Hospice Interview with Kris Sargent

I had the pleasure of corresponding with one of our esteemed board members Kris Sargent about the intricacies of hospice and what hope can look like for cancer patients transitioning their care to hospice. Kris has some wonderful insights into hospice and Gems of Hope is lucky to have her on our team! Please read and enjoy the interview below!

1.  How did you get involved with Hospice and Palliative Care?

I started my career in cancer care and hospice was in the same location – in the late 80’s. I initially started with hospice in 1989. I am one that puts my heart and soul into what I’m passionate about and at the time I had small children so it wasn’t a good fit at that time but I knew it was a special calling and would end up serving those patients and family when the time was right. Well, the time was right in 2015 after spending 25 + years in cancer care, I had that ah, ha moment that told me it was time to move on and I have been privileged ever since. It is a calling … I am touched by every patient and family I encounter.  This is what I’m supposed to do – to serve.   

2.  When did you join the Gems of Hope board? 

Unsure but I believe 10 years ago 

3.  What can “Hope” look like when a cancer patient chooses to transition their “fight” to securing their “comfort” with hospice care?

Well, you never take away their hope, the hope just changes. You empower the patient and their family to still set goals whether it be getting outside for an afternoon, make it to a family event, or just be more comfortable (less short of breath or painful). We are blessed to walk along with them during their journey. So, I don’t want individuals to think they or we are giving up on them. We walk with them. 

4.  For cancer patients and families, transitioning to hospice could feel very upsetting, scary, or unknown. Who is a part of the care team for hospice patients? Who helps support the family during this time?

It is a holistic approach to care. This is by addressing each individual’s mind, body and spirit – each element as important as the other. Yes, it’s scary, so acknowledge those feelings. The core team consists of a chaplain, social worker and nurse. The nurse’s role is to be attentive to the patient – assessing, listening and really getting to know the patient. So, when they have symptoms communicating to the provider and hopefully being more proactive than reactive on managing symptoms. A nurse is on call 24 hours a day 7 days a week. The role of the social worker and chaplain is to provide the spiritual and psychological support to not only the patient but the family.  

5.  How does hospice promote resilience in families as their loved one transitions through their final days? 

Ensuring they have support and know they’re not in this alone. Medicare and private insurances finally recognize care giving is 24 hours a day 7 days a week and respite is now a level of care and can provide relief. Communication is the key and we encourage that from the start, as they need to tell us when they’re getting worn out because there is an opportunity to utilize the hospice house for respite. If caregiver exhaustion is identified a patient may go to the hospice house for up to 5 nights of respite to give families a break.  

6.  Cancer journeys need a hearty support system, so for cancer patients transitioning to hospice care- what levels of involvement can the support system expect to retain?

You know you learn a lot from their initial meeting and each individual is unique. People are private, people have their established support system (family, friends) and then others have no one. You do a lot of listening and identifying what they need. So, there is not a clear-cut answer.  That is why it takes a team to meet the needs of each individual patient 

7. As a hospice professional, what is something you want every cancer patient (and all patients) to know about transitioning to hospice?

That this is their journey and we are privileged to be able to be there for them. We need to build trust in us, do a lot of listening and encourage them to call us. There is no playbook, you just meet them where they are … they may not need a lot at first, but services increase and the days go on. 

8. True or False: Hospice is about giving up. Absolutely NOT

9. True or False: Hospice is about comfort and dignity. TRUE

10. Describe hospice in 5 words or less. Listening, support, trust, dignity, and hope

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