Northwest Colorado Health: Hospice focuses on hope, comfort and quality of life |

Northwest Colorado Health: Hospice focuses on hope, comfort and quality of life

Jaclyn McDonald
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
Northwest Colorado Health provides comfort oriented end-of-life care for patients with a life expectancy of six months or less in Routt County. (Courtesy)

One of many myths about choosing hospice is that it means giving up hope. The reality is that in hospice, the hope for living each day to the fullest becomes the focus.

“Hospice is about the quality of life that exists in the process of dying,” said Jo Anne Grace, spiritual care and bereavement coordinator with Northwest Colorado Health’s hospice program. “When we have time to establish a network of support around a patient and family, we are able to encourage final wishes and pinpoint what that person wants to accomplish before they die. We have had patients who wanted to ride a horse one last time, to go fishing and to take one final ski run down the mountain. Hospice allows the patient to acknowledge death and really plan and deal with it so that we can work with our community of hospice staff and volunteers to make those wishes happen.”

While many believe that hospice is only for the last days of life, patients and families can receive hospice care for six months or longer. Research has shown that entering hospice earlier rather than later in the course of illness has many advantages for the patient and loved ones.

• Better pain and symptom control. When hospice staff have more time to provide care for the patient, they can provide individualized management of pain and other symptoms offering as much relief and comfort as possible.

• Improved quality of life. Hospice care focuses on the well-being of the whole patient. There is greater opportunity to focus on what matters most in life, offering more quality time with loved ones.

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.

• Access to helpful medical supplies and equipment. A hospital bed, commode or wheelchair help caregivers cope with the increasing needs of their loved ones.

• Fewer hospital and ICU admissions. Patients admitted to hospice earlier in the course of illness are much less likely to go to a hospital or ICU in a state of crisis. They are more likely to die at home surrounded by loved ones.

• More days of life. Studies have shown that hospice patients live longer than those with a similar diagnosis who do not receive hospice care.

• Bereavement support for patient and family. Grief counseling for caregivers and patients allows them to work through emotional issues before death occurs and find peace in their final days. Support for families continues after the death of a loved one.

“Hospice allows family members a respite from 24/7 caregiving so they can reestablish a relationship with their loved one not focused on duty,” said Grace. “They can be a wife again, a child again, a parent. They are able to relax from their role and instead focus on just being with their loved one.”

That was something Phyllis Coletta, Moffat County spiritual care coordinator with Northwest Colorado Health, experienced firsthand when her own mother was in hospice. “Hospice gave her siblings and grandkids the opportunity to see her and just pour love on her as she made her way through. Hospice provides so much comfort for a dying person; I wish folks would step into it sooner. It provides a beautiful quality of life as someone dies and allows them to have control over the process.”

Northwest Colorado Health has provided comfort-oriented, end-of-life hospice care in the Yampa Valley for nearly 30 years. As a nonprofit hospice provider, Northwest Colorado Health provides care to all residents who need it, regardless of their ability to pay. Although health insurance may cover hospice, expenses such as medications, equipment and bereavement support often exceed reimbursement. Donations and fundraising events like the Rubber Ducky Race for hospice help cover this gap.

The Steamboat Springs Rubber Ducky Race for Hospice is an opportunity for Routt County residents to support this service in their community. The race will take place at 10 a.m. Sept. 12 at Old Town Hot Springs. Tickets are only $10 and offer a chance to win cash and other prizes. Purchase tickets today at

To learn more about Northwest Colorado Health’s Hospice program, visit or call 970-871-7629.

Jaclyn McDonald is marketing coordinator at Northwest Colorado Health. She can be reached at or 970-871-7642.

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