Hospice Care: myths vs. facts

The thought of hospice is difficult and can be overwhelming. End-of-life care is a topic that is not easily discussed and is typically not thought about until needed.

There are also many myths and misconceptions about hospice care.

Hospice focuses on caring, not curing, and in most cases, care is provided in the patient’s home. Hospice care is also provided in freestanding hospice centers, hospitals, and nursing homes or other long-term care facilities. Hospice services are available to patients of any age, religion, race, or illness. Hospice care is covered under Medicare, Medicaid, most private insurance plans, HMOs, and other managed care organizations.

As one of the region’s only non-profit hospice organizations, Shepherd’s Cove Hospice, founded as Hospice of Marshall County, is focused on providing care not only for the patients but also their loved ones through grief support.

As part of our holistic approach, we at Shepherd’s Cove Hospice have put together the information below sharing the truths to combat some of the myths and misconceptions. We are glad to answer any questions you may have about hospice care.

Appreciating those that served us so selflessly

Are veterans prepared for the end of life?
We hosted a luncheon to help veterans prepare for life’s most difficult journey

Veteran heroes spent months preparing for their journey into battle, but so often they are ill-prepared for one of the most important journeys – the end of life.
Preparing the correct legal and financial documents ahead of time can bring a great measure of peace during that end-of-life journey. Veterans have special needs in this preparation process. Veterans or families of veterans were invited to a luncheon to learn more about these needs and get help. The luncheon took place Nov. 9 at 11:30 a.m. in the Shepherd’s Cove Hospice Community Room at 408 Martling Road in Albertville.

The program featured a special presentation for veterans followed by opportunities for free, private consultations with the legal and financial professionals of the Shepherd’s Cove Hospice Planned Giving Council.

A family fun day at 5 Star




Albertville – Families across Sand Mountain are invited to enjoy inflatables, food and fun at the Family Fun Day event Nov. 4 at Five Star Sports Complex in Albertville.

Admission will be free to Five Star’s indoor inflatable play center from 10 a.m. to noon. Attendees can enjoy free snacks, food trucks, and free registration for the upcoming Race to Remember 5K, which benefits Shepherd’s Cove Hospice.

Look for the Family Fun Day event on Facebook or call 256-891-7724 for more information.

The annual Race to Remember color-optional run is set for April 14. It is the largest annual fundraiser for Shepherd’s Cove Hospice, which provides peace and comfort to those facing an end-of-life journey in Marshall and eight other surrounding counties.

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Witnessing HOPE

This year was my very first Camp HOPE. As someone who was a show horse rider for the better part of 10 years, I hoped to be assigned to the horse area…God had different plans for me. (As he is wont to do.)

I was assigned the role of Camp Photographer, which struck the match on my reputation as the “Shepherd’s Cove Paparazzi.” I was nervous. I was terrified to get all up in these grieving kids’ faces and capture some potentially vulnerable moments. Of course, I knew that some kids are just natural camera hams. (I will always be eternally grateful to those kids.) Still, you also go into Camp HOPE just kind of knowing that you are going to see some really emotionally raw moments. That scared me, and it made me feel vulnerable.

God, though, has this way of molding that vulnerability and turning it into something bigger.

As the day went on and I became more acclimated to snapping shots and asking people to pose, I really started to see the magic happen. You see kids painting on rocks, but it’s not until you see what they’re painting that you see the wheels turning. Girls and boys painting things that reminded them of their loved one, some even painting the name of their loved one. At this point, my “get the shot” disposition became more like that of a researcher. It was a true fascination with how our activities can really help people. I documented the steps, the processes and God was guiding my lens the entire time.

I watched teenagers open up and express themselves in ways that they would not have had another opportunity to do. On the final day of Camp HOPE, there was a boy who had just moved up in age group. He had lost his mom and was clearly upset from the moment he stepped off the bus. I got to watch him smile for the first time all day when he connected with a counselor. I got to watch him tackle the obstacles with ease. I watched him laugh and play. Then I watched him cry. I watched him hold onto the balloon representing his mother, refusing to let it go. I watched an equine counselor comfort him, someone who mirrored him…someone who lost her son. I watched these teens rally around this little boy. I watched them whisper their own stories to him. I watched him let go of his balloon.

I was beyond blessed to be Camp Photographer. I captured smiles. I captured moments. I captured hope.

Making wishes come true

Most people have made a wish, but the wish of a someone with a terminal illness is significant because it could be their last.
The Shepherd’s Cove Foundation supports Shepherd’s Cove Hospice and the Palliative and Supportive Care Alliance (PSCA). Both organizations provide comfort care for patients with a terminal illness, focusing on adding as much life to their final days as possible. One way is by helping patients fulfill final wishes.

A special trip

As Danetta Valenzuela, a patient of the Palliative and Supportive Care Alliance, faces the realities of renal failure, she wants her children to know there is more to life than sickness. She wanted to make some positive, lasting memories with her family on a weekend adventure to Chattanooga, Tenn. The Shepherd’s Cove Foundation launched an online campaign in April to raise money for the trip. Through the support of 15 generous, local donors and numerous others who shared Danetta’s story, we reached our goal! Because of the outpouring of community support, Danetta’s wish became reality.


A gift from the Tide
The smile on LaMont Combs’ face was priceless as he turned the football over in his hands to see a personalized autograph from legendary football coach Nick Saban.
LaMont is one of the Alabama Crimson Tide’s biggest fans and a patient of Shepherd’s Cove Hospice. On June 27, he received a special gift from SCH and the Dream Foundation – a special box containing several goodies including the football and a photo autographed by Saban. He also recieved a personal phone call from the Tide’s starting center Brad Bozeman.

You can be a ray of light and hope to someone facing the realities of a terminal illness. Visit our homepage or call 256-891-7724 to find out how you can partner with the Shepherd’s Cove Foundation to fulfill a patient’s last wish.

Check out the rest of our newsletter below to learn more about what is happening at Shepherd’s Cove Hospice and how you can join our mission “to provide, with a servant’s heart, exceptional individualized care for those coping with end-of-life issues.”

Summer 2017 Newsletter

From Beginning to End

by Vickie S. Watson, Community Relations Specialist

Watch with Ecclesiastes 3:11 inscribed.He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. – Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NIV)

I have often said God is the Orchestrator of my life.  In my mind’s eye, I see His mighty hands gently placing people, situations and circumstances in my life and path.  I have also often said God knows the end from the very beginning and we only get to experience one moment at a time as we step into it.  These concepts and truths have had a profound impact on my life.  Knowing the God of the universe (the very One who created me) holds my future, gives me peace, even in the midst of some of life’s greatest, tumultuous storms.

If you have read my blog posts throughout the years, you have probably captured an inkling that I was an adult college student – trying desperately to earn my degree – working fulltime and attending college fulltime.  The best analogy I can use to describe my experience is that it was like pushing a massive boulder up a mountain with my nose.  It was not fun, and it was not easy.  But I did it!  I made it up that mountain and I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in May.  Hallelujah!  Success!  At least in the fact that I now hold a degree.

So, since May, I have been trying to find my footing.  You know what I mean?  I have been trying to figure out what life looks like on the other side of my proverbial mountain.  Now that I reached the summit and accomplished my goal of graduating, what is next?

Well, at this time, it seems to make sense that I would embark on a career change and pursue a position that aligns with my recently acquired degree, right?  But that means leaving an agency that I love and the people who have become so dear to my heart that they are, in fact, my family.  So, I pondered it.  I prayed hard over it.  I lamented to God, and I literally lost sleep.  But the decision seemed clear, in the end.  I had worked hard for my degree.  I had sacrificed so much to reach that goal.  So, I accepted an offer to interpret for a child in a school system.  This would allow me to continue to work in a service profession and hopefully leave fingerprints on lives and hearts of children, along the way.

With that being said, I need to quote another portion of Ecclesiastes – chapter 3, verse 1, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…”  My season as a fulltime employee of Shepherd’s Cove Hospice is drawing to a close, and that truly saddens my heart.  Leaving is bittersweet.  But God has made everything beautiful in His time.  I will forever carry the relationships in my heart I have forged while at Shepherd’s Cove Hospice.  And I will continue to be an advocate of hospice care and a supporter of this agency that has left an indelible imprint on my life.  A part of me will remain tethered here … from my heart to yours.

The Solace in the Storm

by Rhonda Osborne, Chief Executive Officer

Storm rolling in at the beach.I am at the beach.  This is a place of solace for me – one of beautiful views, warm breezes, sun on my face, toes in the sand while listening to the powerful breaking waves.  Today, it is raining, lightning and thundering.  Not much solace…or is there?  This beautiful place works as a metaphor of life.  I have been blessed with a loving family, a career that is not a job, and know that I have eternal life ahead due to one significant decision of asking Christ to be my Savior.  However, even with those wonderful blessings of life there can be, and will be, storms even in a beautiful life.  Divorce, death, loss of relationships because of variety of acts, sickness, hurt and on and on.  But, in the midst of this thunder and lightning, I find peace just sitting on the balcony.  It is the same view of a powerful sea, same sand, same breeze…..just different.  So, I just sit on the balcony with a cup of coffee and a good book.  And I am still….”be still and know that I am God” Psalms 46:10.

I love this verse but being still is a challenge for me.    In high school, I was sent to remedial reading because I had scored poorly in reading comprehension. After some observation and further testing, I was told that I was never still.  I either jiggled my foot, tapped my fingers or whatever the smallest movements were distracted my brain from comprehension.  The way it was explained to me was that when I am moving and reading, my brain has to work in two ways….control that movement and read and comprehend the words.  Therefore, I had to practice and focus on being still.  When I did, my comprehension scores improved.  Even now, when I am still I am not necessarily focused. I may be still but have the TV on or be reading a book or may be scrolling Facebook.

Today, at the beach, I put my book aside, even if for a few minutes, and just listened. Yes, I listened to those crashing waves and the rolls of thunder and the occasional squawk of a seagull but I wanted to hear what God had to say.

I am at the beach because I am in a season of a life storm.  It has been a life-changing two months in my life.  My mother died.  As a hospice professional, I thought I was prepared for her home-going.  In some ways I was.  What I was not prepared for was for my earthly relationship with her to be gone.  I miss her.  There are other family illnesses – not as serious but still stressful.

The beach and the sound of the powerful ocean (or gulf) are tranquil to me.  When I listened to that still small voice, I was reminded that God is with me, still or not still, during times of peace or times of storms.  When I am still, His presence is powerful and peaceful.

I hope to learn to be still and know.

What Great Love!

by Vickie S. Watson, Community Relations Specialist

Pregnant Mom With Hand on StomachNew parents all over the world dream of a beautiful, healthy newborn.  Imagine parents who get the news late in the pregnancy their baby will likely live only a few hours, if she survives delivery, due to multiple deformities – each considered a lethal condition.  That is exactly what transpired in a story I read recently on Focus on the Family’s website as I was doing some research on perinatal hospice.

In this story, the parents were told, “You will have some choices to make.”  With a firm belief in the sanctity of human life, the parents decided to continue the pregnancy “until the Lord’s appointed time.”  Even though this story does not mention perinatal hospice, what this family did in preparation for a baby that would be born dying was a pathway toward healing in the midst of anticipatory grief.  The family was intentional about making memories while their baby was still in utero – they went to Cinderella’s Castle at Walt Disney World, to the ballet, to the zoo, to the symphony, and to the beach.  And when the appointed time for the birth arrived, they were given two-and-a-half hours with their precious baby before she passed away.  They took photos and had their other three daughters take turns holding her and “unabashedly loving and caring for her.”  All of these things are concepts included in perinatal hospice care.

One of goals of the Shepherd’s Cove Foundation is to expand services to include perinatal hospice.  Foundation Director Annah Grace Morgan stated, “Very simply, we have a great need for perinatal hospice in our community. I wish this need didn’t exist, but those who have experienced this loss know all too well how much support is needed, although often this care is not available. I feel that it is absolutely our duty to provide this type of care. As a community, we should be providing this type of support to those who need it most.”

I, personally, could not agree more.

The parents in this story displayed great love in bringing a child into this world knowing she had a terminal diagnosis.  The family chose to celebrate her life, even in the short time they had with her.  The end result is the family will never forget those two-and-a-half hours.  You, too, can display great love by supporting our efforts to include a perinatal hospice program.  If you can see the stark beauty of this story, and the need for perinatal hospice care, please consider partnering with us. Follow this link for more information.

Redefining Hope

by Vickie S. Watson, Community Relations Specialist

HOPE CompassHere at Shepherd’s Cove Hospice, we come up against a lot of myths.  There are some real doozies out there.  One we hear often is, “Hospice means giving up hope.”  That is a completely understandable myth/misconception because hospice care is directly related to terminal illnesses.  But making a decision for hospice care does not mean you are giving up hope.  Hospice redefines hope and helps patients and their families reclaim the spirit of life.  Hospice care focuses on improving the patient’s quality of life, allowing them to make the most of the time they have remaining.

Hospice helps patients and families find new hope and meaning in their lives as care goals turn from cure to comfort.  Hope, therefore, is discovered in the journey.  It might be redefining your expectations day by day or even moment by moment.  Hope, for a moment, may be seeing a smile, sharing a hug, or hearing “I love you” one last time.

I recently happened upon an article written in the New York Times in 2009 entitled, “Talking Frankly at the End of Life.”  In this article, Dr. Pauline Chen discusses her personal journey through her mother-in-law’s terminal illness.  Throughout this journey, Dr. Chen explored how better end-of-life care doesn’t dash hope but restores it by ensuring the best possible quality of life for the patient.  The article mentions a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that examined how end-of-life care discussions with terminal patients affected their quality of life and that of their caregivers.  Chen spoke with Dr. Alexi Wright, a medical oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and one of the lead authors of the article, regarding interviews conducted with terminal patients and their caregivers.  Chen stated,

I asked Dr. Wright if telling patients that they were dying might take away hope. “In trying to emphasize only the positive, we can end up with a misguided sense of hope,” Dr. Wright responded. “I think it’s really important to define hope more broadly. Hope is in the life we live, in our families. When I meet patients with incurable cancer, I hope they live as long as they can and with the best quality of life they can have…”

For many terminally ill patients, hope can take on a new meaning, a renewed sense of appreciation of life and its simple pleasures. As hospice patients learn to live with dying, they are given the opportunity to become more fully alive in the present moment – their hope is redefined.  The time the patients and family/caregivers have remaining can be filled with deep love, grace, and a newfound definition of hope.

Why asking a “Dumb” Question is Really Smart

by Vickie S. Watson, Community Relations Specialist

We have all heard the phrase, “Remember, there are no dumb questions.”  We all know that is not 100% true.  There really are dumb questions – we are all familiar with that eye-roll, jaw-drop response at some of the questions that have been posed either to us, or by us.  However, there is great truth to the cliché that the dumbest question is the one you don’t ask.

Sometimes we don’t ask questions out of fear, right?  Fear that we really will appear dumb.  Sure, questions can be a sign that you don’t understand something. But you cannot possibly gain understanding if you don’t ask questions.  Other times we don’t ask questions because we think we don’t have a “good question.”  However, we should keep in mind that, oftentimes, there are other people in the audience who want to ask the very same question but were afraid to do so.  So, learn to ask without fear…just ask the questions that are on your mind.

Carl Sagan, a renowned astrophysicist and author once said, “…every question is a cry to understand the world.”  Understanding some things in the world is tough…I mean really tough.  Some topics are just difficult to broach – especially those related to life planning and end-of-life issues (e.g. advance directives, last will and testament, power of attorney, etc.).  But sometimes we have to broach the subject and sometimes we have to ask questions.  It is better to do so now, rather than later.

The Planned Giving Council of Shepherd’s Cove Hospice is hosting an event entitled, Getting Your Affairs in Order: A Safe Place to ask Dumb Questions on June 13th from 5 – 7 p.m. at First United Methodist Church of Albertville.  Please join us for this event.  It will be the perfect opportunity for you to overcome your fear of seeming dumb and allow you to get to the heart of relevant issues that need to be discussed.

Getting Your Affairs in Order event flyer