When you need someone to talk to, Hospice has the shoulders

August 08, 2002|by KEVIN CLAPP

Adona Burnett's voice hitches and cracks, leading social worker Lynn Schlossberg to rub a comforting hand along the 73-year-old's back.

Burnett is talking about her love, Roger, and the circumstances that have robbed the 80-year-old of his vitality.

The ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) diagnosis; the February 2001 stroke, "the night of a bad snow storm," she says. She remembers.

Roger Burnett was an Army veteran, a man whose dream was to open a one dining room restaurant and who had exceeded his goal by six since opening his Park-n-Dine restaurant in 1946.

In July 2001, Roger Burnett took a turn for the worse, and his daughter made the call to Hospice of Washington County. At the time, Adona Burnett didn't know Hospice existed but today, sitting in their Hagerstown office, she can't imagine life without the non-profit organization.


"I couldn't have made it. I had no idea the care and service they give," Burnett says. "They're there for me and I don't know what I'd do.

"I can talk to them, I can pour out my heart and soul to them. You need someone to talk to and they have good shoulders."

The registered nurses, social workers, home health aides and support services provided by Hospice help take care of families when a loved one is near death.

Sometimes, Hospice is called in with only days or weeks remaining. A year after the Burnetts met Schlossberg, Hospice continues to help take care of Roger Burnett.

Individualized programs are tailored to each family Hospice serves. A nurse visits the Burnetts once a week, as does a doctor and Schlossberg. A home health aide is present five days a week to help give Roger a bath. Hospice has made it possible for his oxygen to be in the garage, and will make it possible for him to test drive a piece of equipment to help him communicate with others, his ALS having largely robbed him of speech.

Last year, Hospice of Washington County worked with 292 patients and families. Their roster today is at 48. But among the biggest issues facing the organization is a lack of awareness about what Hospice is and who is eligible.

To provide care, Hospice requires a physician's order, but that doesn't mean a family member can't contact Hospice about someone who might fit the program.

"You hear this kind of a story and the unfortunate thing is she didn't know anything about Hospice, and if her daughter didn't know about Hospice they would be out there struggling on their own," says Hospice community liaison Dawn Johns of the Burnetts. "People need to know it's their benefit and their right if they have an end-of-life situation."

Which is one reason Hospice is serving up the annual Taste of the Town fund-raiser.

Eva Martin, co-owner with husband Marlin of Martin's Catering Service, will be returning to the Taste for the third year.

She also knows first hand the role Hospice plays, having used hospice services when one of her sisters died of cancer at age 50.

Introduced to hospice as her sister, who was deaf, neared death, the service made a difference for Martin, another sister and their mother, who served as primary caregivers.

"After you have a family member go through that, you can have a deeper sympathy for those who go through that experience," Martin says. "To have them come in and give some advice was very, very helpful."

Adona Burnett doesn't know what the last 12 months would have been like without the helping hand Hospice provides.

Her voice catches again.

"It's hard to believe in a year's time how much they've spent on us," she says, regaining her composure. "All I can say is one word. They're wonderful. They've just kept me going."

If you go:

Hospice of Washington County

101 E. Baltimore St.



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