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In her 20 years as a volunteer with Caldwell Hospice, Reba Barlow considers her role ‘a blessing’ in which she is able to offer patients and caregivers a listening ear and a caring heart.


Originally published: 2014-02-15 14:47:45
Last modified: 2014-02-17 11:54:52

Caldwell Hospice expands to area

by Sherrie Norris

Hospice care has become essential to those with limited life expectancies and their families. Those of us who have gone through the hospice experience with our loved ones know that the services provided by the organization is incomparable and makes a difficult journey easier to bear.

 Within the last month, a new element to the area's end-of-life care has been added as Caldwell Hospice and Palliative Care announced that it is now serving patients and their families in Ashe, Avery, and Watauga counties.
According to communication specialist Pam Hildebran, for more than 30 years, Caldwell Hospice and Palliative Care has helped patients and families in Caldwell and adjoining counties face life's most difficult journey -- the end of life. Now, through a partnership with Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, Caldwell Hospice is expanding its services to include the High Country. With a holistic approach to care, Pam says,  the Caldwell Hospice direct-care team serves the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the terminally ill and those they love. The round-the-clock services the agency offers includes but is not limited to the availability of a highly competent medical team comprised of a registered nurse, physician, certified nursing assistants, medical social worker, and an on-call chaplain.

"Our desire to provide quality end-of-life care services to this area -- and our awareness of the existing need for services," says CEO Cathy Swanson, led to our decision to expand to western North Carolina's High Country."

She added that a full hospice team, including volunteers, has been based at a Boone workstation since late January. The same is also planned for Avery County very soon. 

The partnership with ARHS made the move up the mountain more desirable, Swanson said.

 On behalf of ARHS, Chuck Mantooth, president of Watauga Medical Center, says that the two health care entities share "a very similar vision and mission" and see many opportunities to work together in caring for their patients. "Through our clinical collaboration, Caldwell Hospice and Palliative Care and Appalachian Regional Healthcare System will leverage our resources and program strengths to provide outstanding hospice and palliative care locally at Watauga Medical Center, the Seby B. Jones Cancer Center, and in the home setting," says Mantooth.

The interdisciplinary team representing Caldwell Hospice strives for outstanding care through addressing the patients' physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. It gives their patients the opportunity to resolve unfinished business and share meaningful time with their families, says Hildebran. Specialized cardiac, pulmonary, and dementia care programs will also be available to help primary caregivers take a more active role in managing patients' symptoms, thereby enhancing their quality of life.

Bob Bumgarner of Boone represents the agency's numerous families that have already been impacted by the agency's care -- not just with one family member, but with two. 

"From the first time we met with the Caldwell Hospice staff, we were comfortable and confident in their ability to take care of dad -- medically, emotionally, and spiritually," he says, "-- and when Mom's time came, we were more than comfortable with the decision to allow Caldwell Hospice to come in."

Not only does Caldwell Hospice provide exceptional care for its terminally ill patients, but it also provides extensive -- and much needed -- bereavement services for the family members left behind. For more than a year, those individuals are given the opportunity to participate in support groups, grief workshops, and educational programs. The primary caregivers also receive handwritten, personalized notes as they approach meaningful anniversaries and special occasions in the first year after their loved one's death. 

"When a person you dearly love is nearing the end of their physical life here on this earth, it is a very difficult time for them and family and friends," said Blowing Rock resident Harvey Bauman. "Caldwell Hospice, with its talented medical and social skills staff, is an organization that is at your side, helping and sharing each hour with the patient and family."

In addition to caring for hospice patients, Caldwell Hospice offers palliative care services through Advanced Illness Management, more commonly known as AIM. The approach, which brings together the patient's entire medical team with the patient and primary caregiver, helps resolve symptoms related to the patient's illness, while educating and encouraging the patient and caregiver to regain quality of life and greater control over the patient's day-to-day life.

Volunteers make a difference
Hildebran stresses the importance of the Caldwell Hospice volunteer program -- and how each stage of care might require a unique approach. The "11th Hour" volunteers are available during patients' final 24-48 hours; bereavement volunteers make phone calls and write notes to family members in the months following patients' deaths; volunteer chaplains visit with patients and families, if requested, to offer spiritual and emotional support; vigil music volunteers bring soothing music to patients in their final hours; patient-family volunteers offer companionship and emotional support during their visits, while helping with light chores, reading, or just visiting.

Volunteers also provide several "enhanced services," such as the Legacy Project for videotaping patients' life stories; Veterans Honoring Veterans for recognizing patients' military service.

Caldwell Hospice provides a two-day training session for its potential volunteers, the first of which in the High Country, will be held in Boone on Tuesday, Feb. 18, and Thursday, Feb. 20 (see sidebar). Those interested in becoming a hospice volunteer will receive all the information and support they need from staff members regarding patient diagnoses, life expectancy and how their roles enhance to hospice concept. 

Long-time Caldwell Hospice volunteer Reba Barlow represents the agency well and is known and loved by many in her service area.

In her 20 year-years with Hospice, Reba has learned what to look for and how best to meet the needs of her patients and their families. Some hospice patients don't have family close by, she said, and sometimes, caregivers just need someone to talk to or someone to give them a break. She remembers sitting with a patient so his wife could go to the grocery store. What did she do?

"I just sat there and listened," she said. "It's as much a blessing for the volunteers as for the patients You come away like you've been served."

Even as a seasoned volunteer, Reba realizes the value of ongoing training. "All the training is something I can take and use," she said. "One patient at a time, one family at a time."


Caldwell Hospice seeks adult volunteers in the High Country

Caldwell Hospice and Palliative Care has scheduled its first High Country adult volunteer training sessions from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for Tuesday, Feb. 18, and Thursday, Feb. 20, in the kitchen classroom at Paul H. Broyhill Wellness Center, 232 Boone Heights Drive, Boone.

Volunteer training topics will include the hospice philosophy and standards of care, the history of Caldwell Hospice and Palliative Care, family dynamics when a loved one is dying, communication and safety procedures, best responses to dying patients' wishes and the wishes of their families, and other practical subjects.

Lunch and snacks will be provided.

Attendance is required both days.

For more information or to register, contact Director of Support Services Martha Livingston at (828) 754-0101 or (