PUBLISHED: 4:34 PM on Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Hospice helps patients, families accept inevitable
AUGUSTA, Ga. - In her daughter's home just outside Millen, Ga., Virlyn Hitchcock stares out her bedroom window waiting for a sparrow or hummingbird to appear on one of the five bird feeders.

The feeders have been strategically placed by daughter Sharon Hilderbrandt to give Hitchcock the best view. Every school day, Hitchcock, 82, also waits patiently for the school bus to pass by.

Hitchcock is dying of congestive heart failure, but these small routines and constant joking and laughing from her five daughters and hospice nurses give her something to look forward to every day.

She began hospice care with Heartland Hospice in April to begin the process of letting go.

"When the family first came on with Heartland, they still wanted aggressive treatment," said Kerstin Staten, hospice case manager. "Hospice has educated the family and has helped them go from wanting treatment to not trying to fix what's broken."

Staten said the goal of hospice care is to provide comfort, both medically and emotionally, to help the patient and family come to terms with death.

"You build a relationship over the months so the family looks up to you and look up to your support, so when it comes time to recommend taking the patient to the hospital to die, they are much more accepting," she said.