Original play, grief groups bring hospice national award

Posted: Monday, July 30, 2001

Hospice and Home Care of Juneau has received national honors for its work in caring for patients nearing the end of their lives.

The nonprofit agency is one of six national organizations out of 115 applicants to be recognized with a Circle of Life Award from the American Hospital Association.

Hospice received the citation of honor for its work in three areas, including the production of an original play, "Unexpected Gifts - Hospice: A Community Journey," which was broadcast around the state on KTOO-TV.

"We applied for this award and we thought that, because of the positive response with 'Unexpected Gifts' and some of the innovative programs we've been developing in the last few years, we might have a chance with it," said Jamie McLean, a social worker with Hospice. "And we did."

The agency also was recognized for "extensive bereavement focus," which incorporates a number of Hospice-sponsored community programs. Two bereavement

support groups are held each year, as well as grief counseling and training sessions dealing with grief in school and the workplace.

This summer, Hospice began the "Good Grief" walks. Each Wednesday at noon, community members who have lost a loved one meet at Twin Lakes and walk together around it.

"It is an opportunity to maintain a connection with people who are grieving so they have support in their journey," McLean said.

Finally, Hospice was lauded for the special attention its volunteers and workers pay to the wide variety of spiritual and religious practices they encounter in the Juneau community.

Hospice was "just amazingly innovative," said Amy Lee, spokeswoman for AHA. "The purpose of the Circle of Life Award is to showcase the best of end-of-life care and (recognize) programs that can serve as role models anywhere in the country. Juneau certainly does that."

Hospice is made up of 20 employees, most of whom work part time, and 50 volunteers. It was founded after a 1979 visit by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, a psychiatrist and author whose theories on the grieving process helped inspire Hospice's methods.

The agency applied for the Circle of Life Award, now in its second year, last August. Though Hospice did not win one of the award's three $25,000 prizes, it is still pleased with the results, McLean said.

"We're in a very prestigious arena with some very notable people," she said.

Rather than attend the awards ceremony in San Diego on Tuesday, Hospice chose to have an AHA representative present its award in Juneau in November. Plans are being made for the ceremony.

"We discussed it and thought that it would just be better for our community and our agency if someone from the Circle of Life awards came up," McLean said. "That will be National Hospice Month (and) we can have a big event."

Genevieve Gagne-Hawes can be reached at genevieve@juneauempire.com.

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