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Sue Stuller bakes cookies in the kitchen at Carroll Hospice in Westminster Monday, November 25, 2019.
Sue Stuller bakes cookies in the kitchen at Carroll Hospice in Westminster Monday, November 25, 2019. (Dylan Slagle/Carroll County Times)

For Lee and Louna Primm, the caretakers at Carroll Hospice were advocates and supporters during the anxiety that comes at the end of a loved one’s life.

“The transition from hospital care to hospice care for my mother was actually a transition from a battlefield into a little piece of heaven,” he said.

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She stayed in the Dove House, where Carroll Hospice offers in-patient care. The room had natural light and was large enough that family could gather around her, Primm said. He serves on the Carroll Hospital board of directors, so Carroll Hospice was a natural choice.

That positive experience caused them to turn to Carroll Hospice two more times.

Louna Primm said that when her mother was in pain, “The hospice caretakers became advocates. I didn’t know what to ask.” The caretakers bridged that gap with their knowledge of the system and ability to speak the language of medical practitioners.

Carroll Hospice is one of five beneficiaries of Holiday Hope, the Carroll County Times’ annual campaign aimed at driving donations to organizations that help those in need in the Carroll County community. In addition to Carroll Hospice, the Times also raises funds for Access Carroll, Carroll County Food Sunday, The Shepherd’s Staff and Neighbors in Need Year Round.

This year, the Holiday Hope campaign goal is to raise $125,000 for the five organizations. The Times is again partnering with Carroll Community Bank and donations should be mailed to or dropped off at their 1010 Baltimore Blvd. location in Westminster.

This year, the Holiday Hope campaign goal is to raise $125,000 for the five organizations. The Times is again partnering with Carroll Community Bank and donations should be mailed to or dropped off at the bank’s 1010 Baltimore Blvd. location in Westminster.

One challenge for Carroll Hospice is that many people still don’t know enough about its services even though, in Maryland, Carroll County has the highest hospice penetration, Regina Bodnar, executive director of Carroll Hospice, said.

"That’s something we’ve really been working on, to educate people about our services and to ensure that people have access to the care that they need,” she said.

The organization has provided end-of-life care in Carroll County for more than three decades. They serve patients staying in their own homes and those receiving in-patient care at Dove House.

The community-demonstrated need for in-patient care means that the number of beds at Dove House is soon to expand from eight to 14.

The Shepherd’s Staff is one of five beneficiaries of Holiday Hope, the Carroll County Times’ annual campaign aimed at driving donations to organizations that help those in need in the Carroll County community. In addition to The Shepherd’s Staff, the Times also partners with Access Carroll, Carroll Food Sunday, Carroll Hospice and Neighbors in Need Year Round. Donations should be mailed or dropped off at Carroll Community Bank, 1010 Baltimore Blvd., Westminster. This year, the Holiday Hope campaign goal is to raise $125,000 for the five organizations.

Carroll Hospice has one of the lowest hospital readmission rates of hospices in the state, Bodnar said. Less than 1% of patients receiving care from Carroll Hospice need to be re-admitted to the hospital.

“That’s a staggering statistic. I mean, it just is," she said. "It really means that we’re providing the right care at the right time.”

In the last year, Carroll Hospice received authorization to treat patients from Pennsylvania and is already doing so. This was driven by requests from the community, Bodnar said, because many families stretch across the state line. They have also been authorized to start providing patients in Baltimore with hospice care, though they haven’t started yet.

“As always, if we’re going to modify what we do even just a little bit, we want to make sure we do it right,” she said.

Donations from Holiday Hope go toward services that are above and beyond what the hospice is compensated for.

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Hospice workers have helped patients celebrate graduations and wedding anniversaries. In the Dove House, food is available 24/7 for families so they can concentrate on being with their loved ones.

“We always try and do the extra special something to make every hospice experience personalized and unique,” Bodnar said.

Said Lee Primm: “I think the greatest service that they provided, among all of the wonderful services that they provided, was the degree of preparedness that they gave us.”

Since the early 1980s, Carroll County Food Sunday has been serving families all over Carroll County from all walks of life.

Bereavement services through Carroll Hospice are open to the wider community, not just those whose loved ones have gone through hospice care.

“The community is very, very generous and we manage our pennies very, very well to be respectful and truly appreciative for the dollars that they give us,” Bodnar said.

One of the awards Bodnar’s team is most proud of is Hospice Honors, a nationwide recognition based on survey data from families of those who have been through hospice care.

“We’re known for pain management and management of other physical symptoms. But so much of what drives our work is ‘What does the patient’s family intellectually understand about their illness ... and then how are the patient and family emotionally accepting their limited prognosis?’” Bodnar said.

“It’s a very very tender time. And that’s why we have to have an entire team of people caring for patients and families.”

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