League of Women Voters to host hospice forum

They both help make death less painful.

Clallam County has two hospice care providers that provide home care to the terminally ill and their families — Volunteer Hospice of Clallam County and Assured Hospice of Clallam and Jefferson Counties.

The League of Women Voters of Clallam County is moderating a forum titled “Understanding Hospice” at 2 p.m., Thursday, April 17, with the hope of making the community more aware of what hospice is, as well as the differences between the two providers, one a volunteer organization and the other a for-profit business.

The forum will be held at the Olympic Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at 73 Howe Road, off Barr Road in Agnew.

Speaking on behalf of Assured Hospice will be Julie Ostling, the company’s community education coordinator and liaison. Speaking on behalf of VHCC will be executive director and co-founder Rose Crumb.

“If this is going to be helpful to the general public, then I’ll be there. I like to educate people,” Crumb said when asked whether or not she was looking forward to the event.

Crumb, along with six other individuals, founded VHCC in 1978. A professional nurse, Crumb said the inherent intimacy of hospice is what originally appealed to her. Crumb had had her own experience with home care 18 years earlier, taking care of her terminally ill father.

“I had no concept whatsoever of what the family was going through until I had this personal experience. My dad and I talked so openly about his dying and I thought, whoa, when I heard about hospice. It all clicked. I thought that it was the most rewarding nursing that I had ever done,” Crumb said.

VHCC, which is financed by private donations, has 112 volunteers serving in Port Angeles and Sequim. According to Crumb, an average of 55-60 patients and their families are being helped at any given time.

VHCC employs registered nurses who take care of the patients’ physical and medical needs. Trained volunteers stay with the patients while their primary caregivers take a break or attend to other things. The volunteers also help caregivers and patients work through what is a highly stressful and emotional time. The volunteer’s role could be something as simple as listening to a caregiver’s fears or helping with funeral arrangements.

Although neither Ostling nor anyone from Assured Hospice could be reached for contact, Assured’s Web site says the company is employee owned with more than 300 certified professionals, including registered nurses, home health aides and social workers. Unlike VHCC, Assured is a for-profit organization and is paid through patients’ Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance companies.

When asked what she thought was the difference between VHCC and Assured, Crumb said, “That’s what we’re going to find out. I assume there’s going to be a lot of questions.”

Olympic Medical Center was asked by the League of Women Voters to participate in the forum, but declined. According to the hospital’s assistant administrator Rhonda Curry, the hospital is a neutral, non-party in the debate between VHCC and Assured.

“We don’t have a contract with any hospice,” Curry said. “By law we have to be fair and balanced.”

Curry said the hospital provides information to patients regarding both hospice providers, but it’s up to the patients and their physicians to decide upon a provider.

“It’s such an individual choice,” Curry said.

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