stay at home for one rea­son or anoth­er, and our local Peace­Health Peace Island Hos­pi­tal has a pleas­ant room set aside for hos­pice patients, but because of a bureau­crat­ic glitch it can’t be used for that purpose.

A dying per­son on San Juan Island who needs to be hos­pi­tal­ized has to go to a main­land hos­pi­tal, away from friends and family.

Vil­la has been try­ing to make it pos­si­ble to use that room. She would even sup­port chang­ing our offi­cial Medicare hos­pice provider from Hos­pice of the North­west, based in Mount Ver­non, to What­com Hos­pice in Belling­ham because it already has a “cer­tifi­cate of need” con­nect­ed with St. Joseph’s Hos­pi­tal, thus elim­i­nat­ing the bureau­crat­ic problem.

In every oth­er respect Vil­la is hap­py with the Mount Ver­non group, and would be hap­py to stay affil­i­at­ed with them if the hos­pi­tal’s hos­pice room prob­lem could be overcome.

THE BEST TIME to access Hos­pice is as soon as a per­son has been diag­nosed. It offers “a great qual­i­ty of life for peo­ple going through some­thing that oth­er­wise is chal­leng­ing,” accord­ing to Villa.

It offers an oppor­tu­ni­ty for peo­ple to con­sid­er their val­ues and assess what life goals they can still pur­sue. And it offers sup­port to their fam­i­lies and care-givers at a very stress­ful time.


From the Driving Miss Norma Facebook page

From the Dri­ving Miss Nor­ma Face­book page

» Edi­tor’s Note: Some res­i­dents of San Juan Island may have become more aware of the ben­e­fits of hos­pice recent­ly when the woman who became a Face­book phe­nom­e­non under the title Dri­ving Miss Nor­ma came here as she neared the end of her life and entered the hos­pice pro­gram while liv­ing in her fam­i­ly’s motor home.

She had giv­en her­self a year of adven­tures by opt­ing for a road trip instead of chemotherapy.

You can support the San Juan Update by doing business with our loyal advertisers, and by making a one-time contribution or a recurring donation.

No comments yet. Be the first!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

By submitting a comment you grant the San Juan Update a perpetual license to reproduce your words and name/web site in attribution. Inappropriate, irrelevant and contentious comments may not be published at an admin's discretion. Your email is used for verification purposes only, it will never be shared.

Receive new post updates: Entries (RSS)
Receive followup comments updates: RSS 2.0