Delaware Hospice: Susan Lloyd, President & CEO

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Unlike most of the US health care community, hospice leaders and staff operate, not from the position of treating and solving an illness, but from the standpoint of caring for and comforting both those suffering from a life-limiting illness and the needs of the patients’ families. Delaware Hospice does precisely that and the statewide non-profit hospice provider can serve as a symbol for how the hospice industry nationwide has evolved in the last quarter century.

Growing into Independence

Delaware Hospice cares for hospice patients throughout Delaware with three regional offices that provide care for each of the state’s three respective counties. “In designing the services, we wanted to be sure we could provide the same level of service for each region, even though Delaware is a very small state. So we have three centrally-located offices in Wilmington, Dover and Milford.  Each has a full complement of hospice team members,” says Susan Lloyd, President and CEO.  Aside from tending to the physical care needs of patients reaching the end of life, Delaware Hospice also addresses the emotional needs of both the patients and their families, extending this care to families beyond the patient’s life span with grief and loss services.   The organization employs over 300 staff members and enjoys strong volunteer support from the community, with approximately 600 volunteers who support the professional care team.

The biggest news from Delaware Hospice is the opening of the organization’s first hospice center in April 2008. The $15 million project, which was financed through a combination of a tax-exempt bond, a capital campaign and the organizations own assets, was built because to meet the needs of the community.  “We created a hospice center for patients who needed a new option of care, and we are now able to provide 24-hour specialized care for symptom management.   Ideally, a patient’s stay at the Center is brief and he or she is able to return to their home environment as soon as possible.”

Further Expansion on the Horizon

Lloyd says plans are underway for a similar hospice center to serve the needs of the northern parts of the state. “Given the increased need for this option of care, we feel it is a good time to launch this project, and we anticipate generous support from the community for it.  Certainly the current economic situation makes fundraising a challenge, but we have a 26 year tradition of meeting the needs of our community.  They have stood behind us; and, with continued support, we feel optimistic about our vision for a hospice center in New Castle becoming a reality.

Keeping Pace with the Changes in Hospice Care

Lloyd has spent over two decades with the organization and has witnessed significant growth and demand in this period. Lloyd attributes the growing demand to the state’s demographics and its aging population, but also cites the greater acceptance of hospice as an option of care and the public awareness that hospice is not only for cancer patients.  She said, “In the beginning, about 90% of the families we were servicing were patients with cancer and now that has changed to about 50-50.  Now we care for people with other diagnoses such as end-stage heart, end-stage lung, neurological diseases; these are things that we weren’t doing 20 years ago.”

Attaining and Maintaining a Precious Commodity: Hospice Staffers

As you would imagine, it takes a special care-provider to thrive in the world of hospice and Lloyd recognizes the unique environment that hospice care creates and looks for staff who are up to the demands of the job. For one thing, unlike traditional care units, there is not the same approach to tackling an illness and helping someone overcome a disease. Instead hospice staff, and nurses in particular, need to be centered on caring and comforting patients. Lloyd describes her staff as a magnificent team who are very tuned into their patients’ needs and to helping them deal with, not only the physical symptoms of their disease, but also the emotional aspect as well. “Our staff is obviously a team who is mission-driven and has a great deal of expertise in life-care issues in particular. People must have the right heart.  They must be able to understand and handle the reality of death and then be able to refresh themselves and get energized enough to take on the responsibilities of caring for the next family.”

Lloyd says that although the hospice organization has been blessed with a team of excellent care providers, recruitment is always an issue. “We need this special level of care from such a diverse group of disciplines– nurses, social workers, counselors, chaplains, and certified nursing assistants.  Lloyd hopes to continue the success they have enjoyed with great longevity in their staff. “As we grow, we are adding new staff and need to prepare and educate them so that they can fully appreciate the life-enriching rewards of providing hospice care.”

Keeping an Eye to the Future

Lloyd believes that the culture of Delaware Hospice combines an emphasis on patient care excellence and forward thinking. She says her organization is constantly looking at the community’s evolving needs. Lloyd goes on to explain that the goal of Delaware Hospice is very much the universal hospice message. “We continue to strive to make hospice a part of the continued health care system. Patients and families really need it and want it and we continue to make sure people have access to this care.”

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