Hope Hospice Celebrates 40 Years of Service

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Learn how this non-profit hospice organization born in a Pleasanton living room has evolved into a thriving agency that serves the entire Tri-Valley and adjacent East Bay cities. Plus: marquee anniversary events for the public, free community programs, and more.

“The nurses wore many hats then,” recalls retired nurse Dara Burke, who worked at Hope for 19 years. “They performed nursing tasks of course, but also many duties that today fall under home health aides, social workers, and chaplains. When you entered a family’s home, you became their angel."

Hope Hospice has kicked off our 40th Anniversary year, and we invite the public to engage in our special events throughout 2020, which are outlined below. Following these summaries are a few story angle suggestions to consider for your editorial lineup. We are happy to work with you on content that best fits your needs!

But first, here’s a snapshot of how the mission of Hope Hospice began in the hearts of a few local citizens:

Our Early Days
Today, Hope Hospice is a thriving organization with more than 100 clinical and administrative staff working together to improve the quality of life for hospice patients and their loved ones throughout the Tri-Valley and neighboring East Bay cities. But Hope was not always a household name. Our agency had the humblest of beginnings, which took root in the late 1970s among a group of friends discussing a situation that plagued their hearts: no one should die alone in a hospital.

“In those days, few people knew what hospice was,” recalls retired nurse Karen Archer, who worked at Hope for 26 years in both volunteer and staff capacities. “Families desperately wanted to move a terminally-ill loved one from the hospital to the comfort of home, but it wasn’t possible to do on their own. They needed the assistance of medical professionals to help with the clinical care, but full-time, in-home nursing was an insurmountable expense for most.”

In the U.S., it wasn’t until 1982 that hospice became a covered service under Medicare, and the preceding decades were full of educational efforts on the part of a few to explain comfort care of the dying and family support. Hope accepted our first hospice patient in April of 1980 and chose to operate until 1992 without Medicare reimbursements because of the founders’ desire to remain fully independent. What happened during the 12 years in between is the story of a group of dedicated, compassionate people who committed themselves to caring for local families throughout their most desperate, sorrowful season.

A Fledgling Agency Powered by Volunteers
In 1978, Richard “Dick” Martin, a banker by trade and a deacon at St. Augustine Catholic Church in Pleasanton, led early discussions among a group of concerned citizens about how to solve a problem: Families who wanted to care for a dying loved one at home could not do so without skilled nursing assistance and education. To stay in the hospital would wipe them out financially. He’d seen enough, as he told the Tri-Valley Herald in February 1979, and planned “to set up a program [to] help terminally ill patients die in dignity with as little financial worry as possible.”

A March 1979 letter went out to local churches and personal networks seeking community support, whether in time or dollars. It was important to Hope’s founding team that we not be tied to any organization to secure financing, and the road ahead as an independently funded hospice agency promised to be a rocky one. The fledgling Hope Hospice was entirely operated by volunteers.

To start, the Hope team consisted of a doctor, a chaplain, six registered nurses, and 15 home-care volunteers. Peter P. Wong, an esteemed Tri-Valley oncologist, served as the first medical director. Dick Martin was Hope’s first chaplain, providing spiritual care to our hospice patients and families. All of the nurses, the bereavement team, and office workers also volunteered their time.

“The nurses wore many hats then,” recalls retired nurse Dara Burke, who worked at Hope for 19 years. “They performed nursing tasks of course, but also many duties that today fall under home health aides, social workers, and chaplains. When you entered a family’s home, you immediately became their angel. That’s what made us special—we prided ourselves on our commitment to the patients.”

As word of Hope’s reputation for providing high-quality, sensitive hospice care quickly spread within the community, it became apparent that volunteers, with their limited availability, could not provide care for all those in need. In 1981, three new paid positions—a patient care coordinator, an assistant, and an office manager—provided regular support. Still, volunteers were the heart of Hope.

Fundraising was critical in the early days (and still is), when word of Hope hadn’t yet reached many in our community. Until our Medicare accreditation in 1992, grants, generous donations from the community, and other support covered the costs of patient care, including medical equipment rentals such as hospital beds and other tangible items needed for home care.

In addition to soliciting for individual donations, Hope produced some special fundraising activities. These included the Bud Brennan Golf Classic (an inspiration for our modern Hope 100 Golf Marathon), a thrift store in Pleasanton, and an annual cioppino/crab feed at the Pleasanton Fairgrounds (take note of An Evening of Celebration mentioned below and scheduled for October 2020).

Hope Hospice warmly invites the public to attend these important events during our anniversary year. Each of these events, in its unique way, helps raise financial support that Hope desperately needs to care for our hospice families and to produce our community programs, including the Family Caregiver Education Series and run our Grief Support Center.

March 26
First Annual By Your Side Awards Luncheon
This fundraiser will take place in the elegant ballroom at Castlewood Country Club in Pleasanton. Dublin Mayor David Haubert will be our Master of Ceremonies. Hope’s Associate Medical Director Dr. Kuljeet Multani delivers the keynote address. Dr. Multani is an expert in palliative care and hospice; she also is also a palliative care physician with Palo Alto Medical Foundation and a hospitalist at Stanford Health ValleyCare in Pleasanton.

Hope will honor two individuals who were instrumental in the founding and development of Hope Hospice. Their vision, dedication, and long-time service helped nurture Hope’s mission to support patients and their loved ones with exceptional care, compassion, and dignity at the end of life.

Peter P. Wong Legacy Award
For this inaugural year, we will present this eponymous award to the family of the late Peter P. Wong, MD, who volunteered his time as Hope’s first medical director, and stayed with us for over 30 years.

Richard L. Martin Service Award
Richard “Dick” Martin was Hope’s founder and first chaplain and volunteer coordinator, critical in rallying support in Hope’s early days. Members from his family will accept on his behalf.

Tickets for the By Your Side Awards Luncheon are on sale at HopeHospice.com/byyourside.

May 2
Tenth Annual Hike for Hope
Hike for Hope is a fundraiser and memorial hike that takes place each spring at Del Valle Regional Park in Livermore. About 600 hikers of all ages convene at the park for a fun day outdoors, including a post-hike barbecue lunch. All net proceeds benefit Hope’s patient care and community programs. Registration is now open at TheHikeForHope.com.

September 24
Sixth Annual Hope 100 Golf Marathon
The Hope 100 is a fundraising event at which an exclusive group of up to 36 passionate golfers solicit sponsorship from friends and family to support their play of 100 holes of golf in one day at Castlewood Country Club. Registration will open in early summer at Hope100GolfMarathon.com.

October 2020
An Evening of Celebration
In our organization’s early days, we put on an annual cioppino feed at the fairgrounds in Pleasanton, a community favorite for many years. We hope that fondness will surround our reimagined yet-to-be-named annual meal debuting this fall. It is envisioned as a joyous family gathering with delicious comfort food and wine and a chance to reconnect with our Hope supporters. Tickets will go on sale this summer. Watch for details at HopeHospice.com/40years.

1) Hope’s Living With Dementia Program

At Hope Hospice, dementia has surpassed cancer as the leading diagnosis upon admission. More than half of Hope’s patients are living with some degree of dementia. Dementia is an umbrella term that describes a group of symptoms that adversely affect a person’s cognition, as well as some behavioral abilities that interfere with a person’s daily functioning. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, but not the only one. Most patients with dementia will experience some form of memory loss in addition to a decline in other abilities such as communication skills, reasoning, and motor skills.

While dementia can be difficult and frightening for the patient, it can also be very challenging for family members. Watching a loved one begin to struggle with daily activities such as bathing, dressing, and eating is hard. Family members may also find it difficult to interact in meaningful ways with their loved one as his or her memory and other skills decline.

Hope provides dementia-specific education to family caregivers at no cost, even if their loved one is not on our hospice service. These classes will:

  • Help family caregivers understand how people living with dementia communicate their needs and desires through behaviors;
  • Provide tactics to assess, interpret, and respond to their loved ones to foster an improved quality of life;
  • Explore strategies for handling behaviors such as wandering, delusions, and aggression.

May we suggest an interview with program manager Jill Smith, RN?
Smith is a PAC Certified Trainer and Consultant (Teepa Snow’s Positive Approach to Care), a Dementia CARES® Specialist (Alzheimer’s Association), certified with the International Council of Montessori Dementia Professionals, and active on the National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners.

2) Hope’s Family Caregiver Education Series
Our Family Caregiver Education Series is available to any member of the community who is currently engaging as a caregiver to a loved one living with a terminal diagnosis or a disabling chronic condition, regardless of whether your loved one is a Hope Hospice patient. The 12-class series covers a variety of topics and provides training, education, support, and resources relevant to family caregivers. Plus, much like a support group, these classes provide an opportunity to connect with others who have shared experiences.

3) Evolution of Hospice Care in the U.S.
Here are a few markers, courtesy of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization:

Cicely Saunders (an English doctor considered the founder of modern hospice care) gives a lecture on specialized care of the dying at Yale University, a practice she helped shape during her years as a WWII nurse and later as an almoner (similar to today’s medical social workers), then doctor.

Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross publishes On Death and Dying, a booklet still in use today that explains in simple terms the five stages of dying through which terminal patients typically progress.

Kubler-Ross testifies at the first national hearings on the subject of death with dignity, conducted by the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging.

The first hospice legislation is introduced by senators Frank Church and Frank E. Moss to provide federal funds for hospice programs. The legislation is not enacted.

The National Hospice Organization (NHO) is established to promote the concept of hospice care in the U.S. The first conference takes place in Washington, D.C., in October. (NHO changes its name in 2000 to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.)

A U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare task force reports that “the hospice movement … is a viable concept and one which holds out a means of providing more humane care for Americans dying of terminal illness while possibly reducing costs. As such, it is the proper subject of federal support.”

NHO issues the first “Standards of a Hospice Program of Care,” adopted by the NHO Board of Directors in February.

The National Hospice Education Project is set up for the sole purpose of passing Medicare hospice legislation.

Congress includes a provision to create a Medicare hospice benefit. At this time, the federal government’s attitude toward hospice is still cautionary, and the new benefit has a sunset provision requiring its reevaluation in 1986.

Addition of hospice benefits in many third-party payer insurance plans.

The Joint Commission Hospice Accreditation Program is implemented.

As part of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (called COBRA), the Medicare hospice benefit is made permanent.

The growing hospice-education movement focuses national attention on quality of life at the end of life as well as the need for increased public awareness and physician education.

A Gallup survey organized by the National Hospice Foundation finds that most adults would prefer care at home and would seek a hospice program if they had six months or less to live. The survey also reveals that most Americans do not realize that hospice care is available at home and that costs are typically covered by Medicare or private health insurance.

Research published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management reports that hospice patients live an average of 29 days longer than similar patients who did not have hospice care. The Journal also publishes the findings of a major study out of Duke University showing that hospice services save money for Medicare and bring quality care to patients and families.

About Hope Hospice
Hope Hospice is proud to have served the Tri-Valley and neighboring East Bay cities since 1980. We are committed to supporting patients and their loved ones with exceptional care, compassion, and dignity. Hope provides quality end-of-life hospice care, grief support, dementia-care education, and family caregiver education. As a community-led, non-profit organization, Hope Hospice offers services regardless of insurance, income status, nation of origin, or religion. Staff is available 24/7. Hope Hospice is accredited by the Joint Commission, licensed by the State of California Department of Health Services, and Medicare/Medi-Cal certified. Learn more at HopeHospice.com or contact us at (925) 829-8770.

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Kendra Strey
Hope Hospice
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