MARQUETTE - The Upper Peninsula is known for many things. One thing however, may be overlooked by many. The Upper Peninsula holds the distinction of hosting the first hospice in Michigan - Upper Peninsula Home Health, Hospice and Private Duty in Ishpeming - established in 1973.
Though it began as a volunteer organization, UPHHHPD is now a 100-employee operation focused on clinical services for its patients. But Jeff Nyquist, CEO of UPHHHPD, said hospice goes far beyond clinical needs.
There are several forms of suffering that surpass clinical pain including psychological, stress, family pain, financial and spiritual, according to Nyquist.
Alberta Winters, right, enjoys a conversation with U.P. Home Health, Hospice and Private Duty nurse Elizabeth Heighes. Winters is a hospice patient of the company. (U.P. Home Health, Hospice and Private Duty photo)
He recalled a particular meeting where the staff was discussing a hospice patient who had been in pain for more than 10 days. The hospice chaplain said that he knew the individual and she was deeply religious. He decided to visit her and administer a ceremony that dealt with spiritual suffering. Within 15 minutes of the ceremony, the patient became calm and relaxed. Nyquist used this example to explain that people are complex.
"As humans, we are multifaceted," Nyquist said. "It's about addressing all of the person."
At any given time, U.P. Hospice serves between 20 to 40 individuals. Nyquist said that often many who are eligible to use hospice do not, which contributes to what he said is a gap in awareness. He said many families wear themselves out trying to handle everything on their own.
"If I only knew about this service sooner," is what Nyquist said he hears repeatedly.
Despite opinions by some that hospice translates into giving up, Nyquist said that studies are beginning to show that hospice patients may live longer. In one study, according to Nyquist, two groups of people, both with lung cancer, were compared with the first group stopping treatment and entering hospice and the second group continuing aggressive treatment. The study concluded that the group in hospice care lived a couple of months longer and their quality of life was higher.
U.P. Hospice offers many services for both patients and families including the "Make a Memory" program, which strives to connect with each patient on an individual basis and do something special for them, whether it be a fishing trip or flying in family members from across the country.
"It's about living, not giving up," Nyquist said.
Family members are also offered a bereavement program and staff is committed to 13 months with family and friends, checking in regularly and offering support groups.
"Every hospice client is considered, both the patient and the family and friends as a unit," Nyquist said. "It's a circle of people and every single one of them needs support."
Currently, UPHHHPD has 25 to 30 volunteers, though Nyquist noted they always need more.
"We have so many different aspects of hospice, anyone interested can find a way to contribute," Nyquist said.
Of the many benefits of hospice, Nyquist said they tailor the program to what the family wants. In addition, patients can receive emergency level care from home and help managing medications and having prescriptions delivered.
Nyquist added that many can continue to live possibly more fulfilled lives after entering hospice because priorities change. Patients tend to focus on the more important things in life.
"Before places like Mayo and the Cleveland Clinic became famous, hospice care was a true originator of the progressive model of incorporating the true aspects of high quality clinical care, but also the extremely important aspects of the human condition," Nyquist said.
Abbey Hauswirth can be reached at 906-228-2500 ext. 240.