“This last chapter of Dad’s life reminds me of being on the water at night.
Everything seems ominous and uncertain.
There are uncharted hazards to watch for.
I cannot see the big waves coming.
Then there is Hospice, like the bright beam of a lighthouse, marking the channel home.”
— A reflection from a Martha’s Vineyard resident
Best-selling author and physician Atul Gawande, who writes on the human side of doctoring, says that we can do better at handling how we live the end of our lives. His new book, “Being Mortal,” is bringing sharp focus to the topic.
Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard is a clear, nearly unique example of how to bring love, dignity, and respect to the end-of-life experience. Hospice does its work quietly. For nearly 35 years its culture has been to give help rather than asking for it. Hospice, for example, has never charged for end-of-life counseling and patient-care services.
“We find that not having to deal with insurance paperwork and insurance prognosis rules allow doctors and nurses to spend more time in caregiving. They write patient reports, of course, but it is amazing how much more time is spent giving care as opposed to the paperwork,” Board Member Debby Ware told The Times recently.
The Hospice motto is “neighbors helping neighbors,” and their work has attracted physicians, nurses, bereavement counselors, and just plain folks who visit clients and give caregivers a respite by shopping, babysitting, or walking the dog.
The service is funded by donations and fundraisers, including its upcoming annual soiree and auction at Farm Neck Golf Club on August 10.
The evening includes hors d’oeuvres and raw bar, a complete dinner (with beverages) catered by Jaime Hamlin’s Truly Scrumptious catering company, and both live and silent auctions.
For 28 years, the organization worked from a trailer on the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital grounds. Five years ago, the hospice service got an office in a real building in Tisbury Marketplace. Ms. Ware is thrilled with the upgrade. “We have space for an office and a private space where patients and their families can receive counseling and talk with us about their needs,” Ms. Ware said.
By the end of this decade, nearly one-third of Island residents are projected to be 65 years or older, and Hospice is at the eye of this demographic storm: A rapidly aging Vineyard population is resulting in an increased demand for hospice services (which include family bereavement counseling for a year after loss of a family member). “In 2014, we provided care and counseling for 60 clients,” Ms. Ware said. By midway through 2015, Hospice had already worked with 60 clients.
“We might be at the center of the storm, along with the housing and staffing needs the Island is facing,” Executive Director Terre Hunt said this week. “We are not alone in the storm, but we are there. Our storm is not just older patients, but whole families. Our clients, now in their 80s and 90s, were in the prime of their lives 35 years ago, and they went to the meetings and churches and said, ‘Yes, let’s bring this to Martha’s Vineyard and take care of our neighbors.’ Now they are on the path to the end of their lives. We will take care of them, our neighbors. That’s why our service isn’t restricted by insurance rules and laws,” she said.
“The storm for me at Hospice is that my community, my neighbors can and will continue to fund us with donations and gifts in memory,” Ms. Hunt said. “We have a $446,000 budget that provides for five nurses serving 32 clients, and three bereavement counselors serving 74 clients right now. We have a staff of 25 wonderful, caring volunteers,” she said. Martha’s Vineyard Hospital Physician Dana Guyer serves as the nonprofit’s medical director, and Mary Beth Daniels is its chaplain.
At the August 10 soiree, auction items will include:
- Celtics High Five Package: two courtside seat tickets. Bring your 5- to 13-year-old child to enjoy the High Five Kids Tunnel before the game, participate in the pregame warm-ups and receive a souvenir to remember the experience.
- Hand-sewn quilt: queen-size quilt from Sloan Hart of Dakota Indigo Quilts
- Cocktail party for 25 catered in your home by Truly Scrumptious
- Punta Cana, Dominican Republic: Saturday to Saturday stay at the all-inclusive Melia Tropicale Resort
- Sunset Sail on Sail MV’s gracious Concordia yawl Dolche, with hors d’oeuvres and wine from sisters Hope Callen and Nina Thayer
- Alison Shaw photo of the Islander ferry (pictured above)
- Trio of autographed books from Island historian David McCullough
- Sculpture by Fly Creek Studio artist David Bryce
- An outdoor shower built by the Three Amigos
Silent Auction (60 items to date):
- Three David McCullough books, each autographed, including his newest about the Wright brothers
- Gift certificate for two nights at the Hob Knob Inn, Edgartown
- Allen Sheep Farm woven wool blanket
- Gift certificate to Sense of Wonder Camp 2016
- Various gift certificates to a number of Island restaurants
The Hospice Soiree is at Farm Neck Cafe on Monday, August 10. Tickets are $150, partially tax-deductible, and are available from the Hospice office at 508-693-0189, online at hospiceofmv.org by August 3, or at the door.