Pikes Peak Hospice & Palliative Care affirms life while easing deathJul 24, 2023 02:05PM ● By G.L. Yenne
In Leo Tolstoy’s novella “The Death of Ivan Ilych,” Gerasim, a servant in Ivan Ilych’s household, brings comfort to the sick man. He was openhearted and kind, talking with Ilych during his final days and allowing his master to rest his legs on Gerasim’s shoulders, which alleviated his pain.
Modern-day hospice is the “Gerasim” to patients with life-limiting illnesses, providing whole-person care that addresses a patient’s physical, emotional and spiritual needs, along with their family’s. Generally, hospice patients have a prognosis of six months or less and are seeking comfort and pain relief when no other treatments are working or desired.
“Hospice provides compassionate, loving care when it is needed most,” said Dawn Darvalics, president of Pikes Peak Hospice & Palliative Care (PPHPC). “Hospice is not a place; it’s a philosophy of care.”
Darvalics, who has 21 years of hospice experience, added that hospice care is an underutilized Medicare benefit that offers so much support, including in-home nursing, social work and spiritual care services, often at no cost to the patient.
PROGRAMS OF COMFORT
Located at 2550 Tenderfoot Hill St., PPHPC is the only nonprofit community-based hospice provider in El Paso and Teller Counties, serving as the region’s leading hospice care provider for four decades.
The Pikes Peak Hospice Foundation raises money for a variety of unique programs for patients and families, supplemented by a robust volunteer program. Programs include reiki, aromatherapy and grief and support groups.
“I appreciate the joy our music program provides by identifying the era of music the patient grew up with, that speaks to their soul,” Darvalics said. “We ensure they can hear plenty of that music.”
Veterans receive individualized care based on their branch and era of service.
Patricia Strobridge was caring for her father Claudy, 90, for several years when he was hospitalized for high blood pressure. When the doctor recommended hospice care, Strobridge called PPHPC and found them to be friendly and helpful.
“Pikes Peak Hospice took the bull by the horns,” Strobridge said. “They came over to talk with us and went over all of their services, which included the Veterans Administration liaison to come and honor Dad. It was exciting for him, and he was very pleased that someone would recognize his service. It took a lot of the weight off my shoulders caring for Dad.”
HOSPICE VS. PALLIATIVE CARE
PPHPC has a palliative care clinic in the building where they see most of these patients. Palliative care is different from hospice in that patients have a longer life expectancy. While they also seek relief from pain, they receive ongoing care consultations from a team that evaluates the level of care required and helps with daily activities. The team can schedule nurse visits, spiritual counseling and therapy appointments as needed, and a healthcare professional is always on call in case of emergencies.
Some resist hospice care because they associate it with dying, but good hospice care gives dignity to whatever life is left. When patients enroll in hospice early on, the team has more time to get to know them and provide care that aligns with their wishes.
“In hospice we focus on celebrating life and ensuring that people are living to the fullest,” said Darvalics. “We develop a plan of care that helps patients meet personal goals, such as being physically comfortable, attending a grandchild’s graduation or resolving conflict with a family member to attain meaningful closure.”
PPHPC is the only hospice provider with an in-patient unit at Penrose Hospital that’s staffed around the clock and equipped to manage more serious care needs.
For more information, call 719-633-3400 or visit pikespeakhospice.org.