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When should someone you love engage hospice care?

For Christine Pfankuch (who goes by Chris), Hospice Care Coordinator at Castle Hospice, this was a question she once didn’t know how to answer. Twelve years ago, her 87-year-old father was suffering from Pulmonary Fibrosis.

“As a former caregiver for my dad, I didn’t understand what hospice was at the time,” Chris recalls. “I was waiting for someone to tell me when he was at that point.”

“Instead of introducing hospice as an option, his physician suggested he be admitted to the hospital to see if something else was going on. Those were agonizing days for my dad…and for us. Finally, the hospitalist told me she wasn’t sure my dad would make it through the weekend. I was so grateful for her honesty so we could move forward with making my dad comfortable. Unfortunately, by that time we only had two days with him.”

The disappointment stayed with Chris after her father’s passing, but it also called her to action. The former sales, marketing, and financial services professional with years of service experience embarked on a new career.

“My personal experience caring for both of my parents provided me with a wealth of knowledge. It stirred something within me that encouraged me to make a change in my career and become a resource for others. I want to help others navigate the options so they can make the best decisions for their loved ones.”

Chris joined Castle Hospice in September of this year. Being local and family owned, a member of the hospice care team is available to answer questions 24 hours a day, seven days a week. While services may be provided to anyone living in the Castle communities, we are partnering with other communities in this area. Chris clarified, “We go to wherever the patient calls home. We are an extension of the family and/or facility’s care team.”

“The first thing we do is listen and understand what the patient’s and family’s needs are. We learn about their loved one and what their goals are – physically and beyond. We want to help our patients live fully and include as many personal loves as we can in their care plan.”

 The Castle Hospice care plans are individualized and tailored specifically to a person’s likes and needs, whether it is playing a particular card game, listening to a specific musical artist, or enjoying a special treat or snack. There are hospice agencies that often have a large caseload of patients and are unable to spend individualized time with them. At Castle Hospice, Chris says, our caregivers are involved with the patients and what they enjoy.

“It’s wonderful to witness the connection our nurses and nursing assistants develop. We are in hospice for a reason and it’s because this is truly meaningful work. You can definitely see that in the care we provide.”

Chris once felt that bringing up the word “hospice” meant she was raising the white flag and giving up on her dad. This is a common myth that she is working hard to dispel. “I wish I knew then what I know now. Hospice would have been a welcome relief that would have given us so many more joyful moments. There is no shame in educating yourself. Call and inquire. Be persistent. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. That’s where I missed out.  Hospice can be a wonderful extra layer of care and service, and who wants to miss out on that? It can be a relief to families to get some assistance, help and support. What we do at Castle Hospice is wrap our arms around the family.”