When a patient seeks hospice care, they are in an end-of-life situation needing comfort and good quality of life. It’s up to hospice workers to provide that quality of care to patients who are in their final stretch and act as a holistic resource for the patient and their family.
“For some folks, this is the first time they’re experiencing end-of-life issues. And it may be their spouse or it may be their parent [having hospice care],” says Rev. Maria Miller, chaplain at Lutheran Hospice. “We’re able to get in there and help them talk through what they’re feeling, in addition to what the patient is feeling.”
Miller has been at Lutheran Hospice for more than 16 years. This month, Lutheran Hospice celebrates its 25th anniversary of helping patients and their families in an emotional and uncertain time.
The services Lutheran Hospice provides
Lutheran Hospice operates as a service provider that meets the patient whether they are living at home or at a retirement community. It staffs around 25 employees for between 45-50 patients, according to Miller. Usually, a certified nursing assistant comes in at least five times a week to assist with taking care of the patient — the CNA often helps with changing beds, nail care of the patient and other care that a patient’s family may not be trained to do. A registered nurse visits about once a week to check in on the patient.
Of course, there’s also psychosocial care.
Not only will Lutheran Hospice ensure the patient’s mental health is cared for, but the hospice follows families for 13 months after the death of the patient in order to help the family with their grief.
Hospice is also less expensive than most people realize, Miller says. People often don’t know it is a Medicare benefit. And even if someone is too young to receive Medicare benefits, Miller says, there are other ways to pay for the care, including from the foundational arm of Lutheran Hospice.
Lutheran in name, but open to all
While Lutheran Hospice does work with the Lutheran Church, they never push patients to a faith, according to Miller.
Miller says that she speaks with patients about who they are. “I’ll preach scripture and say prayers with them,” Miller says. “If they’re not able to converse, I’ll sing for them.” She says her specialties are hymns, showtunes and Irish drinking songs — something for everyone.
They’ll talk about the patient’s regrets and what achievements they are proud of.
Patients come from a variety of faith backgrounds. Some like having a chaplain because it helps their family cope or they enjoy the spiritual aspects.
“I’ve had a Buddhist that asked to have chaplains because her father, who was Jewish, had us,” says Miller. “And she said, ‘I saw how kind you were to my dad and not trying to push your religion on him.’ So she said, ‘You know, I’ll have you come visit.’”
1911: Melissa Rauch Lowman offered her 800-acre farm to the Lutheran Church in order for the church to take care of her developmentally-disabled children.
1924: The Lowman Home becomes a nonprofit organization, eventually becoming Lutheran Homes of South Carolina Inc. in 1990.
1995: Lutheran Hospice emerged from Lutheran Homes and began administering person-centered care to people of all faiths and beliefs by crafting custom end-of-life plans.
2011: Lutheran Hospice moved from Greer to Greenville in August 2011 with the help of Trinity Lutheran Church, Greenville.
2016: Lutheran Hospice expands service into Oconee, Pickens and Anderson counties. In addition to these counties, Lutheran Hospice also serves Greenville, Spartanburg, Cherokee and Laurens counties.
2020: Lutheran Hospice celebrates its 25th anniversary. Regardless of the pandemic, Lutheran Hospice continues to care for patients and their families.