Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Hope Hospice Tree of Lights Enters 24th Season

More trees, commemorative ornament added this year

This year marks the 24th season for the Hope Hospice and Community Services Tree of Lights at Edison Mall. This signature event enables Hope Hospice supporters to decorate the tree and honor a loved one while making a contribution to Hope.

With each donation, participants have the opportunity to honor or memorialize a loved one by writing their name on a butterfly ornament, which is placed on the tree. “Our tree has become a traditional way for people in our community to remember their loved ones. We are committed to caring for everyone who needs our services, regardless of their ability to pay, so this is a special holiday gift for us as well,” according to Hope President and CEO Samira K. Beckwith. “We are grateful to the management of the Edison Mall for hosting this event each year,” she added.

This year, Hope has created a special commemorative tree ornament as a personal keepsake. The ornaments, adorned with butterflies and holly and packaged in a gift box, are available at the Tree of Lights for a donation of $20. With this donation, participants may also place a butterfly on the tree.

Because of the popularity of this event, Hope has added a second location this year. The trees are located at the main entrance to the mall at the information desk, and adjacent to Santa’s station, near Dillard’s.

The Tree of Lights runs through December 23.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Hospice is About Living

Members of the Hope Hospice staff recently participated in a beautiful wedding. They knew the groom well – he was in our care, and the wedding was conducted in our Hope Hospice House chapel. We have been sharing memories of the past 100 years with a centenarian, enjoying her stories from “way back then.” One of our art therapists is making colorful imprints of a baby’s tiny hands and feet, to be treasured by Mommy and Daddy. These are our “Moments of Hope,” and they are happening every day.

The time at which someone is nearing the end of life does not mean their life has already ended. Hospice is about living. All attention is focused on the individual, not on their illness. The hospice care team – physician, nurse, social worker, chaplain, therapists and volunteers, work to meet the person’s physical, emotional and spiritual needs. What we do every day is more than traditional health care, it’s about dignity, respect and compassion.

In fact, in proclaiming November 2007 as National Hospice Month, President Bush said, “One of America’s greatest values is compassion, and our country is blessed by all those who dedicate themselves to caring for others.”

Many of the families who chose hospice for their loved one have told us, “We wish we had known about Hope Hospice sooner.” By this they mean that had they known that their loved one could have received such comprehensive and compassionate care sooner rather than later, it would have been better for the loved one and it would have given the family greater peace of mind.

We endeavor to make the transition to hospice care as comfortable and easy as possible. Early referrals enable the patient and family to immediately begin receiving all of the benefits of our care. A person is eligible for hospice care after being certified by a physician as having a life-limiting illness of any kind. Anyone – family member, friend, physician, can refer someone to us.

As we observe National Hospice Month, I want to encourage you to learn more about how we can help by visiting our Web site at or by calling Hope at (239) 482-4673 or (800) 835-1673.

Samira K. Beckwith, Hope President and CEO

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Hope Hospice supports recommendations for Alzheimer's patients' care

In the past year, Hope Hospice cared for nearly 500 people in our community with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, and as with all of our patients, we constantly seek new and better ways to serve them and support their families.

The national Alzheimer’s Association has just released new recommendations on improving care for people with these types of illnesses. We at Hope welcome their suggestions on issues unique to people with dementia at the end of their lives, and we hope all health care providers will take note.

Among the Alzheimer’s Association’s key recommendations:
  • The need for advance care planning as soon as possible after diagnosis of dementia: This includes documenting the person’s wishes regarding medical treatments in advanced stages of dementia and designation of a proxy decision maker. To aid in this process, Hope provides Advance Directives information and forms on our Web site, at

  • Provision of person-centered care to people with advanced dementia: When there is no cure, the role of hospice is to provide comfort and enable the person to live in dignity. This is a time to focus on the person, not the illness.
  • The importance of dementia-specific training for residential care workers on end-of-life issues: For example, understanding the signs of end of life, pain management issues, and communicating with families. Over the past 26 years, Hope has worked closely with other local health care agencies and providers, including the Alvin A. Dubin Alzheimer's Resource Center in Fort Myers, to better educate the community on caring for people with dementia.
We applaud the Alzheimer’s Association for helping to raise community awareness in this way.

The number of people affected by Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia will continue to increase. Whether the patient is living at home, in a nursing home or other kind of facility, specialized high-quality care is essential to their well-being. No one in our community, patient or loved one, should go through this difficult experience without the ample support available to them. To receive our help with the dementia patient at the end of life and their family caregivers, please call Hope Hospice at (239) 482-4673, or (800) 835-1673.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Hope Hospice House coming to Lehigh

Originally published in the Fort Myers News-Press

Hope Hospice of Southwest Florida is coming to Lehigh Acres.

Samira Beckwith, Hope’s president and chief executive officer, said that a Hospice House featuring 24 beds will be built on 5-acres donated by Lehigh’s Community Health Association.

The Hospice House will be built at 11 Beth Stacey Blvd., behind Lehigh Community Services.

“We’re very fortunate because of the donation of the land,” said Beckwith, adding that Hope had wanted a Lehigh facility similar to Bonita Springs’ Joanne’s House for some time. “All of our Hospice homes are running at a high occupancy level. We wanted to go east and we think Lehigh will provide better access to people in Hendry and Glades counties.”

Beckwith said details about the facility are still uncertain.

“We’re just starting the zoning process and that’ll play the biggest role in when we can start construction,” she said. “It could take a year. We want to break ground as soon as the zoning is complete.”

Preliminary plans for the building call for an Old Florida architectural design, office space, all the amenities patients need and a series of grief programs, Beckwith said.

A staff of about 70 is expected, she added.

Once construction is complete, Lehigh’s Hope House will be the fourth in Lee County. The others are in Bonita Springs, Cape Coral and at HealthPark in south Fort Myers

Fundraising for the construction is expected to begin this fall. “We’re going to start our capital campaign later this year, Beckwith said. “We’re going to need to raise between $3-$5 million.”

Hope’s plan for a Lehigh house has been in the works for more than a year, explained Hugh Vanhoose, the executive director of the Community Health Association (CHA) — the private foundation that donated the land to Hope.

CHA formed in 1964 as Lehigh Acres General Hospital and when the hospital was sold in the mid-1980s, CHA lost its status as a charity and became a private foundation.

“We took the money from the sale of the hospital and a nursing home and started giving it away,” said Vanhoose, explaining that the foundation is required to give away 5 percent of its assets each year.

Eventually, the money raised through CHA went toward building the Lehigh Literacy Council, Lehigh Community Services, Childcare of Southwest Florida and the Lee County School District’s School Choice office at 11 Beth Stacey Blvd.

“Our mission is health-oriented,” Vanhoose said. “One of the things we wanted to do was bring a Hospice facility to Lehigh Acres.”

Vanhoose said donation of the 5-acres to Hope Hospice is the equivalent to $1.5 million, which will satisfy its asset distribution requirement for the next several years.

“A Hospice facility is something that’s needed out here,” he said. “We’re trying to remain true to that same vision we had back in 1964.”

Oliver Conover, the executive director of the Lehigh Acres Chamber of Commerce said the arrival of a Hope Hospice Home in Lehigh is another example of groups paying attention to a need.

"If someone has to go to Hospice now, they have to drive 20 miles over to HealthPark," he said. "Having one in Lehigh makes it much more convenient for families here and places like LaBelle."

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Samira Beckwith: defining the quality of life

Originally published in the Florida Weekly

Death and dying. While most people would rather change the subject, this is the reality that Samira Beckwith faces every day. As the president and CEO of Hope Hospice and Community Services, Beckwith explains that their mission is to help people fulfill their life's journey and decide how they will spend time in the last chapter of their lives.

Depressing? Maybe to some people, but Beckwith explains that depression would indicate there is nothing that can be done to help. And while she and her staff are filled with sadness at each passing, Beckwith says they remain inspired by creating ways to help each person, their families and the community.

"I love what we do," says Beckwith. "It's really important that we make a difference for each person and their families."

"Plus, we have great volunteers who look at what we can do," continues Beckwith. We can give tender, loving, supportive care. We can make each person's days more worthwhile with art classes, music therapy, special birthday parties. Recently, we had an experience where one woman was not going to live to see her granddaughter's wedding. So they changed the date and we had the wedding at her bedside - it was a very beautiful and moving experience. We think of what we can do to improve the quality of those final days."

Influenced by her own experiences, Beckwith has an unusual insight into people who are not expected to survive. Diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease at the young age of 24, she spent hours in hospital waiting rooms with other patients left in the dark about their procedures and other aspects of their treatments. She wondered why they were all being treated like anonymous numbered patients, instead of like people, and thought about how she might help. As ill as she was herself, this was the turning point when she brought her personal and professional lives together -- an experience that has kept her fueled all these years.

Graduating from Ohio State University with a Master's of Social Work, Beckwith worked in a hospice house in North Dakota for 10 years before interviewing in Fort Myers in 1991. Under her leadership, Hope Hospice now serves more than 1,400 people each day and she has led the development of three facilities: Fort Myers, Cape Coral and Bonita Springs. Past president of the Florida Hospices and Palliative Care Organization, Beckwith now serves on the organization's executive committee. She has also been the recipient of many regional and national awards, including being named one of Eckerd's Top 100 Women in the U.S. (2000).

Beckwith's focus on care extends beyond the individual and his or her family to the community at large. She explains how Hospice provides bereavement counseling to employers and how they reach out to clergy to be available to their congregations.

"How a person spends the final chapter of life depends on how both family and business associates will cope. Our grief counselors meet with groups at work or with school counselors if a child is involved - we are even called to crime scenes when law enforcement needs extra help. We touch people's lives in many different ways."

Beckwith credits wonderful volunteers and supportive board members with their ability to help so many in such a caring way and their flexibility as the role of Hospice changes in our society.

"We want to stay ahead of the needs and understand what's coming," says Beckwith. "This subject used to be very hush-hush, and there is still a lot of discomfort in expressing what people want, but baby boomers want to have a say in their last days - they want to have a sense of control."

This has resulted in developing different ways to deliver care, and listening to each person to determine their needs. With families so spread out, fewer people want to be home alone or to be a burden to their loved ones in their last days.

"I am passionate about our work, helping people define how they will spend their time," concludes Beckwith. "I am lucky to have this opportunity. The lesson I have learned? We often can't choose what happens to us, but we can choose how we respond."

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Hope Connections Reopens Center

Originally published in the Caloosa Belle

Hope Connections is settling into the L.J. Nobles Center, providing services for senior citizens.

Hope Connections Program Manager Rosemarie Slowly said she wants clients to feel comfortable at the center, located on Cowboy Way, and assured clients that they will be directed on the right path. Ms. Slowly is brand new at the position, although she has been working in health care management for 10 years.

She feels right at home, saying she specifically looked for a hospice position because of their values. They are special caring people, she noted, who put patients and their families first.

Her job is to make sure that the patients’ needs are met as well as all the guidelines, policies/procedures and funding requirements. Also at the Nobles Center you will find Kay Owens, case manager for Hope Connections Hendry County, and Diane Thorpe, site manager.

Vice President Hope Life Care Mary Curtis said the Area Agency on Aging (AAA) funds two facilities in Hendry (one in LaBelle on Cowboy Way and one in Clewiston (1200 W.C. Owens Ave.) and two in Glades (101 Florida Ave.) and the Buckhead Ridge (congregate meals only).

Hope Connections provides case management at its Moore Haven, LaBelle and Clewiston offices.

Hope also offers services at the LaBelle and Clewiston facilities, neatly synchronizing programs for the elderly. Through Hope Connections centers, senior citizens can take advantage of congregate meals Monday through Friday. Suggested donation is $1 donation for the meal, although it is strictly up to the individual.

The center also offers case management, home delivered meals, C.N.A. aides and homemaker services. Depending on the client’s financial circumstances, payment can be by Medicaid or co-pay.

Hope Connections currently has a combined staff of 20 in Hendry and Glades.

Hope Hospice has a 26-year history in Hendry/Glades; now AAA asked Hope Connections to take over elder services in this area.In March of this year, the organization opened its first facility in Hendry County n the “yellow house” at the corner of Clay St. and SR 80 where congregate meals were served.

The organization is also offering Hope Life Care - designed to help older, more frail people stay at home as long as possible. At this time Hope Connections has 254 clients in Hendry-Glades. Hope Life Care serves 250 (total in all counties); five in Hendry County at this time.

Outside groups, including the Center for Independent Living and Goodwill also have offices at the Nobles Center.

Because life enrichment is very important for senior citizens, look for more activities for clients. Volunteers are needed to conduct sessions in arts and crafts and exercise and so on - any form of group entertainment will be considered. Volunteers go through a 15 hour training course and can work with clients or perform other necessary functions.

The folks at Hope Connections want you to think of the Nobles Senior Center as senior center not just a congregate site.

For more information about Hope Connections’ programs, facilities or volunteer opportunities, call 800-835-1673.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Spring Luncheon to Benefit Hope Hospice

Fifth Annual Event Features “Unforgettable Tables”

The Women’s Committee for Hope Hospice at Bonita Springs hosts their fifth annual luncheon to benefit Hope on April 16 at 11 am, at the Quail West Country Club. This year’s theme will again be “Unforgettable Tables,” as local designers create distinctive and unusual table settings for the luncheon.

Many of the items to be used in the table settings will be offered at a silent auction.

“The Women’s Committee luncheon is always a lovely event, and the table designs are a must-see,” according to Hope President and CEO Samira K. Beckwith. “This event is a fun and creative way of supporting our important work, and we are truly grateful to the Committee.”

Tickets are available for $100 each. Contact Barbara Brown at (239) 489-9147.