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First “Light Up a Life” program held on FirstHealth Hospice campus

| Date Posted: 12/8/2011

Light Up a Life

Visitors to FirstHealth Hospice & Palliative Care light candles in anticipation of the 2011 “Light Up a Life” tree-lighting ceremony. The acute-care Hospice House on the recently completed FirstHealth Hospice & Palliative campus accepted its first patient on Oct. 10 and hosted its first “Light Up a Life” program on Dec. 1.

PINEHURST – The three cardinal hollies greeting visitors at the entrance to the new FirstHealth Hospice & Palliative Care campus are young and small. But they should prosper and grow just as the services that FirstHealth Hospice offers have grown and will continue to grow in its beautiful new environment.

On Thursday, Dec. 1, the three trees were decorated with hundreds of tiny lights, symbols of the people being memorialized or honored by the annual “Light Up a Life” tree-lighting ceremony.

“The tree-lighting program always gives Hospice families the chance to come back and re-connect with their care team,” says Tina Gibbs, associate director of FirstHealth Hospice & Palliative Care. “It’s a time to come and remember or honor loved ones. Of course, a lot of community people attended the program, too.”

The new FirstHealth Hospice campus is located on more than 30 acres at 251 Campground Road just off Highway 15-501 north of Pinehurst. Central to the campus is the 11-bed Hospice House, which accepted its first patient on Oct. 10.

Unlike end-of-life residential programs, the acute-care program of FirstHealth Hospice House accepts patients who need temporary care for pain management or symptom control.

Before the opening of the Hospice House, these patients would have been hospitalized. With the new facility, the patient’s problem can be addressed without hospitalization, allowing the patient to go home after an average length of stay of five to 10 days.

“The patients are in much better condition to go back home,” says Director Charlotte Patterson, R.N.

Each of the 11 private rooms in the Hospice House has its own bath and private patio. Building features also include a family kitchen, sunroom and porches – all in a very homelike, non-institutional atmosphere.

“Patients and families are thrilled and talk about how peaceful and serene the surroundings are,” Patterson says.

An Administrative Building that is also part of the three-building campus houses staff offices as well as an expanded Grief Resource & Counseling Center. Numerous support groups meetings are held in the center, which also has appropriate space for individual as well as small- and large-group counseling sessions.

Additional features of the building include a 100-seat conference room, a comfortable family room, and an equipped craft room with a nearby pottery kiln.

According to Patterson, the expanded conference room space will allow the organization to host large programs for health care professionals or the community at large. An example is the upcoming DVD presentation “Beyond Kubler-Ross: New Perspectives on Death, Dying and Grief” that is scheduled for 2012.

“All services are available to the entire community whether there has been hospice involvement or not,” Patterson says.

The third building on the campus is a non-denominational chapel with moveable seating that can accommodate around 50 people. The building can be used for memorial services or other programs related to Hospice services or the Grief Resource & Counseling Center.

From a largely volunteer organization with one part-time employee, FirstHealth Hospice has grown into a program that recorded 43,522 patient days in hospice care during Fiscal Year 2011. During the same period, the Grief Resource and Counseling Center recorded 2,335 family contacts and 239 counseling sessions as well as 401 counseling sessions involving clients from the general public. The 99 support groups had a total attendance of 499.

With the expansion of space, there will be continued expansion of services – all thanks to the support of the FirstHealth Hospice Foundation.

“Simply, we would not have this facility without the Foundation,” says Gibbs. “If we didn’t have the support of the Foundation and of this community giving so generously, we wouldn’t have this campus. We work all together as a team, really hand in hand with each other.”

The FirstHealth Hospice & Palliative Care campus is located at 251 Campground Road, Pinehurst. For more information, call (910) 695-7510.

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