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Community Foundation fund will offer help to hospice patients

October 14, 2012

Danville Register & Bee

By: Denice Thibodeau

A new fund has been established through the Community Foundation of the Dan River Region to provide hospice support services for people who have a terminal illness.

Debra Dodson, the executive director of the foundation, said Hospice Support Services of Danville and Pittsylvania County dissolved and transferred its assets to the foundation.

The new Hospice Support Services Fund will make grants to nonprofit agencies that provide assistance with services not covered by insurance to Danville and Pittsylvania County residents who have elected hospice benefits.

Patients who are diagnosed with less than six months to live can opt for hospice care, which allows them to be cared for at home by family and friends, while nurses visit to provide daily care that can include baths and injections.

Hospice Support Services was created in 1985, and when new state licensing requirements were enacted in 1993 became a non-profit arm of existing hospice service agencies.

Dick Alwood, who led Hospice Support Services for about 20 years, said the dream had been to build a free-standing hospice care facility, but that dream “never came to fruition.”

In 2000, they arranged with Danville Regional Medical Center to set two rooms aside for hospice care, and the agency decorated those rooms to make them feel “homier.” They were used by terminally ill patients for short periods of time — usually five days — to give their caregivers a break.

Alwood said he was not sure exactly when those special rooms were no longer available.

The agency also provided transportation services, if family or insurance could not, as well as other expenses related to the illness that were not covered.

“It could have been special mattresses or chairs that would help with mobility,” Alwood said.

Alwood said during some periods the agency was even able to help families struggling with the illness of a loved one cover a utility bill, or even provide firewood, but “when times got hard, we had to limit it to medical assistance.”

The board deliberated for a long time before eventually deciding to dissolve the agency, Alwood said, and then had to decide what to do with the money left in its accounts.

“This was a matter of our choice,” Alwood said. “We feel it can better service the community if we put it in a place where it can be utilized.”

Since the three remaining hospice services in the area are for-profit, the non-profit Community Foundation seemed like the right place to put it, Alwood said.

Dodson said, unlike for-profit agencies, the foundation can accept tax-deductible charitable contributions, and plans to work with other non-profits like the Danville Cancer Association to manage the financial assistance program.

Lisa Diliugi, executive director of Legacy Hospice of the Piedmont, said it is an affiliate of DRMC, and all hospice agencies are required to provide in-patient services for exacerbated conditions or for respite care.

Most of Legacy’s patients are Medicare or Medicaid recipients, who are covered for hospice care.

Diluigi said other patients, who might be indigent and not have insurance, or those with private insurance that doesn’t cover all aspects of hospice care, could be helped by the fund.

To contribute to the Hospice Support Services Fund mail donations to the Community Foundation of the Dan River Region, 541 Loyal St., Danville, VA 24541. Online contributions can also be made at www.cfdrr.org.

Gifts can be made in honor or memory of someone, Dodson said.