Local families needing end of life care have a new option in Carbon County. Compassionate Care Hospice, a nationwide hospice program specializing in quality of life and family support for patients with a terminal illness, now has an office in Jim Thorpe.

Until now, Compassionate Care Hospice has been serving members of the Carbon County community through its Allentown office. The decision was made to open an office in Jim Thorpe because the Allentown branch noticed a growing need for compassionate, family-based hospice care in our area.

"We have the support of a big company, located in a small town," said Lori LaRizzio, RN, a community nurse liaison for the program. She noted that Compassionate Care Hospice is known for its fast response time to both new and current patient needs, and for the additional time its staff members spend with patients each week.

"I think there is a great need in this area for this type of support."

The organization offers a wide range of services depending on each patient's needs, including physician and nursing care, spiritual and nutritional counseling, short-term respite care for families, and bereavement support and grief counseling. The hospice team also includes a social worker who can work with patients and families to coordinate additional care as needed.

"We're able to help with their growing needs. As their illness grows, their needs will also grow," explained LaRizzio.

She noted that the hospice staff meets regularly to review patient files, and to ensure that all staff members from the physician to nurses and a chaplain are updated on each patient's needs.

While hospice is appropriate for many terminally ill patients with a life expectancy of six months or less, LaRizzio noted that the families and patients who get the most out of the hospice program are those who contact hospice shortly after a terminal diagnosis. This allows patients and families to focus on maintaining the highest quality of life possible.

"We're able to come in early in the process and work with families who need this information and level of care," she said.

This might mean that some patients are in hospice for up to six months or longer, depending on how they respond to holistic, individualized care. Even if you are unsure whether it is time to begin hospice, it's never too early to contact Compassionate Care Hospice and start asking questions, LaRizzio noted. Staff members can assess your loved one's medical needs and determine whether he or she would benefit from hospice assistance now, and allow family members to become comfortable with the process.

"We want them to be happy with the decisions that they make," said LaRizzio.

While the Jim Thorpe office has been serving patients and families for several weeks, they will host an open house on Thursday, Feb. 14 from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. to welcome members of the community to their new office and allow local families to meet the staff and learn about the program's offerings.

"A lot of people have questions about the hospice process. Some baby boomers who are taking care of their aging parents might want to know when it's appropriate to start the hospice process, or how to start the conversation with their loved one," said LaRizzio. "Our open house is a good time to get those questions answered."

Compassionate Care Hospice is located in the Bott Building at 616 North St. in Jim Thorpe. The entrance is on the right side of the building.

For more information about Compassionate Care Hospice or to request a hospice consultation, go to www.cchnet.net or call (610) 770-6500 or (888) 680-6650.