This article printed by permission of Hi-Desert Publishing Company
Basin Wide Spirit - Winter 2011
Compassionate Caregivers 
Hi-Desert Medical Center's Hospice Services assists patients and their families with end-of-life care and everything that goes with it
By Jutta Biggerstaff, Special to Basin Wide Spirit
Presented by permission
Thelma Beck relaxes on her new lift chair as registered nurse Gail Bauman-Sykora checks her heart, blood pressure and respiration in the family room of her tidy home in the Friendly Hills neighbohood of Joshua Tree. The house is sparingly decorated for Christmas, as is Beck herself, who wears tiny red and green Christmas lights as a necklace and earrings. (Shown in photo at right)
Beck, called "Cricket" by friends and family, praises her nurse and the care she recieves from Hi-Desert Hospice Services provided by Hi-Desert Medical Center. "All the people who come and help do an excellent job," she enthuses. "They know what to do and they do it the right way."
Beck 80, entered the hospice program in May 2010 after a fall. In addition to blood clots, she suffers from badly installed knee replacements and congestive heart failure. Her niece, Donna Tipton, and David Graham, her good friend and companion, take care of her in the home she has lived in for 30 years. After the fall, Beck's condition was grave and her prognosis grim; Tipton moved in to help care for her." The doctor said there was no more he could do," she says. "He gave us two choices: either put her in a home or come home with hospice . Well, she's not going to no home." And with the help of the hospice team, Beck has rallied and is looking forward to a wonderful Christmas.
Graham, also 80, has nothing but good to say about the organization and the team that provides care to Beck several times a week. "On a scale of one to10, they're a 20," he declares. Hospice staff members are on call 24 hours a day, and Tipton says that knowing someone is there to help them any time is a great comfort to the family.
One of the main objectives of the hospice is to provide end-of-life care for the patients in their own homes. Medical teatments continue, but care is focused on keeping the patient comfortable. "Sometimes people think that when they go on hospice that everything is going to stop, but that's not the case at all," Bauman-Sykora says. Some patients, like Beck, sign on for hospice care and begin to recover. "Hospice is about improving the quality of life that is left, so there is less suffering and more peace and comfort during the final phase of life," says Margaret Hinton, a social worker.
Presently, Hi-Desert Hospice works with a doctor and the primary caregiver to provide care for the patient. The hospice team includes three RNs, one licensed vocational nurse, two home health aides, three part-time social workers and two part-time chaplains. Other practitioners, such as physical therapists, are called in as needed. The organization also works with Hospice of Morongo Basin, a volunteer coalition whose members perform many tasks for patients and families who are dealing with a progressive illness.
Those familes are often frightened and overwhelmed at the prospect of coping with their loved one's terminal illness," RN Jay Simpson says. "The real value of hospice is being able to educate and give family members an idea about what's going to happen," he says.
In addition to education and the medical, spiritual and emotional care hospice provides to patients and their families, it simply provides a caring shoulder to lean on. "To have support, someone to talk to when faced with the death of a loved one can be very important," Hinton says.
Except for some pain in her neck and shoulder, Beck is feeling well after more than seven months of hospice care. She wears make-up and her hair is freshly done by her caring niece. She happily notes that she even baked brownies the day before. At the time she spoke to Basin Wide Spirit, she and her niece were looking forward to spending Christmas with family. "We're going Mexican this year," she announces with a grin.
Photo left: Four members of Hi-Desert Hospice Services' team in their home-like conference room.  From left are Jay Simpson, RN; Margaret Hinton, social worker; Heidi Grunt, patient care manager; and Gail Baumann-Sykora, RN.
All photos taken by Jutta Biggerstaff