Published on March 20, 2019

MaineGeneral Hospice Turns 30

Maine’s first Medicare-certified hospice program

MaineGeneral Hospice celebrates 30 years as Maine’s first Medicare-certified hospice program

“What hasn’t changed in 30 years is our staff’s passion for providing holistic care to our patients and their loved ones,” said Jennifer Riggs, CEO of MaineGeneral Community Care and Chief Nursing Officer of MaineGeneral. “Our goal is to provide a peaceful end of life for each patient which includes managing their physical, emotional and spiritual care. It takes a very special person to commit to this kind of work and we are blessed to have the very best Hospice staff.”

The program launched in 1988 with three nurses and a social worker who worked both in hospice and home care. With one patient enrolled, MaineGeneral Hospice (then known as HealthReach Hospice) passed its Medicare survey in December 1988 and received official certification in 1989 as Maine’s first Medicare-certified hospice.

MaineGeneral Hospice now serves Kennebec County, southern Somerset County and part of Lincoln County with 60 full-time-equivalent staff, including nurses, social workers, hospice home health aides, chaplains, therapists, alternative therapy providers and bereavement counselors. Last year those caring individuals served 824 patients, made nearly 41,000 visits and covered nearly 380,000 miles.

The program also has trained Hospice Volunteers who offer companionship as well as practical and emotional support for individuals and families. Volunteers may help with light housekeeping, run errands, provide transportation and visit with patients.

MaineGeneral Hospice continues to respond to the needs of patients. Services have grown over the years to bring the latest techniques and comfort measures into patients’ homes.

“In the past 30 years a lot has changed,” said Riggs. “MaineGeneral HomeCare & Hospice has adapted to the needs of our community and the individual needs of those we serve. While hospice has traditionally been associated with making cancer patients comfortable during their final days, we now understand that hospice and palliative care can improve the quality of life for patients with a wide range of illnesses, from congestive heart failure and respiratory disorders to dementia and Parkinson’s.”

Dementia care has expanded to support the unique needs of people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia and provide support to families. Patients have individualized plans of care and pain assessment tools and staff receive specialized training in dementia care.

Specialty services offered to all hospice patients have grown significantly and now include massage therapy; expressive arts; music by the bedside; pet therapy; and spiritual support volunteers. Experienced after-hours care nurses dedicated to patient and family support are available outside of regular office hours.

Intensive comfort care is available for periods of increased symptoms or when death is near. This includes increased nursing, home health aide, social worker and chaplain visits; after-hours check-in calls; education and support for families and bereavement counselors.

MaineGeneral Hospice also is a proud member of the We Honor Veterans Program in partnership with the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Through the program, staff are trained to better understand the unique experiences of veterans and to focus on respectful inquiry, compassionate listening and grateful acknowledgment. Staff also provide education to community and veteran organizations.

Riggs said MaineGeneral Hospice services will continue to evolve with the needs of patients. “We work with patients and their loved ones to improve the quality of their life, and we come to them wherever they are — at home, in a nursing facility, assisted living, wherever they live to help them live their lives to the fullest.”

Learn more at MaineGeneral Hospice.