Local hospice offers programming, full range of service to Chautauquans

Representatives from Hospice Chautauqua County are on the grounds, but for now, they’re serving a different clientele than usual.

Andrew Dickson, director of community engagement, and a chaplain, social worker, and medical personnel from Hospice Chautauqua County will present a program titled “Here to Hereafter: Let’s Talk About Death,” at 3:30 p.m. today in the Presbyterian House chapel. The program will also be offered at the same time and place during Weeks Eight and Nine.

“Advanced care planning [is] a very important part of not just hospice care, but all healthcare providers are looking to move our society along and become better at planning and simplifying the [dying] process,” Dickson said.

This program will cover various forms of advanced care planning, including advanced directives or living wills and how and when to find hospice or palliative care services.

This program will not offer bereavement assistance, but the present hospice representatives are able to arrange for such services if necessary.

Dickson said while this program is very similar to the “Courageous Conversations About Death and Dying: Now is the Time” seminar offered by Shahid Aziz earlier this season, the sessions led by Hospice Chautauqua County are intended to illuminate the potential for connection between hospice and the Institution.

“We’re the providers of hospice and palliative care in our community, and Chautauquans are part of that community,” he said. “Chautauqua gives these people the sense of community they might lack where they live most of their lives. So it is imperative that we connect to the Chautauqua community to fulfill the role we will for all the year-round residents of our area.”

These sessions are sponsored by the Department of Religion as part of the department’s mission to help patrons grapple with the full spectrum of life, said Associate Director of Religion Maureen Rovegno.

“Historically, those coming to Chautauqua who have need of hospice services have been well served,” she said. “Hospice Chautauqua County has always been very willing to provide the services needed, even though people might be here for a short time.”

This session is part of the services available to Chautauquans through Hospice Chautauqua County, said Shauna Anderson, registered nurse and vice president of clinical services for the hospice.

Institution residents and employees may avail themselves of the full range of hospice, palliative and bereavement care offered by the local organization, even if they are not permanent residents of Chautauqua County.

“Some people would say, ‘Oh my God, what are you talking about, hospice patients traveling?’ but you’d be amazed,” she said. “It’s often something that people don’t think about when they’re on hospice, and that’s why I think it’s so important that people understand that [it’s possible.] We’re about quality of life.”

As many as 90 percent of hospices nationwide have travel agreements that allow patients to transfer their care to different providers for the duration of their trips, Anderson said.

While the number of hospice patients on the grounds varies between years and throughout the season, Hospice Chautauqua County has had as many as 13 Institution clients at a time.

“The thing that I am so aware of is when people come to Chautauqua, it’s like a cocoon, [and] they have no idea that Chautauqua County is a vibrant county with lots to offer outside the grounds,” said Mary Rappole, Hospice Chautauqua County RN. “If they have a need for hospice or palliative service, there’s a really vibrant nonprofit organization within the county that can serve them. [Hospice patients] need to know they can still come to Chautauqua, to their summer home, and we can have a collaborative relationship with their [own] hospice.”

In addition to hospice and palliative care, Hospice Chautauqua County can also provide bereavement counseling and assistance to Chautauquans. Members of the organization have been trauma certified and have been called into the Institution after the sudden deaths of employees.

However, grieving individuals may also seek help by calling Hospice Chautauqua County and asking to be connected to the bereavement department.

No matter what services are needed, the ability to attend Chautauqua as they wish contributes to a feeling of an improved quality of life, said Rovegno, who served as a chaplain for Hospice Chautauqua County before joining the Department of Religion.

“Chautauqua is so precious,” she said. “In the time of life in which one needs hospice, being in a place you love with people whom you love becomes even more important. It’s been my observation that being here does provide a certain measure of healing. [The patients] rally.”

To Anderson, providing Chautauquans who have terminal illness with the ability to attend the Institution is an example of Hospice Chautauqua County’s mission.

“Death is a millisecond in time, and what we’re about is not that millisecond,” she said. “What we’re about is living until we die. Living every day and doing what you want, that’s huge. If we focus on the living every day until you can’t, then you come to a much more peaceful ending.”