Letters to the Editor - Dec. 30

December 30, 2011

Panhandle Hospice remains a local nonprofit

To the editor:

For years, hospice care in our community has been delivered by an incredibly skilled group of individuals — both employees and volunteers. The Eastern Panhandle has come to expect professional, competent care. Hospice of the Panhandle works hard to deliver excellent care to every patient and his or her family every single day.

As a nonprofit organization, Hospice of the Panhandle does this because it is the right thing to do.  Every hospice in our country may not have the same primary driver. In other areas, hospice care is delivered by for-profit organizations — some who deliver top-notch care, and unfortunately others whose primary focus is making money. This can lead to questionable admission processes and offering care to people who are not eligible for care.

Hospice of the Panhandle has a multi-step specific process to determine a person’s eligibility for care. We do not and never have given our admissions staff or physicians incentive pay. We do work to serve all eligible people. We set goals to increase the number of people we serve — not to raise revenue, but because we believe all people at the end of life have the right to chose comfort-oriented, home-based care.

Our organization is local, lead by 15 volunteer board members from Berkeley, Jefferson, Morgan and Hampshire counties — the four counties we serve.

From time to time, we hear stories about the practices of other hospices. I would like to reassure our community that Hospice of the Panhandle is a local, not-for-profit organization that practices ethically and complies with all regulations.

In a world that is not always what it appears to be, it is important to remember that what happens in a few organizations is not reflective of all. Hospice care in our community is mission-driven and provides compassionate care at the end of life. That focus will allow us to continue to provide the excellent care our community has come to expect.

Margaret Cogswell, CEO
Hospice of the Panhandle
Martinsburg, W.Va.

New senior center will be a top-notch facility

To the editor:

Six years ago, community leader and dedicated advocate N. Linn Hendershot proposed building the first senior center in Washington County. His dream is about to become a reality.  

Linn believed, passionately, that senior centers are vital for the sake of the soul of this community.

After all, how we treat our elders, 30,000 strong, whose labor, sacrifices, and tax dollars built this county, is a true measure of a community’s values. And most elders, if you ask them, will tell you that growing old is not easy.  It is a time of earned wisdom, but it is also a time of considerable loss and challenge.

Quite simply, senior centers are a sign and a symbol that the community cares about its elders. Fully functional senior centers offer a wide array of programs, opportunities, information and assistance to help older persons age with grace, dignity and self-sufficiency. Construction of a fully-functional senior center is identified as a priority goal in the recently released “SCIP” document.

Typical opportunities offered by fully functional senior centers, which are paid for by grants, fees and contributions, include:

• Assistance with Medicare Part D; health insurance and Medigap counseling.

• Benefits checkup and benefits application assistance.

• Information and assistance with short- and long-term care supports and problems.

• Outreach to other parts of the county; collaboration with other organizations.

• Health education and screening; counseling; respite care programs for spouses/partners while the caregiver attends programs; caregiver information, assistance and education.

• Legal services; income tax preparation; financial counseling; computer instruction.

• Educational programs; exercise and fitness instruction and classes; team sports.

• Language instruction; dance, crafts, art, music, photography classes and shows.

• Volunteer opportunities; eating breakfast or lunch together; games; cards.

• Discussion groups; support groups; group events; legislative forums; concerts.

Senior centers are part of the fabric of almost all counties across this country. During the past five and an half years, using a community assessment process as their guide, several committees comprised of older adults and younger supporters worked with the commissioners to explore the idea of building the first of several senior centers throughout our county.  Field trips and public presentations were made. Countless vacant buildings were evaluated, but were deemed inadequate because of structural issues, parking, cost or location.   

About two and an half years ago, the commissioners proposed, and now plan to build the first and primary senior center at Hagerstown Community College.

It will have bus service to the front door, other transportation options and will be a building dedicated to and suitable for elders, but available for community use when not needed for senior center operations.

The opportunities at HCC for collaborative projects with students and faculty, and for lifelong learning opportunities will put in place a senior center not just for current generations of older adults in the county, but also for generations to come.

The commissioners' visionary plan has attracted support from the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, a world-renowned family foundation known for its support of and expertise in the field of aging. The foundation has lauded the cutting-edge concept of a senior center located on a college campus, and have pledged capital funding.

In the interim, the community has lost several members of the original senior center planning group, including Linn.  

He did not live to see the N. Linn Hendershot Senior Center become a reality. It is clear that now is the time to build the first senior center in the County, located at HCC. Further delays will only mean additional costs and additional community members who will not live to see the senior center built in their lifetimes.  

William K. Beard, Jr.
Edward C. Wurmb III
Susan J. MacDonald
Washington County Commission on Aging Inc./
Area Agency on Aging for Washington County

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