A look at end of life care on the islands | Guest Column

Robert Laws

Hospice of the Northwest

Mariluz Villa, MD

Hospice of San Juan

Merry-Ann Keane

PeaceHealth Peace Island Medical Center

Great care may not cure, but will always heal. In the sense that healing is therapeutic and restorative, each of us can, for instance, receive healing care at the end of life, even if our illness is not curable.

Our community needs and deserves comprehensive hospice care, close to home. Those who are nearing the end of life should not have to spend precious time wondering who to call or traveling off-island for hospice services. Thanks to a healing new partnership between three essential providers, Islanders have access to comprehensive end-of-life care when and where it serves them best.

Hospice is care intended to help each person live fully, with dignity and on their terms. According to Hospice of the Northwest, a Medicare-certified hospice provider based in Mount Vernon, this is a philosophy that guides them in providing support for individuals and their family with compassionate treatment and palliative care. Last year, the organization served nearly 50 patients on San Juan Island and more than 80 across the county.

Hospice of San Juan, one of just a few all-volunteer hospice organizations nationwide and a part of the island community for more than 30 years, offers programs including caregiver respite, Music and Memory, equipment lending and education about end-of-life issues. Outpatient palliative care, provided by PeaceHealth Peace Island, is care to include a patient’s comfort and quality of life, focusing on the mind and spirit as well as the body. It is care offered for those with life-limiting or chronic conditions and is also available for those near the end of life. PeaceHealth Peace Island also offers a large patient suite so that families may keep vigil alongside their loved one, should they be hospitalized for comfort care.

All three organizations work closely together to provide comprehensive and appropriate end-of-life care to people within the San Juan Islands. This partnership grew out of a shared commitment to the philosophy that “each patient’s needs come first.”

As this collaborative begins its shared service, it is important to know:

Hospice care is generally delivered in one’s residence, and when provided by Hospice of the Northwest, is covered by Medicare (when in lieu of hospital services). Hospice of San Juan provides all services at no charge;

Patients who are receiving the hospice Medicare benefit, but need to be admitted to PeaceHealth Peace Island, can go back to Medicare-supported hospice care after they are discharged, if appropriate;

Caregivers at PeaceHealth Peace Island will always honor a patient’s end-of-life care instructions as identified through Advanced Directives; and,

For those patients who choose to use the Washington State Death with Dignity Act (physician aid in dying) both Hospice of the Northwest and Hospice of San Juan can refer patients to participating providers and will accompany patients throughout that journey (although hospice caregivers affiliated with both organizations do not administer the required medication).

Contact Hospice of the Northwest at 814-5550 or Hospice of San Juan at 472-0322 for info and to make arrangements care.