|Montgomery County residents Lois and Johnny Morton are the primary caregivers for her 94-year-old father. When he was diagnosed with terminal Alzheimer’s, Morton sought the assistance of FirstHealth Hospice & Palliative Care, the same hospice program that provided services for Morton’s mother nine years ago.|
TROY – A few months ago, when Troy resident Lois Morton learned that her 94-year-old father had terminal Alzheimer’s disease, she knew he would soon need hospice care.
As she had done nine years before with her mother, Morton turned to FirstHealth Hospice & Palliative Care.
“I wanted the best,” she says. “I had it with Mama, and I wanted it with Daddy.”
The only hospice affiliated with FirstHealth of the Carolinas, the not-for-profit FirstHealth Hospice & Palliative Care offers services to patients and families in both Montgomery and Moore counties.
“Services are identical, no matter where the patient resides and, because of the support of the FirstHealth Hospice Foundation, are available to anyone who needs them, regardless of the ability to pay,” says Hospice director Tina Gibbs.
As every other FirstHealth Hospice patient, Shafter Odom, Lois Morton’s father, is cared for by a specially trained team that includes a registered nurse, a social worker, a home health aide, a chaplain and support volunteers. His family also has access to substitute caregiver and medication assistance programs.
The nurse, social worker and aide assigned to the Morton home make regular visits to care for Odom, who calls them his “little girls.” They are also available when needed, a service that became apparent to his family when Odom broke his cheek and nose during a late-night fall a few weeks ago.
Morton got in touch with the on-call Hospice nurse who said she would be on her way immediately. When Morton asked if she could call 911 instead, the nurse agreed but said she would also be calling to check on Odom’s condition. She also called the emergency department where Odom had been taken to see how he was doing.
“That’s not just a job,” Morton says. “It’s going beyond a job. That made me feel so good.”
Services of FirstHealth Hospice are individualized to fit the needs of each patient and family and, according to Jenny Snead, R.N., assistant director, Hospice House, are available to patients who are newly diagnosed with a life-limiting illness as well as to those who are actively dying.
“We talk to them about what’s going to happen and how to prepare,” Snead says.
Although most Hospice patients are cared for in the familiar surroundings of their home – whether a private residence or a nursing home or assisted living facility, all are eligible for the acute symptom-control care that is provided in the inpatient FirstHealth Hospice House near Pinehurst.
As with in-home hospice care, the services of the Hospice House are also individualized. Most of the physicians who work in the 11-bed facility are certified in hospice and palliative care, and they make regular rounds there. Each is also a hospitalist, a specialist in internal medicine with no other responsibilities than the care of their hospitalized patients.
Another important component of the FirstHealth Hospice program is the family support that continues even after the death of the loved one. Located on the Hospice campus, the Grief Resource & Counseling Center is staffed by licensed clinical social workers who are trained to offer individual, family and group counseling for children, teens and adults.
Center-sponsored events include community workshops, support groups and educational programs as well as Camp Lost & Found, an age-appropriate summer program for children and teens who have lost someone special. An on-site lending library has an extensive collection of books, videos and CDs on topics related to death, bereavement and end-of-life issues.
Most importantly, for many Hospice families, including Lois Morton and husband Johnny, Hospice becomes “like a family.” According to Morton, the nurse who was with her mother when she died nine years ago this January not only stayed with the family until she was sure she was no longer needed, but also made the difficult call to the funeral home.
“That’s how good these people are,” Morton says, “the best of the best. The most valuable thing they can give you is time, and that is priceless. That’s above and beyond, above and beyond.”