The terminally ill in Fulton and Sharp counties now have a service to cope with their condition -- Legacy Hospice in Salem.
"We want to help as many people as we possible can," said Becky Taylor, Legacy Hospice office manager.
Taylor spoke Feb. 10 after Legacy opened its office on the court square in Salem.
Legacy offers the terminally ill medical care, nursing services, social work, bereavement and pastoral care and therapies prescribed by physicians, and it pays for durable medical equipment, supplies and drugs.
Services provided by hospice are reimbursed through Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance or other resources.
Hospice pays for all medical service, including hospital stays and medications directly related to the terminal illness.
Taylor said terminally ill patients in Fulton and Sharp counties will be accepted, even if they do not have any type of insurance.
State law prohibits Legacy from accepting patients from the surrounding counties, Taylor said.
Jennifer Todd-Sims, Legacy Hospice volunteer and bereavement coordinator, said patients are referred to Legacy through their physicians or pastors.
Applicants are interviewed by Melody Hager, Legacy executive director.
Hager, a registered nurse, is continuously on call for all hospice patients.
There are several misconceptions about hospice care, Todd-Sims said.
"Some people think if you're coming to hospice you're going to die tomorrow," Todd-Sims said. "Some people have left hospice because their condition has improved."
She said cases like that are rare, however. The average hospice patient has a life expectancy of 6 months.
Another misconception is that hospice patients are not able to use their own physicians.
Taylor said a patient can use whichever physician he chooses.
Most hospice recipients are elderly, Taylor said. Currently, Legacy has six patients whose ages range from 56 to 93.
Besides the medical treatment and equipment, Legacy provides other services.
Shari Schetrone, a certified CNA cooks, cleans and helps patients run errands.
She said she is gratified by her work.
"I've done all sorts of things -- drove a truck, worked at the Iron Works in Calico Rock," Schetrone said. "But I always come back to this because I love working with people."
Schetrone has been a CNA for 25 years.
Heather Rushin, a social worker with Legacy, tries to provide emotional support for patients and their families.
Rushin said she links them with resources such as Lifeline, helps make funeral arrangements and even takes them grocery shopping.
"I do just about anything to make their lives more comfortable," said Rushin, who was a case worker for DHS before working for the hospice.
A key element of the hospice program is pastoral care.
"When people are sick they want to talk to a doctor," Todd-Sims said. When they're dying they want to talk to God."
Dr. Gene Garner is the Legacy chaplain. Garner helps patients find spiritual healing and theological perspective.
Taylor said some patients want to cultivate a spiritual relationship, but others refuse.
"Patients have the right to refuse any service we provide," Taylor said.
Hospice will not duplicate services a patient is already receiving such as home health, Taylor said.
Todd-Sims, a former case manager for White River Agency on Aging, said families of the terminally ill typically suffer from severe emotional distress.
She said hospice programs are designed to help nurture the families as well as the patients.
"We provide counseling for up to 13 months after their loved one passes on," Todd-Sims said.
Taylor, Todd-Sims, Rushin and Schetrone agree on one thing -- working for hospice is rewarding.
"We're here to help whoever we can," Taylor said. "And nobody is going to be turned away."