November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, and hospices across the country are reaching out to raise awareness about the highest quality care for all people coping with life-limiting illnesses. Here in Delaware, Delaware Hospice is our trusted community partner in end-of-life education and support. But Delaware Hospice is about much, much more than just that. This month, we have the pleasure of sitting down with Jennifer Saienni, Director of Marketing, to learn more about Delaware Hospice, its programs, people and purpose.
V: National Hospice and Palliative Care Month is all about raising awareness of the services that all of us, or our family members, may eventually need. Yet the concept of “hospice” seems to be so hard for so many people to think or talk about. How do you think that reluctance impacts people?
JS: At Delaware Hospice, we continually strive to educate the community about end-of-life care options. Because that’s what we offer: options. We know that it’s natural for many people to avoid talking about the end of life. But by avoiding what may initially be uncomfortable conversations with our doctors, families, and friends, they end up almost keeping their thoughts about what type of care they would want a secret. That’s why, however hard it may be to speak about your end-of-life care wishes, it is a critical step in ensuring your wishes are met. We need to have these conversations while we’re healthy, before an illness sets in or an accident strikes. In fact, many studies have shown that a lack of early and continual conversation about one’s wishes causes confusion about conditions, medical treatments, and choices that need to be considered.
V: You have a long history of serving our community. Can you tell us more about it?
JS: We do have a long history. Delaware Hospice was founded in 1982 by Delawareans for Delawareans, and we are proud to be the first non-profit hospice and healthcare agency in Delaware. We also serve southern Chester County and Delaware County, PA.
As the leading non-profit hospice and healthcare agency in our area, our mission is simple. We’re here to meet the needs of the individuals and families we serve with the support of the community, with the support of our volunteers, and through the support of our many donors. We’ve cared for over 105,000 individuals and along the way have grown from offering just one program to where we are now, with more than seven different programs and services designed to support the needs of our unique and diverse community. That vision defines Delaware Hospice. When we see a need in our community, we meet that specific need with new, innovative resources and education.
V: Can you tell us more about the programs you offer?
JS: Absolutely! Over the years, Delaware Hospice has grown from simply providing hospice care to now offering a full continuum of care programs and services. Our spectrum of services means that we’re able to support our neighbors and their families both at the time of diagnosis and throughout their journey.
Delaware Transitions is a free, non-medical support resource for individuals and their families who are struggling with all aspects of serious illness. We can help people overcome difficulties they may be coping with by establishing regular contacts with a coordinator, by identifying appropriate community resources for help, and by giving assistance with lifestyle changes. Vital! readers can visit delawaretransitions.org for free resources.
Delaware Palliative lets you live your best life. Nurse Practitioners and Social Workers team up to help you live with a serious illness. We work side by side with your primary physician to help you understand your illness and treatment options. All types of curative treatments can be continued while receiving this support. From the comfort of your home, you receive the help you need to manage your symptoms, connect with community services, optimize your capabilities, and above all else, improve your quality of life. Readers can learn more at delawarepalliative.org.
Our Hospice Care program focuses on meeting the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of each patient with a life-limiting illness, as well as the needs of their family. Each patient becomes part of a multi-disciplinary team that develops a care plan to ensure that each need is continually met. Delaware Hospice offers four levels of care to meet the needs of individuals: routine home hospice care, inpatient hospice care (provided at the Delaware Hospice Center), respite care, and continuous hospice care. A complete list of our services can be found at delawarehospice.org.
The Delaware Hospice Center is the first of its kind in Delaware, and is the only freestanding facility in the state. With 16 private patient suites and individualized, comprehensive, specialized 24-hour care plans, patients are comfortable and safe when symptoms or pain arise. Families and friends are welcome to visit, and have full access to two family rooms, two formal living rooms with fireplaces, two kitchens and dining rooms, and two kids’ play areas. We even offer virtual tours of the Delaware Hospice Center on our website.
Katybug, our pediatric palliative/ hospice program, is the only program of its kind in Delaware, and is staffed with Certified Hospice and Palliative Pediatric Nurses. From before birth through young adulthood, we help seriously ill kids live more fully, while at the same time improving their family’s quality of life. We provide care at home so that children experience the least disruption to their world. Families are supported by their primary medical staff, while our expert team brings their specialized knowledge and know-how right to their doorstep, eliminating the hassle of getting to extra appointments. Katybug’s website is katybugde.org.
Adult Bereavement support is one of the largest programs we offer and is free of charge. Grieving is a natural and necessary process after the death of a loved one. The journey to acceptance, adjustment, and re-entry into a positive, fulfilling life is natural and necessary, too. Our 13-month program is open the community; you do not need to have had a family member in our program. Over 30 groups and workshops are offered throughout Delaware on varying topics and formats.
New Hope, our nationally recognized children and teen bereavement program, is celebrating 30 years of serving Delaware. The free program targets children and teens ages 6-17, who are struggling with an expected or unexpected loss. This program is open to the community and offered in a variety of formats. Our most popular event is Camp New Hope. It’s a 4-day day camp that offers campers the opportunities to meet others going through similar experiences and to interact in traditional and bereavement activities. Newhopede.org provides more topics and resources.
V: You’re right, when you talk about an entire continuum of programs that you offer! You’re a wealth of specialized knowledge and experience for our community, and of course your national recognition makes it obvious that staying at the forefront of care is your priority. How do you achieve that?
JS: We work hard every day to ensure our patients and community are receiving the best care possible. We connect with experts across the country to stay on top of the latest research and developments, and we’re active members of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO), the Center to Advance Palliative Care, Alliance Kids, and Delaware Quality of Life Coalition. We’ve been accredited by the Joint Commission since 1988 and earned their Gold Seal of Approval® for Home Care Accreditation. At Delaware Hospice, we continuously strive to ensure superior services to our families through hiring staff that are committed to pursuing specialty certifications in their respective fields, and because of that we’re able to say that we are the only agency in Delaware to have Certified Hospice and Palliative Pediatric Nurses on staff.
V: Congratulation on that! Since you’re a non-profit, how do you support your services?
JS: We love our volunteers! And we’re always looking for more. We have so many ways to get involved that we just like to say, “Let’s explore your fit. We’ll supply the training you need, as well as ongoing support and education, so you know the best way to help others.” Whether as a companion, a kid’s support, or by providing hospitality at the Delaware Hospice Center, our volunteers are the most dedicated people you’ll find anywhere.
In addition to donations, we also raise money through our signature event, Delaware’s Festival of Trees. The Festival of Trees is the annual event ushering in the holiday season statewide. The Festivals feature magnificent displays of decorated trees and wreaths, offer special holiday events, and host thousands of visitors each year. The Festivals are made possible through the support of the community. Hundreds of volunteers help organize and run the events, and businesses and individuals sponsor trees and wreaths, which are decorated by artisans who donate their time and talent. At the close of the Festivals, the trees and wreaths are then delivered to another non-profit organization.
Every year we have three festivals. The New Castle County Festival runs from November 22 through November 24 at the Brantwyn Estate, 600 Rockland Road in Wilmington. The next Festival is in Dover from December 6 until December 9 at Nobles Pond, 13 Nobles Pond Crossing in Dover. The last event is the Milford Festival of Trees on December 13 from 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm at Delaware Hospice Milford Office, 100 Patriots Way.
V: Festival of Trees is always a good time! If someone wants to learn more about your programs or services, or is ready to start a conversation, what should they do?
JS: We can help start those conversations. Give us a call today at 800-838-9800 or visit our website, www.delawarehospice.org. We’re here for you.