Our Hospice of South Central Indiana assists individuals who have life-limiting illnesses, and does so through in-patient and home care.

In each case, it’s a care team that is responsible for making that final stage of life as comfortable as possible.

A doctor, registered nurses, a social worker, a chaplain, aides and volunteers are assigned to work with each patient and family from the beginning to the end.

“That way the patient, the family and the team members get to know each other throughout the different stages of a patient’s end-of-life journey,” said Emily Sommers, manager of support services at Our Hospice, which has its headquarters in Columbus and serves 15 counties.

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Any patient with a life-ending illness and a medical diagnosis of less than six months to live is eligible to enter Our Hospice care. However, Our Hospice receives most calls during the last five days of a patient’s life, said Lisa Ondrejack, a registered nurse.

Our Hospice usually cares for about 200 patients in its service area at any given time. Most Our Hospice patients remain in their own home, hospitals or residential care facilities.

Our Hospice teams augment ongoing medical care, Sommers said.

“Our team members visit each patient on a regular basis and more frequently as the need arises. We have a meeting each week, every week with all team members in the same room at the same time. That way we are all on the same page at the same time as each patient’s needs change or arise,” Sommers said.

“It’s about everyone working together to help each patient with what is most important to them,” said registered nurse Kathy Smith.

Team members become close to their patients, Sommers added.

As a life-ending illness progresses, physical symptoms usually intensify and require increased medical attention, Ondrejack said.

“People often ask us if we are going to take their medicine away. They are worried about that. We take nothing away. We are here to make it as comfortable as possible for as long as possible,” Ondrejack said.

Many patients and their families have increased fear and anxiety levels as the end draws near, Sommers said.

Our Hospice’s chaplains and social workers are available around the clock to help when that happens, she said.

After a patient passes, Our Hospice offers bereavement counseling for the entire family.

“The purpose of Hospice is to make every moment count for each patient and family that enters hospice care,” Sommers said. “The end of life is a crucial part.”

About the care team

Our hospice employs a full-time staff. Four to seven medical doctors work in tandem with each patient’s own medical doctor. All nurses are registered nurses, all chaplains must have a master’s degree in theology and all social workers must have a minimum of a masters degree in social work. All technicians must be certified in their respective fields.

The full time staff numbers about 149 members with an additional 150 volunteers serving patient. Volunteers receive end-of-life care training.