By ALLISON TALLEY
It’s not about dying, but about living
The story of Hospice Ministries
Every family at some point will be faced with a decision about end-of-life care for a loved one. Although it might sound like an unpleasant thought, it shouldn’t be viewed that way. Death is as natural as birth, and every day and every moment are a gift from our Creator. The belief that every moment counts is fundamental to the core values of Hospice Ministries, which is celebrating 30 years of serving patients and families in Mississippi.
The mission statement of Hospice Ministries is simple: “We bridge the gap between life and death by being present, offering hope and expanding knowledge through compassionate service to the community. We provide care for patients with life-limiting illnesses, regardless of their ability to pay.”
This nonprofit hospice is unique as it operates under the belief that an individual’s last days are as important and as special as every other day in this person’s life.
The Hospice Ministries story began in 1988 when a local oncologist, Dr. Gerry Ann Houston, became burdened that patients with chronic illnesses were not always getting the special end-of-life care that they needed. She felt that people in their last days, weeks or months should be able to be in a comfortable place, such as their own home, if they desired, surrounded by their family and the things they treasured most here on Earth. She, along with businessman Dan Broughton, started Hospice of Central Mississippi. It was the first home hospice of its kind in central Mississippi.
A few years later in 1992, Dot Cannon of the Willing Heart Circle in Brookhaven approached Hospice of Central Mississippi about starting a hospice in that community. Hospice was still a new concept, but it was a good concept that was being quickly adopted by families who wanted to have the best possible experience with loved ones who were dying. The Brookhaven community embraced this concept, and a branch of Hospice of Central Mississippi was started. Many patients and families in this area continue to benefit from Dot Cannon’s vision.
In 1997, Hospice of Central Mississippi joined with Whispering Pines Hospice, an inpatient hospice in south Jackson that was originally founded in 1995 by the Bishops of the Catholic, Episcopal and United Methodist Dioceses. The merger of the two provided a continuum of care that until then was unknown in Mississippi. The new organization was called Hospice Ministries, Inc., and became a pioneer for a new model of providing hospice services.
The philosophy of Hospice Ministries is to go above and beyond the usual care provided for patients in their last days. Some of the employees have been with the organization since the early days, and all proclaim that hospice care is a calling; it’s not just a job. It’s not unusual to find a nurse singing to a patient, a staff member making a special batch of cookies for a family, or a social worker going out of her way to arrange a date night for a couple in hospice, or plan a prom night for a young patient. The Hospice Ministries team tells everyone that hospice is not about dying — it’s about living every single day to make every moment count.
The vision cast by a physician and a businessman in the early days now has enabled more than 1,000 patients and families every year to receive care from Hospice Ministries in their own homes, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, hospitals and the Inpatient Hospice Center in Ridgeland.
The 30-year anniversary will be formally celebrated on October 17 at the Hospice Ministries Ridgeland facility. It will be an open house and a special time to thank the families, patrons and community for the support they have given over the last 30 years. After the event, 10 new patient rooms will open as a result of a generous gift from the Jackson-based Selby and Richard McRae Foundation, which in 1997 also gave one of the first gifts when the Inpatient Hospice Center was being built.
To learn more about Hospice Ministries and the 30-year celebration, visit HospiceMinistries.org.
Allison Talley is a writer, mother, wife and marketing executive in Ridgeland. She’s the technical director for media and website development for Creative Bread in Hattiesburg.