Hospice Wants Watchman Network

September 12, 2003
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GRAND RAPIDS — Holland Home last month announced implementing a new Hospice program reaching into faith communities that it says will increase access to care for the terminally ill.

The notion — tried so far in 30 other communities across the country — is to establish a network of people through the Watchman Ministry of Holland Home Hospice.

According to Kathy Forzley, the ministry’s liaison with Holland Home Hospice, the network will have a dual function.

First, its members would work to broaden community awareness and understanding of hospice and its service to families in cases of terminal illness.

Second, members of the network — the people whom the ministry calls its watchmen — would alert the hospice program about people who are in need of its ministrations.

Forzley said the Watchman Ministry network ideally would consist of one or more members of every religious congregation in Kent County and parts of eastern Allegan and Ottawa counties.

She told the Business Journal that Holland Home Hospice estimates the network ultimately could encompass as many as 500 congregations. 

“We regard this as an extension of faith commitment,” she said.

Forzley stressed two things about the Watchman Ministry.

First, participation in it is open to any faith community, be it a church, temple or mosque.

Second, she said every watchman would undergo detailed training concerning the work of hospice so that he or she can accurately explain the agency’s numerous functions to his or her congregation.

Forzley said it has become apparent that many people are only vaguely aware of hospice’s work and that most people who do know of its work have a somewhat fragmentary grasp of all that it does.

For instance, she said, one facet of hospice about which many people are unaware is that it not only helps the dying during terminal illness, but also remains available for months after a relative’s death to help survivors find comfort and consolation.

Moreover, she said, its services to the dying are available either in residences or in health care institutions ranging from hospitals to nursing homes.

Trained volunteers often are available through hospice to help a husband or wife find respite from taking care of an ailing spouse.

Becky Nauta, administrator of Hospice of Holland Home, said the goal of the Watchman Ministry is to ensure that people receive quality end-of-life care sooner in their diagnosis regardless of where they live, the nature of that diagnosis, their age or economic status.

Nauta stressed that Hospice of Holland Home is an interfaith mission that invites all congregations and faith communities to participate.

“We view hospice as an extension of the role of the faith community,” Nauta said, “and recognize that religious congregations are the cornerstone of delivering service to the greater community.

“The Watchman Ministry is an extension of the ministry provided by faith groups and provides a way for Hospice of Holland Home to give back to the community we serve.”

She explained that part of the motivation of the Watchman Ministry is that, nationwide, hospice organizations have found that the length of stay for terminally ill patients is decreasing.

This is an indication, she said, that people often are not accessing hospice care when they may need it most.

Holland Home Hospice is a subsidiary of Holland Home.

Clergy or laity seeking more information about the Watchman Ministry are invited to contact Forzley at (616) 245-7477.  

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