This week's "My turn" column is by Lola Rathbone, chief executive officer and president of Catskill Area Hospice and Palliative Care Inc.
I have had the honor and privilege of being the CEO and president of Catskill Area Hospice and Palliative Care for all of 19 days. No one can fully understand what an honor that is unless he or she has had experience with this truly remarkable organization.
From our humble beginnings in 1983 as a small band of volunteers, Hospice has grown to become the 11th-largest employer in our area. Last year, we provided more than 55,000 visits to 819 hospice patients and families.
As the most successful hospice in New York state, we provided service to 40 percent of the patients who were hospice-eligible in our three-county area, far outreaching the average New York state hospice that only served 22 percent.
How have we achieved such success? The answer is easy _ by lovingly caring for one precious patient at a time. Having proudly served as a member of the staff here for the past 18 years, I can say without hesitation that it is our people that make the difference.
In fact, patients and families tell us time after time that if had they known that our staff would become like family to them, they would have sought hospice much earlier.
There are many misconceptions that people have that cause them to hesitate to call us. A common misconception is that hospice is only for cancer patients.
Only 30 percent of our hospice patients in 2008 had cancer. Most of our hospice patients have a wide variety of diagnoses, from cardiac diseases like congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, to liver or kidney disease or a dementia diagnosis.
Many of our patients also are facing the decline of the natural aging process that can lead to frequent emergency room or hospital visits with problems such as pneumonia, urinary infections and weight loss.