Chattahoochee Hospice celebrates 35 years
WEST POINT — The end of life can be challenging for people and their family members, so for the last 35 years, Chattahoochee Hospice in Valley has been helping residents of the Valley and surrounding areas through those difficult times.
To celebrate its anniversary, the organization invited all personnel, volunteers and community leaders to the West Point Depot for a luncheon on Wednesday, Nov. 14. During the meal, Chattahoochee Hospice leaders spoke on the history of the organization from its origin in 1983 to today.
“In the United States, we used to just treat people for as long as hard as we could until the end of their lives,” said Chattahoochee Hospice Medical Director and founding board member Dr. Joseph Downs. “If they stopped breathing, we put them on a respirator and just kept them on their respirator. We never gave up, and a lot of people didn’t like that. A lot of people were not happy with that. They wanted to go home, and they wanted to bring their loved ones home.”
Thus, Chattahoochee Hospice was born. The idea of hospice care outside of a hospital setting was borrowed from England, Downs said, and the organization was completely volunteer based in its infancy.
“That was before Medicare approved funding for it,” said volunteer coordinator Hilda Jones. “Once the Medicare bill was passed to approve coverage in 1989, that is when they were able to start hiring employees, but the volunteer aspect is still very strong.”
Jones explained that there are approximately 40 volunteers that aid the 15 paid employees in providing care to the area. Volunteers serve as companions to those they serve, helping them stay comfortable and providing respite to their caregivers.
“It’s pretty much been my life for the last 16 years,” Jones said. “It’s an honor and a privilege to serve the people that we serve. Even above that, though, is that I have the privilege of working with these wonderful volunteers who are choosing to do this with no pay, just for the reward of serving other people.”
While the service provided has stayed consistent over the three-and-a-half decades, Chattahoochee Hospice administrator Adrian Holloway discussed how that consistency and change have gone hand-in-hand along the way.
“A lot of things have changed in the past 35 years,” she said. “Changes to the area, advancement in technologies. The one thing that has not changed is CH’s commitment to our mission statement that was set forth 35 years ago and our commitment to the community.”
After awards of recognition were given out to Chattahoochee staff members for their service, Downs echoed Holloway’s statements in his closing remarks.
“We are getting better, we are getting more experience in hospice care, and we are making progress in helping people be more comfortable at home,” he said. “As wonderful as the hospital is, it is not always the most comfortable place for them.”