The warmth of a hand-made blanket. The calm notes of classical music. The soft light of a candle.These are just a few of the small touches that make a big difference when it comes to end-of-life care at Milford Regional Medical Center, and they are the subtle results of a committee dedicated to making a difficult time for patients and their families easier.
For the past nine years, the Comfort Care Committee has been focused on providing a comfortable – not only sterile – environment for patients at the end of life.
Established in 2007 by a group of fifth floor nurses that were passionate about end- of- life care, the Comfort Care Committee meets monthly and is a panel that today includes nurses, social workers, palliative care, pastoral care and volunteer services, and is co-chaired by Nurse Manager Peggy Arnold, RN, and Social Worker Charleen De Stefano, LCSW .
One of the committee’s first accomplishments was to have a cart available equipped with a CD player and CDs, lotions, flameless candles, a Bible and other interfaith items for the patient at the end of life and family, as well as a hospitality cart from the kitchen with snacks and drinks to nourish the family as they keep vigil.
Recognizing that families are not always able to be with their loved ones around the clock, Elaine Willey, director of Volunteer Services, worked with the nursing staff to develop Milford Regional’s Compassionate Companion Program. Trained volunteers are available to be with patients at the end of life, providing a comforting presence during times they would otherwise be alone. Their presence is often a great support to the family as well; enabling them to get a bit of rest at home knowing their loved one is not alone.
Continuing family support during and after, the comfort care team provides families with a folder of information including what to expect as their loved one passes, support after a loss and information on what steps to take next.
One of the most notable things to come of the Comfort Care Committee’s work over the last several years is Milford Regional’sPalliative Care program for hospitalized patients. Palliative care is a medical specialty which offers advanced pain and symptom management to patients with chronic, progressive illness, regardless of prognosis.
“At Milford Regional, we are dedicated to providing exceptional care for all patients, and that includes our patients at the end of life,” says Peggy Arnold.
Carol Flanagan is a fifth floor nurse who has been involved with the Comfort Care Committee since its inception. “We’ve focused on the little things instead of the big things, and it has made such a difference,” says Carol.
Beyond helping patients, the Comfort Care Committee also supports bringing end of life programming to train the entire hospital staff. Milford Regional nurses have been trained through End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium in every aspect of end of life care, and in turn train nurses throughout the hospital.
“This committee does such amazing work,” says Charleen De Stefano. “We really are at the forefront of all of these programs.”
For more information on volunteering or accessing these services, please contact Elaine Willey, at email@example.com or 508-422-2263.