PeaceHealth Offers Comfort and Dignity for End-of-Life Care

Authored by and republished with permission from WhatcomTalk (

Gurpreet Dhillon, MBA, Director of Cancer, Palliative, and Hospice Care for PeaceHealth in Whatcom County

When a serious illness becomes terminal, it can be difficult to know when and how to consider end-of-life care, also known as hospice care.

These challenges are exacerbated by the fact that relatively few local organizations are solely dedicated to hospice care for a community of Bellingham’s size. Recognizing this need, a partnership of generous donors, PeaceHealth and not-for-profit came together to fill the void, giving life to Whatcom Hospice.

Hospice care is reserved for any seriously-ill patient determined to have six months or less to live. Despite the fact that hospice care is a Medicare-covered benefit for six months or longer, the national average use of hospice is only 18 days.

Term “Hospice” Does Not Mean Stopped Care

Dr. Shelley Rice, a palliative and hospice care physician who joined PeaceHealth from Duke University Hospital last fall, says Whatcom County’s average for hospice care duration is 23 days. While the term “hospice” can evoke the idea that care is being stopped, Rice says the truth is far different. Care is provided not just medically, but emotionally, the latter of which extends to a patient’s family.
“There’s a lot of opportunity for people to really benefit more, to be able to live well,” she says. “We can be there for people.”

Hospice Care Options

The comfort-focused, quality-of-life-extending aims of Whatcom Hospice’s care can be provided locally in three different ways and is available to begin the same day or next day that care is recommended. The first hospice option is in-home, which is how many of PeaceHealth’s roughly 200 local hospice patients receive care. This includes patients in assisted living, adult family homes, or nursing facilities. With home hospice, a registered nurse is assigned to a patient as a case manager. The nurse visits several times a week, and is on-call 24/7.

A nurse’s aide also visits each patient several times a week to assist in personal care, such as bathing. In addition to providing all necessary equipment and medicines to each patient, hospice care also includes access to a social worker and chaplain, as well as nutritional and physical therapy consultations.

End-of-Life Care For Specialized Medical Needs

Hospice care and end-of-life care can also be administered at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center, for those with specialized medical needs or who have a particularly short time left to live. The third option is a short-term stay at Whatcom Hospice House, a 12-bed hospice care facility just a few miles from PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center for those unable to manage their care elsewhere. For family members, Whatcom Hospice House offers the chance to relinquish the burdens of at-home caregiving and focus on treasuring the moments of their loved one’s final days. The center is commemorating its 10th year of operation in 2021.

Collaboration of PeaceHealth & Whatcom Hospice Foundation

To help ensure access to high-quality hospice care in the community, a collaboration of PeaceHealth and Whatcom Hospice Foundation provides funding to assist those with financial hardships in affording their care and supporting services above and beyond typical hospice programs, such as acupuncture, massage, palliative treatments and more.
For more information or to schedule an appointment to discuss care options for you or a loved one, call Whatcom Hospice at 360-733-5877.

Article provided by WhatcomTalk (

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