Skagit Hospice comes to San Juan County

Hospice care in the San Juans is getting a boost from an established Mt. Vernon program.

Hospice care in the San Juans is getting a boost from an established Mt. Vernon program.

Skagit Valley Hospice is setting up medicare-funded hospice services for all of San Juan County. Working collaboratively with local volunteer hospice and respite services, Skagit Hospice’s program will be a supplement to local volunteer efforts.

Skagit Hospice offers an interdisciplinary team of nurses, social workers, chaplains, home health aids, a medical director, and physical, occupational, and speech therapists. It will provide and pay for medications and equipment associated with a diagnosis, and offers complimentary massage and music therapy as well as a team of volunteers for respite stays and errands. The program can also provide respite in a facility.

“It’s a pretty extensive program. The nice thing is that it’s holistic. We don’t just look at the medical side of dying, we look at the spiritual and emotional side too. And we make sure family members, not just the patient, are taken care of,” said Wendy Lewis, RN, Director of Clinical Services for Skagit Hospice. After a patient passes away, Skagit Hospice offers a 13-month bereavement program for family members.

Its main office is in Mt. Vernon, but it serves Island and Snohomish County in addition to San Juan County. Skagit Hospice will offer its services on San Juan Island first, with an office in the technology center slated to open in April or early May. “We have a great working relationship with the convalescent center and hospice volunteers there. As staff comes aboard, we’ll move to the other islands,” said Lewis.

Skagit Hospice will not be replacing or changing existing programs in the San Juans. “A patient can have both. They can use Skagit Hospice as well as the volunteer programs. It’s a win-win for both organizations,” commented Lewis.

Susan See, president of the board of directors for Hospice of San Juan, said: “Hospice of San Juan welcomes Skagit Valley Medicare Hospice to San Juan County. We view their services as a much-needed component of the local healthcare community. Our hospice will continue to serve our community as a whole, as we have for the past 25 years. We will remain an all-volunteer hospice and respond to those in need as neighbors helping neighbors in the tradition of the original volunteer hospices of the 1960s and 1970s, and as envisioned by our founders, offering direct care and emotional and practical support to patients and their families with terminal or life threatening illnesses, at no cost.”

Ginger Lowell, director of Lopez Island Hospice and Home Support, offered similar sentiments. “We’re pleased that Skagit Hospice is bringing Medicare-certified hospice services to Lopez! From its beginnings in 1998, Lopez Island Hospice and Home Support has envisioned this as an enhancement of the services our volunteers provide. We love the fact that Skagit is working through Lopez people; together with the Lopez Care Partners, a network of health-support organizations, we now have one more way of helping our family and friends to be able to stay in their own homes as they deal with life-transitioning issues.”

“Lahari Volunteer Hospice is supportive of Skagit Hospice and their medicare program in the San Juan Islands. We anticipate a fruitful collaboration, although at present the nature of this relationship is yet to be determined,” said Suzi Rose, administrator for Lahari House, which is located on Orcas.

Skagit Hospice is a medicare program, so patients must qualify for services. “We serve the terminally ill and children of any age up to 100+. And you don’t need to have medicare to qualify. We take patients regardless of payer source and age, even if you have no ability to pay,” said Lewis.

The hospice program is supported by the Skagit Hospice Foundation, which is looking for board members. “They would love to have some from the islands,” said Lewis. She also encourages phone calls from anyone interested in enrolling in the hospice program. “We’re happy to talk with you. Please call us.” Lewis can be reached at 360-848-5550.

To contact Lopez Island Hospice and Home Support call 468-4446; the Lahari House can be reached at 376-0540; and Hospice of San Juan is at 472-0322.