By KEN BECKSpecial to The Wilson Post“Comfort and support.”These are the three words that describe in a nutshell what Alive Hospice is all about, says Jared Porter, media relations coordinator and publications editor of the Middle Tennessee nonprofit organization.“We provide comfort when a person has limited time left. We relieve pain and other unpleasant symptoms and provide emotional and spiritual support,” he said about the third or fourth oldest chapter in the nation, which was founded in 1975 and serves 12 counties with a staff of 300 as well as 270 volunteers.But there is far more to hospice care than most realize“A lot of people often think we are there for just the last weeks or days or hours, but we encourage people to get involved as soon as possible, as far out as six months, to maximize the benefits and build relationships. The longer we’re in there, the more comfortable they are in many different ways,” Porter said.Hospice teams include a doctor and three caregivers: chaplain, nurse and social worker, but there may be others assisting along the way. “It depends on the patient’s needs. There may be volunteers also along with the three hospice caregivers. Care is provided as they need it, 24/7, for any range of illnesses,” Porter said. “More than half are non-cancer patients. Whatever the illness is, as long as it is life threatening and causes limited-life expectancy, we can be there.”(In 2009, 57 percent of those served were non-cancer patients and 43 percent were cancer patients.) Hospice is divided into a variety of components. These include inpatient care in Alive Hospice’s own facilities or hospitals; patients in nursing homes or assisted living homes; and as well as in the patients’ homes.“I choose to be a homecare chaplain, which means I work with a medical director, five nurses, two social workers, one chaplain, many care partners (certified nurse practitioners) and many volunteers,” said Chaplain Gene Lovelace, who visits between 18 to 25 patients a week, based on acuity. “Everything at Alive Hospice is based on what the patient’s needs are. “One of the unique things about Alive Hospice is that every patient is assigned a chaplain. . . . When I go to a home, I may do religious work, but the primary responsibility is doing spiritual care, which is broader than religious work,” Lovelace said. “Spiritual work takes a step back. We deal with broader issues. In my first few visits, I have three main goals: at the time of their death that they are not afraid to die; that they are at peace; and that they have found meaning and purpose in this piece of their journey.”Porter clarifies the fact that Alive Hospice chaplains serve patients and families of any faith. “Alive Hospice chaplains don’t advance or promote any particular religion, but rather help patients and their families find comfort in their own faith traditions.” Celebrating life is one of the defining aspects of hospice care, and on occasion this means fulfilling a patient’s lifelong dream. Alive Hospice has taken patients to swim with dolphins in Florida, granted a man his wish for one last motorcycle ride and even had a Reuben sandwich flown to Nashville from New York City so that a patient could enjoy his favorite meal.“We also help children and youth with a final trip or experience,” Lovelace said. “Our social workers and staff help a lot of children and their families have their last wishes, such as a trip to Disneyworld or to meet a special artist or musical star.”How do people connect with Alive Hospice? “Anybody, family member or friend, can start the ball rolling by calling Alive Hospice,” Lovelace said, “but a physician does have to be involved. But it’s anybody’s call to start the process to see if the person is a candidate for Alive Hospice care.”And who pays for the services to those who quality for hospice?“Medicare covers hospice care for seniors,” Porter said. “It was started in 1983. Some patients have private insurance to cover it. For those who are underinsured or not insured, donations help cover care.”For more information, call (615) 327-1085 or toll-free 1-800-327-1085, or visit www.alivehospice.org.Ken Beck may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.