Hospice of St. Francis, a Place Where Brevard County Residents Can Turn to for Support
As anyone who’s ever dealt with a terminal illness or end-stage life situation knows it’s not something you want to endure alone. It can be one of the most difficult and profound experiences you’ll ever have to undergo, and Hospice of St. Francis understands how trying it can be, which is why they’re there to help.
Founded in 1977 by registered nurse Emilie Sasko with the concept of neighbor helping neighbor, the nonprofit has come a long way over the last four decades, but one thing has remained the same: They are always there for you—and they are all over the county.
This is one of the more important aspects HOSF wants members of the community to know. It seems that with the construction and opening of their cozy 12-bed inpatient care center in Titusville back in 2014, many people are under the mistaken impression that that’s all there is to this invaluable service. But that’s not the case.
HOSF’s focus is on in-home services and quality of care because their goal is to keep people in familiar surroundings, wherever they are, whenever possible. Recognizing that it can be completely overwhelming without the proper resources in place, they serve the entire county, 24/7, going where they’re needed most.
Their visits extend to places such as nursing homes, hospitals and assisted living facilities. From Mims to Barefoot Bay, they’re on it.
If you’re not familiar with hospice and the dedicated folks who carry out their services, they are compassionate caregivers committed to sharing the heavy load. And it’s not just for terminal patients. Their support extends to the friends, family members and loved ones who are there for the ailing.
The group serves as an emotional support system or safety net, as it were, for anyone trying to navigate the choppy waters of terminal illness, and it can be the life preserver that helps you survive the storm when the responsibility of caring for someone falls on you.
But hospice couldn’t do all the amazing work they do without the aid of volunteers. Mary Larson, director of Community Relations at Hospice of St. Francis, emphasized the importance of their marvelous volunteers and the integral role they play in the program.
While many of these earthbound angels are retirees, most say they just wanted to be able to give something to those in need and/or to make a difference in someone else’s life. What they all agree on—and often didn’t expect—is the immense difference it’s made in their own lives and how much they’ve gotten out of the experience.
Speaking of which, Hospice of St. Francis, like most hospice services, is always looking for volunteers. It doesn’t take a lot of time to perform (one to three hours a week), HOSF is extremely flexible with scheduling and placement (field or office work), and ongoing training is provided—oh, and the rewards are immeasurable.
Another area of their good works, which provides seemingly endless smiles to all who come into contact with them, is the inclusion of therapy dogs during visits. Pets are known to reduce stress levels, promote a sense of well-being, alleviate depression and even boost levels of feel-good hormones like oxytocin.
As you’d expect, these four-legged companions make the rounds with their trusted owners paying calls wherever their presence might be welcome, which is just about everywhere they go. The visits are short, only 15 to 20 minutes at a time, but the results are far-reaching for everyone involved.
Recognizing that not everyone who wants to contribute to those in crisis can get out and about, HOSF works with individuals who can help in their own unique ways. For some, it might be sewing or knitting, like volunteer Elaine Flynn who makes quilts.
Elaine donates handmade patriotic quilts to Hospice of St. Francis in conjunction with the We Honor Veterans program. The quilts are presented during pinning ceremonies to patients who are veterans in order to thank and honor them for their service to their country. The responses these heartfelt offerings elicit can be quite emotional for both the recipients and the crafters of these thoughtful tokens of appreciation.
We Honor Veterans is a program of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Due to their involvement, HOSF is always looking for veterans to volunteer, as there is a shared camaraderie between members of the military that spans all branches of the armed forces, making it easier to relate to other veterans.
This is just another example of the many caring and compassionate programs HOSF is involved in. They also offer a bereavement program and a child grief support program to the community free of charge.
If you’re interested in being a part of Hospice of St. Francis’ good works, you can reach out to Vicky Hamilton or Lynn Hurd, coordinators of the Volunteer Services Department, for more information. HOSF can even tell you how to go about getting your own family pet certified for therapy work if you think he or she would be a good fit.
Groups like Hospice of St. Francis, who tirelessly perform self-sacrificing work for others, are just one more thing to be thankful for this year and every year.
L-R: Vicky Hamilton, volunteer coordinator; Lynn Hurd, volunteer coordinator; Lori Mickle, volunteer; Mary Lou Murray, volunteer