According to Jennifer Saienni, Public Relations Specialist for Delaware Hospice, Dame Cicely Suanders pioneered the world’s first hospice program in the United Kingdom in 1967. Sanders believed that people mattered until the last moment of your life and that “we will do all we can to not only help you die peacefully, but to live until you die.” The hospice movement caught on rapidly in the United States with Senate hearings on the subject.
In 1974, Connecticut was the first to have a hospice in the United States and was designed as a pilot program. Only four years later, the National Hospice Organization was established to provide a forum for discussion, education and support of quality standards for hospices.
“In 1982, Delaware had its first hospice when Delaware Hospice was established,” Ms. Saienni said. “With the dedication of a grassroots committee of healthcare professionals, clergy and community leaders to meet the need for hospice care in Delaware. Within 35 years, Delaware Hospice has grown from just offering a hospice program to offering continuum of care programs through Delaware Transitions, Delaware Palliative, Delaware Hospice Center, Katybug and New Hope.”
Ms. Saienni said that Delaware Hospice has touched over 100,000 individuals in Delaware and Southeast Pennsylvania, providing the highest quality of care and services as a trusted community partner in end-of-life education and support. The organization is accredited by the Joint Commission and continues to be the largest and only licensed, not-for-profit, community-based hospice.
In 2007, the City of Milford was looking to develop land and Delaware Hospice bid to build the Delaware Hospice Center. Then City Manager Richard Carmean welcomed Delaware Hospice as the City worked to build a social and medical service industrial park on Airport Road. Soon, the Delaware Veteran’s Home, Boys & Girls Club and doctor’s offices were built around the Delaware Hospice Center.
In addition to the Delaware Hospice Center, Milford residents can take advantage of Delaware Transitions which provides guidance and resources to families coping with serious illnesses like heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s, cancer, Parkinson’s and others. Through Delaware Transitions, regular contact is provided by a Transitions Coordinator and appropriate community resources identified. The organization also provides assistance with lifestyle changes and has trained volunteers to provide companionship, assistance and even transportation.
“We also offer Delaware Palliative,” Ms. Saienni said. “Families who are coping with physical and psychosocial burdens of serious illnesses are assisted by physicians, nurse practitioners and social workers who make home visits. The group focuses on the human side of the illnesses with symptom management support for the seriously ill and their families.”
Katybug is a program that provides comprehensive and compassionate care for infants, children and adolescents who are living with a life-threatening condition. The program also assists the families of those children. They provide expert pain and symptom management for the child as well as assistance and guidance of the family’s emotional and spiritual well-being. Katybug collaborates with the primary care physician to establish the best plan of care. Bereavement services are also provided by Delaware Hospice to assist those who are left behind when a loved one passes.
“We work with a dedicated group of 450 volunteers throughout Delaware,” Ms. Saienni said. “Volunteers have been the backbone of Delaware Hospice since 1979 when the first task force was established. The organization could not have accomplished the 35 years of service without their dedication and determination. Most importantly, volunteers improve the quality of life for our patients and families. Their generosity and care have enabled Delaware Hospice to continue to offer a variety of free services and programs to our patients and their families.” Ms. Saienni said that skill sets of any type and for any amount of time, from a few hours a week to a few hours a month, are welcome. Volunteers must be at least 14 years old.
This year, the Delaware Hospice signature event, Festival of Trees, is celebrating its 30th anniversary. In celebration of that anniversary and the 35th anniversary of Delaware hospice, the organization is throwing a party on Saturday, December 2nd at the Delaware Hospice Center. The event, called “Cheers to 30 Years,” will be held from 6:30 to 9:30 PM.
If you are interested in volunteering, call 302-856-7717 or apply at www.delawarehospice.org.