McLeod Clarendon offers a growing hospice program for the community

by | June 14, 2018 7:19 am

Last Updated: June 14, 2018 at 11:00 pm

(L to R): Hospice Administrator Denise Melton, Volunteer Coordinator Stacy Mosier, Chaplain Esta Gilley, Shannon Mims, RN, Patient Care Coordinator Cynthia Barnett, RN, Social Worker Barry Dean, Associate Medical Director Dr. Robert S. Eagerton, and Departmental Secretary Perri Brown Not pictured: Rebecca Allday, RN, Cynthia Fulton, CNA, and Rosa Shaw, CNA

Clarendon County’s hospice program is growing. Begun in November, the program has been accepted into the community with open arms.

When McLeod Health merged with Clarendon Health Systems, McLeod soon realized a hospice program was needed in Clarendon County. With an already-established program in Florence, it was simply a matter of finding the right people to lead the program in Clarendon County.

Dr. Robert Egerton has been practicing medicine in Clarendon County since 1986. As he had been involved with an outside hospice program for seven years, McLeod asked Egerton to become the Associate Medical Director for the Clarendon County program. Egerton readily accepted and now oversees the medical management of patient care.

Next they would need someone to lead the volunteer efforts. Stacy Mosier was the social service director at the Lake Marion nursing facility for 13 years and subsequently was instrumental in opening the swing-bed unit at the hospital. With 17 years of long-term care experience, she was perfect for the position of volunteer coordinator.

“I accepted the position, and I started before it even opened,” said Mosier, who is also now the volunteer coordinator for the hospital as well as for hospice.

The inter-disciplinary team continued to grow, adding Patient Care Coordinator Cynthia “Cindy” Barnett. She began her medical career working with McLeod as a med-tech. Upon becoming an LPN, Barnett worked with newborns in labor and delivery. As an RN, Barnett worked with home health for eight years and has now been with hospice for 9 years.

“Most of my background has been in the community with home health and hospice,” said Barnett, who is solely in Clarendon County now.

Hospice Administrator Denise Melton is happy with the Clarendon County team, which now includes Chaplain Esta Gilley to oversee bereavement and Social Worker Barry Dean. One of Melton’s priorities is to educate the public about all hospice has to offer.

“Hospice is about managing those people who have terminal illnesses,” said Melton. She strives to enter patients into the program as soon as allowable. This gives the strongest possibility of a patient “graduating” from the program by getting symptoms and pain under control and thereby no longer needing hospice care.

“It’s about quality of life,” said Melton, who recognizes most of their patients will remain in the program for end-of-life care. “Let us help you with that process and see if we can make it better,” said Melton.

The program offers medical comfort for the patients, as well as a myriad of other services. The staff of seven volunteers led by Mosier performs clerical duties for the program. However, the volunteers also visit families and offer relief to caregivers, companionship to patients and a sounding board to families who may have questions or concerns they’re reluctant to bring to the medical staff.

“We sit with them, talk with them, read to them and take them outside to get fresh air. We provide that extra attention, that TLC,” said Mosier. She encourages her volunteers to find out a patient’s likes and dislikes, play their favorite music, bring their favorite foods and read the Bible to those who are spiritual.

“We do some great things. We even take them fishing,” said Mosier. “It’s not always that sterile, medical thing. It’s more just family and love.”

Mosier is proud of her volunteer staff. Volunteers Jane Carrol and Hattie Benjamin were recently nominated for and received awards as hospice volunteers of the year.

The interdisciplinary team meets regularly to discuss each patient. Any medical, social or spiritual need discovered by any member of the team is brought to the table to develop a holistic approach to the patient’s quality of life. Any possible changes to the patient’s care are discussed, and patient comfort and dignity remains the priority.

“Our goal is comfort,” said Barnett. “We discuss each and every patient.” Her staff of two nurses and one aid now has openings for a third nurse and second aid as the program continues to grow.

“The program has been well-received but is under-utilized in the community,” said Barnett. “It’s going to be out there for a lot more people as awareness increases.”

The program goes beyond patient comfort, however. The medical staff educates the family about the patient’s disease process. With Gilley and Dean on board, the program encompasses family care as well. Both Gilley and Dean assist families and patients with funeral planning and help the families cope with the patient situation. Gilley often spiritually counsels families, following the family as they move through bereavement for the first year.

According to Egerton, Medicare has significantly expanded hospice guidelines in recent years. No longer just for terminal cancer patients, hospice now includes other terminal chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease. While most patients are Medicare recipient, McLeod is a non-profit hospital and does take patients who are under-insured or uninsured into the program.

Currently all patients in the program are in-home, although the program does include hospitalized patients at times. However, the team strives to keep patients in their homes with their families if at all possible.

“The hospital is a resource if we need it, but our goal is to give the patient what they want and for them to have dignity,” said Barnett. “We’re not about dying. We’re about living, and we want them to live comfortably for whatever time God allows.”

While the hospice team is in place to provide services to patients and their families, the hospice team is often deeply touched by patient and family interactions.

“We go to bless them, but sometimes we’re the ones who leave with the blessing,” said Barnett. “It’s been the most rewarding job I’ve ever done. It makes you reflect on what’s important and what really doesn’t matter. We all come into this world and leave this world the same way, so it just puts a lot of things in perspective. Each and every one of them bless us and teach us something every day.”

To volunteer with the Clarendon County program, contact Stacy Mosier at 803-460-5025.


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