● By Style
Photos by Dante Fontana, © Style Media Group.
Thanks to the key role that native Englander Cecily Saunders played in the formation of palliative care, we now have hospice, which compassionately responds to the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the terminally ill.
In doing so, it has helped the medical community revolutionize treatment of the dying and, in large part, has changed the perception of death in Western culture. Today, there are 5,000 hospice programs nationwide, and a movement advocating dignity in death.
A member of these ranks since 1981, Snowline Hospice of El Dorado County was founded by Dr. Douglas Tustin to provide the terminally ill in the Western Slope and, more recently, Folsom and Rancho Cordova, compassionate end-of-life care. And yet, despite three decades of notable achievements, death remains a taboo topic for many – and Snowline Hospice, something of a mystery.
“One of mankind’s greatest fears is dying,” reasons Jennifer Eells, community outreach coordinator for Snowline Hospice, introduced to hospice through her brother who benefited from its care before succumbing to cancer. “Yet death is the ultimate common denominator of all mankind. Everyone will face life’s final journey at some point. Hospice philosophy focuses on patient comfort and is dedicated to helping patients and families live each day to the fullest.”
Helping achieve this goal are eight-person teams consisting of a medical director, attending physician, nurse, hospice aide, trained volunteer, social worker, spiritual care provider and bereavement coordinator. Each group empathetically attends to all of a patient’s needs so the individual may die peacefully and comfortably at home or in a hospice facility, surrounded by family, who can elect to receive bereavement care for up to 13 months following the death of a loved one.
Accommodating people of all ages, religions, races and illnesses, Snowline Hospice also supports the living with a variety of services for caregivers and others faced with loss. Healing All Together, for example, provides free-of-charge peer support and art therapy for grieving children, teens and their families (a direct affiliation with Snowline Hospice is not required to join), while We Honor Veterans caters to soldiers. This is particularly significant given that one in every four American deaths is a veteran (in El Dorado County this ratio is one in three). A project of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, in partnership with the United States Department of Veteran Affairs, We Honor Veterans focuses on the unique physical and psychological issues of a niche group – one that grapples with such issues as unresolved grief, survivor’s guilt and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Offering veteran-to-veteran volunteer caretaking, assistance navigating veteran benefits, and recognition ceremonies are among the ways Snowline Hospice serves those who have served the nation.
Although Medicare and Medi-Cal cover the costs of hospice care, and many private insurance policies offer a hospice benefit, patients without means are never turned away for an inability to pay. Snowline-sponsored events and funds generated by sales from its thrift stores (in Camino, Placerville, Cameron Park and Folsom) allow the organization to continue to offer the community “care beyond the cure.”
Visit snowlinehospice.org for more information.