From their inception, hospices have dealt with the physical issues of death by helping terminally ill patients die comfortably. As the hospice movement evolved during the latter decades of the 20th century, the mission expanded. Currently, hospices provide comfort to patients and to their families as well. In Northern Kentucky, residents have a choice for end-of-life care.

Hospice of the Bluegrass began in 1978 and admitted its first patient in 1979. Since January, 1982, Hospice of the Bluegrass has been under the leadership of President/CEO Gretchen M. Brown.

In 1983, the Medicare benefit for hospice care was enacted, and 20 years of growth and recognition began for Hospice of the Bluegrass. Brown, along with the senior management team, continues to be tireless advocates for quality hospice care and they have served on local, state and national organization boards to assure that care for Kentuckians is of the highest quality. Hospice of the Bluegrass is one of the largest community-based hospices in the United States.

According to Brown, “Hospice of the Bluegrass provides care to nearly 1,000 terminally ill patients a day in 32 northern, central, and southeastern Kentucky counties. More Kentuckians choose Hospice of the Bluegrass for end-of-life care than any other hospice. We are proud to say that hospice is all we do. It is our only focus. Since 1995, we have had the privilege of working with the communities in Boone, Campbell, Carroll, Gallatin, Grant and Kenton counties. Bluegrass is committed to providing care for the dying, their families and the bereaved in Northern Kentucky.”

The mission of Hospice of the Bluegrass reflects the care that is provided for every patient admitted.

Adhering to the mission and core values of the organization allows for a dynamic, holistic approach to end-of-life care for patients and families.

Carla Foster, Director Hospice of the Bluegrass Northern Kentucky states, “We are not only concerned with the quality of life for the patient, but with supporting the family, too. Death has an impact on everyone associated with that patient.”

Nine interdisciplinary teams, consisting of physicians, nurses, certified nurse assistants, social workers, chaplains and volunteers, admitted 627 patients and their families in 2010. Patients can be cared for no matter how complex the medical condition, and Daniel’s Care (the pediatric palliative and hospice care program of Hospice of the Bluegrass) is the only pediatric hospice care program in Northern Kentucky.

Hospice of the Bluegrass Northern Kentucky cares for patients regardless of location. Although primarily a home-based program, care is extended to in-patient facilities, such as hospitals or nursing homes, and to non-traditional residences, such as assisted living centers and homeless shelters.

The plan of care is physician-directed and implemented by the hospice team. The patient and family guide all decisions regarding care. A bereavement counselor is available to all families following the death of the patient.

Hospice of the Bluegrass Northern Kentucky provides assistance to families caring for a terminally ill patient, including respite care when they need a break. It also maintains certified counselors on staff to help survivors following the death. Grief counseling and support groups are available to adults and children as they navigate through the loss. The bereavement support is available to the entire community, whether the death involved hospice or not.

The impact of this whole spectrum of care is tangible. Hospice of Bluegrass’ volunteer corps is largely composed of family members or friends of former patients. Brenda Simpson is one of them, becoming a volunteer after her mother died eight years ago.

“They took such good care of my mom and our family, it really did make it easier,” says Simpson.

“It made me want to help in any way that I could. For some people, just the fact that you’re there, holding their hand, makes a world of difference.”

Dealing with her mother’s illness and working with Hospice inspired Simpson to write a book, Broken Shell, published earlier this year. “I was really influenced by my mom and the way she always gave back. I’m following in her footsteps,” she explains.

The Hospice of the Bluegrass Northern Kentucky staff may be reached at (859) 441-6332.

Hospice of the Bluegrass