Tree lighting

Carols are sung at the Light up a Life ceremony supporting Hospice of the Finger Lakes at Hoopes Park in 2015.

The Citizen file

November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month and programs across the country are reaching out to raise awareness about hospice care. Hospice is not a place but high-quality care that enables patients and families to focus on living as fully as possible despite a life-limiting illness.

“Every year, nearly 1.4 million people living with a life-limiting illness receive care from hospices in this country,” said Edo Banach, president and CEO of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. “These highly-trained professionals ensure that patients and families find dignity, respect, and love during life’s most difficult journey.”

Hospice care programs provide pain management, symptom control, psychosocial support and spiritual care to patients and their families when a cure is not possible. It combines the highest level of quality medical care with the emotional and spiritual support that families need most when facing a serious illness or the end of life.

Hospice consists of a caregiving team of physicians, nurses, social workers, home care aides, therapists, counselors and volunteers working together to take care of terminally ill patients and their loved ones. Services are primarily for patients that are determined to have six months or less to live. The medical, psychological and spiritual support given enables families and friends to remain together in peace, comfort and dignity. Statistics show that a majority of hospice patients have only receive services for 7 days or less. Most hospice programs encourage medical professionals and families to request services as early as possible once the life expectancy determination is made, to maximize the benefits of care and support they provide.

As John Smith, a hospice volunteer, noted: “Someone asked why I spend time volunteering for hospice. It’s because hospice was there for my family at a difficult time in our lives, and because hospice staff provide the best care possible when you need it most. Why do I volunteer for hospice? It’s about how you live!”

Here in Cayuga County, the Hospice of the Finger Lakes services and programs have grown steadily over the years and they have cared for over 3,500 patients and their families. They provide care for terminally ill individuals and their families in Cayuga County and the townships of Skaneateles, Spafford and Elbridge in Onondaga County. Hospice of the Finger Lakes also partners with the following health care facilities to provide inpatient hospice care: Matthew House, The Commons on St. Anthony and Finger Lakes Center for Living. More information about the variety of hospice programs available can be found on their website or by calling the agency at (315) 255-2733.

Throughout the year, Hospice of the Finger Lakes sponsors several local community events to promote their services and to help family members cope with grief and loss. Such examples are the Annual Service of Remembrance, Camp Hearts A’Hoy and several 5K runs, golf tournaments and dinner benefits.

There are also two very special events coming up this holiday season.

Hospice of the Finger Lakes will be holding its 30th Annual “Light Up A Life” Tree Lighting Ceremony on Thursday, Nov. 30, at the Hoopes Park clubhouse and gazebo in Auburn. Holiday songs by Perform4Purpose and refreshments begin at 4 p.m. and the tree lighting at the gazebo is at 4:45 p.m. The community is invited to come celebrate and remember the lives of cherished family members and friends who have passed away. The annual event welcomes donations in memory or in honor of family and friends. Donations also help assure that hospice services remain in our community for years to come.

Hospice of the Finger Lakes is sponsoring a Holiday Bereavement Support Group on Wednesday, Dec. 6, and continuing on Wednesday, Dec. 13, at the hospice office, 1130 Corporate Drive, Auburn. Both sessions meet from 3 to 4:30 p.m. The group is open to all area residents. Please call the office at (315) 255-2733 for more information and to register.

Please consider attending Light Up A Life on Nov. 30. It is a wonderful and heartfelt holiday tradition!

Janet L. Taylor is an aging services specialist with the Cayuga County Office for the Aging.