November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month and this year’s theme is "Preserving a legacy, treasuring memories," reminding us that every palliative care and hospice patient is a unique individual with a lifetime of experiences, relationships and gifts to share.
At St. Joseph Hospital, in observance of this occasion, an altar was placed in the hospital chapel during the month of November as a sacred space to honor and remember those who have passed. Hospital visitors may stop in and pay respects to loved ones.
In its first year of expanded services, the hospital’s Palliative Care Program served over 300 patients. Program medical director Dr. Michael Fratkin believes patients and their families benefit on many levels from the comfort it provides in what is often a difficult situation.
"The power of listening and providing the opportunity for people to understand their circumstances continues to be an inspiration," Fratkin said. "Simply giving people room to take control of their situation offers a great deal to the patient and the health care delivery team."
During the holidays or on other special occasions, many of us gather with family and friends. More often than not, these gatherings include telling family stories, sharing traditions that have been handed down from generation to generation - and often remembrances of those who are no longer with us.
This emphasis on remembrance, while present during joyful times, also plays an important role in difficult times, especially at the end of life. Studies have shown that, when faced with a life-limiting illness, most people are more concerned about the impact it will have on their family, not themselves.
By focusing on the individual, not the illness, hospice and palliative care honor life’s final journey. Hospice and palliative care brings comfort and peace to help people live every moment of life to the fullest, leaving loved ones with memories they can treasure.
"The beauty of palliative care is in holding space for our patients as they divulge their inner fears, goals and desires in life. It’s a real gift for me to be able to share that with people," said Kristen Miller, clinical coordinator of the program and certified hospice and palliative care nurse.
St. Joseph Hospital’s Palliative Care program can be reached at (707) 445-8121, ext. 7430 between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. To learn more, see our palliative care services page.