WATCH: Wuesthoff Brevard Hospice & Palliative Care Offers Compassionate, Quality Service
By Maria Sonnenberg // April 30, 2021
first licensed hospice in Brevard County
WATCH: Who do you turn to for unique knowledge and psychosocial skills for you and your family when someone you love is seriously ill? Meet Keely G. Ricks, LCSW Medical Social Worker Wuesthoff Brevard Hospice & Palliative Care and Executive Director Sara Beil to learn more.
Under the direct supervision of your physician, Wuesthoff Brevard Hospice & Palliative Care’s highly skilled hospice professionals deliver quality, compassionate care.
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – When my father struggled through the last few pages of his life, hospice enabled him – and my family – to find peace and comfort in what could otherwise be life’s worst moments. That is the magic of hospice.
With a history that spans decades since Dr. Cicely Saunders began the movement in London, hospice embraces and affirms life by helping individuals in the last stages of incurable diseases to live their last days as fully as possible, free of pain and surrounded by people who love them.
Hospice, unfortunately, cannot cure the incurable or alter the unavoidable, but it can make life worth living for however many days an individual may have left.
The term derives from the Latin noun for a safe haven for weary travelers, an apt description of hospice’s philosophy of succor to those nearing the end of life’s journey.
“It is about dying comfortably and peacefully,” said Sara Beil, executive director for Wuesthoff Brevard Hospice and Palliative Care.
Since 1984, Wuesthoff Brevard Hospice and Palliative Care has served as safe haven for patients and their families. During its 35th. anniversary last year, the agency celebrated how its first executive director, Barbara Berman, RN, shaped the organization.
“This wonderful lady paved the way for the amazing agency I lead today,” said Beil. “Without this woman’s vision, my team would not have the privilege of delivering quality, compassionate end-of-life care.”
Like almost all individuals who are part of hospice, Beil easily fell in love with hospice and its philosophy.
“For us, hospice is a ministry, not a job,” she said.
“For my community, hospice is a gift and to be able to provide that on a daily basis is something I feel honored to do. The team I lead is inspirational on so many levels and it’s a privilege to do what I do alongside them. They challenge me to be a better leader, a better healthcare professional and not to settle for anything less than the best.”
The first licensed hospice in Brevard County and part of the LHC Group since 2018, Wuesthoff Brevard Hospice and Palliative Care serves an annual average of 600 patients and their families.
“We become an extension of their families for most patients, and for some, we are their only family,” said Beil.
Approximately 70 percent of patients receive hospice care at home. For the rest, hospice staff reaches out to nursing homes or treats them at the 12-bed Dr. Jey Pillay Center for Hospice at Wasdin Woods, a state-of-the-art residential facility in Rockledge.
The Dr. Jey Pillai Center for Hospice Care was built for the community by the community.
Local philanthropists Tom and Susie Wasdin were instrumental in securing the land. Dr. and Mrs. Ravindran Palaniyandi donated more than $1 million in honor of Dr. Palaniyandi’s brother and the facility’s namesake, Dr. Jey Pillai.
With the ambience of an upscale resort, the house’s 12-rooms each include a private patio overlooking manicured gardens, plus a pull-out chair and comfortable couch so family members can visit and stay 24/7.
“We also have an executive chef who understands that patients’ appetites may be limited during end-of-life care and will offer whatever makes the patient most happy,” explained Beil.
Whether at the Hospice House, nursing home or in patients’ homes, Wuesthoff Brevard Hospice staff provide the utmost care, enveloped by compassion and empathy.
“Our clinical staff have the opportunity to develop an intimate relationship with not only the patient but with their family as well,” said Beil.
Both staff and volunteers are committed to hospice, often for decades. Registered nurse Mary Coffey, for example, has served hospice patients for 35 years. Volunteer Loretta Spaulding also joined Wuesthoff Hospice 35 years ago. The combined clinical experience for the staff surpasses 350 years.
“We keep our nurse-to-patient ratios low so that they may have close personal attention the patient deserves,” said Beil.
“This also allows us the opportunity to provide the high-quality, compassionate care we have delivered since our first day in 1984.”
The hospice team is united in its devotion to the best care for patients.
“I love it when we hear “I cannot believe how fast things have come and how quickly we have responded,” said Renee Fisher RN, patient care manager. “I usually respond, “that’s hospice magic.”
Medical director Dr. Nabil Aziz agrees.
“It’s not about racing the clock to cure the disease, but it’s about what it takes to make the patient and family comfortable and accepting of it,” said Dr. Aziz.
“Hospice also provides caregiver stress relief and spiritual care which makes hospice different than any other aspect of healthcare.”
Joy Sewell chose to spend her last days at the Dr. Jey Pillay Center. The cancer patient had been part of the Wuesthoff Hospice family for some time, receiving care at home, with occasional trips to the hospice house when more extensive treatment was needed. When she peacefully passed away, birds were singing outside her room.
“It was a relief for her and it was comforting for me,” said her husband, Joe.
“I really can’t say enough good things about the Wuesthoff Hospice system and the Wuesthoff Hospice House, and the care they provide to everybody.”
Both of Vanessa Williams’ parents spent their last days at Wuesthoff Hospice House. For the family, the Hospice House – encircled by serene gardens presided by beautiful oak trees – was truly heaven-sent.
“We knew they were being very well taken care of,” said Williams. “We knew this was the place.”
Compassionate physical care during the last days of life can encompass joy celebrations of life’s important moments.
A young patient, engaged to be married before a terminal illness derailed her plans for a “happily ever after,” nevertheless got her wish for nuptials, wedding gown included, at the Hospice House chapel.
Another patient simply wanted one last time to feel the ocean on her toes.
“We coordinated with Brevard Medical Equipment and 1st. Choice Transport to get her safely to the water in Melbourne Beach,” said Beil.
“The best moment was seeing her hospice family and her church family coming together to celebrate her.”
Wuesthoff Brevard Hospice and Palliative Care is the only hospice in the county to offer a unique drone experience by partnering with the Flight to Remember Foundation at no cost to the patient.
“For our hospice patients, especially right now with travel being restricted and all of the things we are facing with COVID-19, this allows so much more for our patients and their families to go back and experience these things,” said Beil.
The experience offers patients a chance to view a live, streaming video of their favorite place or perhaps of a site they always wanted to visit. The Flight to Remember Foundation partners with drone pilots across the globe who volunteer their time and drones to take the video footage.
The organization coordinates a time with drone pilots so that patients can direct where to fly and areas they’d like to see most. Families take home a DVD of the experience they shared with their loved one during the “watch party.”
A Legacy of Love
Families of Wuesthoff Hospice patients are forever grateful for the Legacy Bears, each painstakingly sewn by volunteers to honor a patient’s memory and to bring comfort to the people he or she left behind.
“Our Legacy Bears are some of the most treasured items for families who have lost loved ones with our program,” said Beil.
“Most recently, we have been able to give “his and hers” Legacy Bears and a pillow made from a Carnival Cruise Line blanket.”
The Bears are the labor of love of the kind-hearted corps of volunteers who give of their time and talent to patients. Volunteers are a critical part of the hospice team in a variety of ways, from providing respite care that allows caregivers desperately needed time to do errands to delivering pain medications directly to patients’ homes.
The magic of hospice is very apparent to those who have personally experienced how much of a difference hospice can make in the life of family members.
Three years ago, Sara Leidich, who joined Wuesthoff Hospice as a community educator in 2019, lost both her mother and grandmother. One had hospice, the other did not.
“After witnessing the different experiences, I vowed to educate anyone who would listen how amazing and beautiful the gift of hospice is,” said Leidich.
Hospice is covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and most private insurance for individuals with end-stage illness for which there is no cure. However, hospice care is not limited to just a few days but is instead is designed to provide support throughout the final stages of illness.
For more information, call 321-253-2222 or visit WuesthoffHospice.com