November 11, 2016
Moore Mission Moments - The Watershed Group


by Patti Moore


The San Francisco Examiner announced their 2016 Reader's Choice Winners, naming Zen Hospice Project "Best Hospice Care" in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Chosen by thousands of Examiner readers in northern California, these polls took place earlier this summer. You can read the story about this organization here (check out page 26).


I find it fascinating that in 2016, across all of the sprawling San Francisco Bay Area, it was the Zen Hospice Project that was selected as providing the Best Hospice Care.  Congratulations to them, as they have not forgotten what "Hospice" means...a way station for the weary traveler offering comfort and care for the body, mind and spirit. They interpret hospice as a noun, rather than a verb. They are not a Medicare Certified hospice; they do not fall under the strict rules and regulations of Medicare or Medicaid. 


The Zen Hospice Project contracts with area Medicare Certified hospices for care of their patients in their Hospice Guest House. Their volunteers serve daily at Laguna Honda Hospital on the 60-bed hospice and palliative care floor, supporting residents and their families. Working in collaboration with professional care givers, they offer “direct care, educational programs, and inspirational support” and real, honest, heartfelt connections to what people are searching for...finding meaning in life at the end of life. 


What can the Medicare certified hospices learn from the Zen Hospice Project?  It must be acknowledged that in San Francisco they were not the largest – in fact, far from it; nor were they the most diverse, nor do they have the largest footprint or staff. Yet they are the most beloved - at least according to the SF Examiner! What accounts for that? I would maintain that it’s their character that sets them apart.


I'm reading the book "The Road to Character" by David Brooks – which for me, anyway, resonates as one of those books that appears when the student is ready.  His premise is that we need to rethink the importance of character.  Those of us in hospice have heard many eulogies. Sometimes we pause and wonder to whom the speaker could be referring; certainly not the curmudgeon we just cared for!  But each of us should think of our own character and virtues, and what we are doing to ensure we are the example that dying people and their families want near them at this sacred time. Brooks says,  “The résumé virtues are the ones you list on your résumé, the skills that you bring to the job market and that contribute to external success. The eulogy virtues are deeper. They’re the virtues that get talked about at your funeral, the ones that exist at the core of your being—whether you are kind, brave, honest or faithful; what kind of relationships you formed.”


If you take that thought and apply it to an organization, I would ask you to consider this: What is the "character" of your organization?  What are your virtues?  Are they the résumé virtues you list on your website, your external success?  Or are they the eulogy virtues that are talked about around bedsides and in diners and at family gatherings where people who’ve been touched by your care say, "That hospice is great, because they are kind, and brave and honest and faithful..."?


Perhaps that's what the Zen Hospice Project has going for it.  It focuses more on its "eulogy" character and virtues, rather than its “résumé” virtues. Think on that...




Given the choice, most of us would sooner spend our final days at home than in a health care facility; in fact, according to this study recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine, it’s the wish of 86% of those polled nationwide, and across all demographics. Given that statistic, “…One might expect that greater use of home health and hospice services would correlate with more days at home, but … the opposite is true. In regions where patients had more days on which they received home health services, hospice services, or both, they spent fewer total days at home. There may be a variety of reasons for this result. Ensure your organization is supporting people to remain where they wish in their final days.


Where should hospice patients be treated? As we move to value based reimbursements, the Skilled Nursing Facility may not be the most cost-effective choice for most: “This is scary to a bunch of SNFs, who think our business is to fill beds. If you think that's your business, you're going to go out of business.”


How can we help our aging population stay in their homes as long as possible? In Maine, it’s increasingly a community effort spearheaded by caring volunteers: “One guy who had five bypass operations had no heat. We got the furnace working,” said George Shaw, 76, a volunteer. “We’re these people’s peers. We make them feel like they’re being helped by their own community.”




Our good friends at Hope Hospice & Palliative Care, Rhode Island, are celebrating 40 years of providing outstanding hospice care – and going strong.  Congratulations on your dedication and service to the citizens of Rhode Island over these many years.


Thinking of all of you as we plan our Thanksgiving; may the holiday see you celebrating with the people for whom you’re most grateful!  Peace, Gratitude and Love to all.

Pause, take a breath, smile and enjoy an evening at our RiverCove Retreat Center
The Watershed Group
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