Forty Years of Care, Comfort, and Hope
Since March of 1980, Hospice of Frederick County, now called Frederick Health Hospice, has been promoting quality of life by providing compassionate medical, emotional, spiritual and bereavement support to individuals and their loved ones facing a life-limiting illness. As we approach our 40th anniversary, we are pleased to share a brief review of the milestones that have shaped our history.
“When we reached out to Hospice, we knew they would help us take care of my late husband.
What we didn’t know-- and could never have imagined-- was how deeply they would care, or how much a part of our family they would become. They took one of life’s most difficult
challenges and made it more manageable—for all of us.”
While spoken just last year, these words reflect the feelings of thousands of families since Hospice of Frederick County was founded four decades ago.
Hospice of Frederick County began with a conversation initiated in 1979 by a local organization called Church Women United. The group invited clergy, lay people, and medical professionals to discuss how care was being provided to those facing life-limiting illness here in Frederick. They asked questions like “Shouldn’t care plans include not just the patient but the entire family unit?” and “Shouldn’t pain management include addressing emotional and spiritual suffering along with physical discomfort?”
The answers the group arrived at to these questions changed everything about the way people in Frederick living with life-limiting illness were cared for. “The key word here is living,” says Laurel Cucchi, a participant in those early discussions who went on to serve the organization as its Executive Director for more than 30 years, “The most progressive thing Hospice did in at the beginning and continues to do to this day was to take the focus off dying and put it on living.”
In March of 1980, Frederick County’s first hospice program incorporated under the name “Hospice of Frederick County.” “We were all volunteers back then,” says retired oncologist Dr. P. Gregory Rausch, “doing what we thought was needed. We were involved in establishing laws for hospice programs and helped to set up the Hospice Network of Maryland.”
The concept of relieving “total pain” was put to the test during the 1980s when the AIDs epidemic arrived at Hospice’s door. “At that time, no one really knew what AIDs was, how to treat it, or how to contain it,” says Cucchi. “For a few years, we were the only ones in Frederick taking care of patients with AIDs. We had a regional reputation for our care and response to the epidemic.”
After Dr. Dana Cable , a Hospice volunteer and practicing psychologist, shared his experience at a camp for children who were grieving in Walla Walla, Washington with Cucchi, Hospice of Frederick County decided to create Camp Jamie. The founding of this special camp in 1991 for kids who had lost a loved one took the concept of bereavement care to a new level. Camp Jamie pairs a child who is grieving with specifically trained “big buddy” who has often experienced a similar loss. Early attendees of the Camp are now returning as the next generation of big buddies, helping kids process loss just as they were once supported.
In 1997, Hospice of Frederick County and Frederick Regional Health System’s hospice program joined forces, forging a new era in hospice care in our community. As an affiliate of Frederick Regional Health System, and with continued community support, Hospice has grown exponentially.
In 2002, the doors opened to the Kline Hospice House, a six-bedroom care facility near Mount Airy that has become a nationwide model for residential hospice care. Over the past decade, Hospice care in Frederick has grown to include music therapy, a support program for veterans, and an expanded bereavement program. Just last year, Hospice of Frederick County simplified its name to Frederick Health Hospice.
“The care, comfort, and hope that our staff and volunteers have been providing to those facing life-limiting illness has been the backbone of what Hospice does for the last 40 years,” says Frederick Health Hospice Executive Director Carlos Graveran, “And that will never change.”