An elderly woman comforted by a doctor.

"End of life" is a not-too-subtle euphemism for what we mortals all face – death. As such, it is most frequently a topic we tend to avoid unless and until it is inevitable.

That is where Beacon Hospice steps in to provide its own special way of caring for people with a life-limiting illness and for their loved ones.

With America's rapidly aging population – and the Lowcountry is no exception – palliative and supportive care during the final stages of life has become a large and highly competitive business. Beacon Hospice is hardly alone in offering a broad range of services to patients and families alike. However, there is much that sets this fiercely local agency apart from the pack. With offices serving Charleston, Murrells Inlet and Bluffton, Beacon's phone lines are open 24/7 with experts ready to outline the steps necessary to find appropriate final care for patients from all walks of life.

Program Director Charles E. Jenkins believes that "Beacon Hospice is more a philosophy than a place. We send our professional staff – registered nurses, home health aides, social workers, chaplains and volunteers – to wherever a patient calls home, be that a skilled nursing facility, an assisted living facility, a home, even a prison or an encampment under a highway overpass."

Jenkins added, "We believe that the hospice benefit is for all who meet eligibility, and our patients and their families never pay anything for our services. Hospice is a benefit that is covered by Medicare, Medicaid and most commercial insurance policies. Should none of these apply to a patient, we serve the indigent as well."

While Beacon Hospice is not affiliated with any particular faith, Jenkins noted that there is a strong spiritual component available to all their patients and families. He should know. Seminary trained for the ministry, he came to the realization early on that his calling – his unique niche – was serving those approaching the end of life.

Critical to everything special Beacon Hospice provides is the commitment to "listening to our patients and their families in order to hear their needs and to provide for those needs. We customize our services for each patient and his or her family to maximize the time they have left together."

In addition to the services generally associated with hospice care, Beacon offers its own unique "Beacon of Hope" program, geared specifically toward those who may not quite be ready for hospice and for patients who have "graduated" from hospice because their condition showed marked improvement. They receive ongoing contact, monitoring and access to Beacon Hospice's resources.

While Beacon Hospice is dedicated to being a resource within the community, the vast majority of their patients are drawn to Beacon by its established relationships and positive word-ofmouth experiences.

Jenkins stated, "Anybody can learn more about our services by simply placing a call to our office. We then send out one of our community liaisons to talk with the family about our services and their loved one's condition. If the determination is that hospice may be the right choice, we then contact and coordinate with that patient's principal physician to get permission to have one of our experienced nurses evaluate and admit the patient on to our services, if appropriate."

He added, "The most common statement made by families who choose hospice for their loved one is 'we wish we had known about hospice sooner.'"

Contact Beacon Hospice

By Bill Farley

Information you submit on the CharlestonPhyscians.com web site will be sent to one of our medical partners to complete the service you have requested.