Hospice honors cycles of life, community

At life’s most difficult times, hospice caregivers offer valuable help. Yet hospice relies on the community for help in return. Volunteers and donors make it work.

Hospice of Homer, turning 30 this year, is hosting “Celebrate Hospice” on Aug. 8. It’s a gathering to share the group’s accomplishments, thank supporters, raise public awareness, promote the annual fund drive and celebrate what Darlene Hilderbrand, the executive director, calls “the circle of caring.” It’s also an open house to introduce its new, expanded office space.

“[This] provides the perfect opportunity for the community and hospice to come together in celebration of the vital role hospice plays in providing compassionate support to our family, friends and neighbors—the most vulnerable individuals in our community,” she said.

Throughout the nation, hospice is known for assisting families with both the emotional stresses and practical challenges of end-of-life care. The hospice motto is “compassion in action.”

Hospice of Homer provides such crucial services, but does much more.

It is a clearinghouse providing information and referrals to other community resources.

It has a lending library of helpful books and videos about death, dying and bereavement. There is no charge to borrow items.

It also lends out medical equipment, such as lifts, commodes, IV poles, wheel chairs, baby alarms and hospital beds. Users are asked to fill out a loan form and to properly clean equipment before returning it. Availability may vary.

Hospice offers bereavement services to community members grieving after loss. The support can be visits to the home, phone calls or monthly mailings containing encouragement and useful information about grieving. It sponsors support groups for widows, widowers and for anyone suffering loss and bereavement. It also hosts at its office an annual remembrance circle, open to the community, to honor and remember deceased loved ones. This year’s will be on Sept. 27.

Its service called Neighbors-Helping-Neighbors helps homebound elderly and disabled people through two programs that put them in regular contact with volunteer companions who befriend them, provide support and check on their welfare. The programs provide either “volunteer visitors” who visit clients in their homes and share activities with them, or “phone friends” who check in and chat with them on a regular basis.

Care for terminal patients remains at the core of the hospice mission.

“Hospice care provides supportive assistance to people who are in this situation and to their families,” says one of the organization’s brochures. “The focus is on the family, not just the patient, and addresses their special physical, emotional, social, spiritual and practical needs.”

Hospice provides professional, compassionate, non-medical aid to improve dying clients’ quality of life, support their caregivers and help them remain at home if they wish. The aid can include coordinating home care, respite for caregivers, emotional support, tending to bereaved families and information about other community resources. The organization’s coordinator talks with prospective clients and their families to determine what their needs are and how hospice can help.

Hospice of Homer screens and trains volunteers and helps match them to the services and clients. The organization is looking for helpers for diverse tasks including (but not limited to) direct care, family support, transportation, publicity, meal preparation, shopping, home repair, gardening and community education. The next training session begins Oct. 3.

Hospice of Homer is non-profit and local. Its service area includes all the southern Kenai Peninsula from Ninilchik on down, including limited services to sites across Kachemak Bay. Jean Hatfield founded it in 1985 after working with hospice in another state when one of her family members died.

Over the past 30 years, hospice here has helped more than 1,000 clients and loaned almost 10,000 pieces of equipment, Hilderbrand reported.

One recent change was the establishment of the Peter Larson Compassion in Action Fund. Larson, a well-known area educator, served as president of the board for Hospice of Homer. After his death in 2014, his family established the fund, administered by the Homer Foundation, to honor his memory and contribute to the long-term activities of area hospice.

The continued generosity of area residents makes it possible for hospice to provide its services at no cost to clients. Donors include local businesses, foundations and the city of Homer as well as individuals, some of whom give generously of their time as well.

“There have been many changes at Hospice of Homer over the last 30 years … amazing and enhancing changes, yet some things remain the same,” Hilderbrand said. “Hospice is still a neighbor-helping-neighbor, volunteer program that provides client-driven, free-of-charge services. Without the support of our volunteers and donors hospice could not provide compassion-in-action care.”

Celebrate Hospice!

When: Saturday, Aug. 8, 3-6 p.m.

Where: The new Hospice of Homer office at 265 E. Pioneer Ave., Suite 3, Homer, around the back on the lower level.

Why: Learn what this special organization can do for you – and what you can do for it.

Plus: Music, food, raffles, information booths and “welcoming camaraderie.” The raffle features art by Mary Frische and Tom Collopy of Wild North Photography.

How to help: Sign up to volunteer, or mail donations to Hospice of Homer, PO Box 4147, Homer AK 99603.

Coming soon: 

• “Being Mortal” — a panel and community discussion Sept. 3, 6 p.m., at the Homer Public Library. 

• Community Remembrance Gathering — Sept. 27, 2 p.m., at the hospice office. 

• Annual “Preparing for the Holidays” fundraiser — Nov. 14, 6:30 p.m. at the Homer Elks Lodge.

For more info: 

Phone 235-6899, online at www.hospiceofhomer.org or HomerHospice on Facebook. Regular hours are 9 a.m. to noon, Mondays through Thursdays; other appointments available.

Hospice honors cycles of life, community
Hospice honors cycles of life, community