A blood oxygen monitor is a small device few outside the medical profession would have a chance to use, but the nurses at Home Hospice of Cooke County say they are grateful they now have enough of them to go around.

The monitors are useful for measuring the blood oxygen level of patients on hospice care.

“(The monitors) read the blood oxygen level in red blood cells. The device tells the nurse how well the patient is oxygenating. It’s very important for us when we have patients with lung cancer or other lung conditions or for people in the very end stages of life. It’s a way to help us tell what’s happening in the body,” said Jana Cockrell alternate site deliver manager at Home Hospice of Cooke County.

The additional monitors, purchased by home hospice’s auxiliary are part of several changes at the agency, according to Kanita Maxwell, the auxiliary organization’s new president.

She said she learned the nurses were sharing a single monitor after a conversation with Volunteer Coordinator Kathi Kirby.

“She told me that there are a few items the nurses could use to help make their job easier. At the adversary council meeting, I said I’d do what I could to get these,” she said.

Maxwell said the auxiliary purchased two monitors and plans to buy a third monitor this month. “We purchased them through the hospital at a very good price,” she said.

The auxiliary also bought copies of “The Clinicians Handbook of Symptom Relief and Palliative Care.”

Each nurse will have a copy of the book.

“It’s a very vital book for the nurses when they go out into the field,” Maxwell said.

Each book costs about $55 and was purchased with private donations — a fact that Maxwell said is worth noting.

“Our residents are so generous with local nonprofits,” she said.

Cockrell, a registered nurse, said Home Hospice of Cooke County also has two other fulltime RNs and one LVN (licensed practical nurse).

Cockrell is the agency’s administrator and is also called out for patient visits sometimes.

She said Home Hospice clients usually number in the 20s.

The former manager of Vista Care — a Denton area for-profit hospice agency — said there a lot of good hospices, but patients and families searching for hospice care should first consider their own not-for-profit hospice.

“All they need to do is tell their doctors they are going home and that they want (to be placed on service with) the local hospice,” she said.

Like others who work in hospice care, Cockrell said she would like to dispel myths about hospice.

“People are afraid of the word “hospice,’” she said. “You hear a family say, ‘Oh my gosh, they’ve called in hospice.””

Hospice is about making the most of precious time.

“We want to help people live as well as they can for as long as they can. We can help them with symptoms and make them feel well,” she said.

Patients who enter hospice care have received a terminal diagnosis and face a life expectancy of six or fewer months if the disease progresses as expected.

But not everyone who enters hospice care dies within the six month period.

“We have patients who are with us a year or more,” she said.

Some patients and their families wait until death is imminent to seek hospice services.

Delaying hospice care can mean addition pain for the patient, both physical and emotional.

“They don’t have time to get to know their nurses and social workers. They miss out on special services designed to give them comfort,” she said.

One such project is the Legacy program which provides patients an outlet to tell their life stories with words and photos. The compositions are then compiled in a book which often becomes a treasure to family members.

“It’s a legacy to be given to children and grandchildren. The program allows the patient to talk about their lives while they are still able to do that. It brings some closure to patient and to their families,” she said.

Client families can also participate in Bear Hugs.

Bear Hugs volunteers sew handmade bears from clothing or another fabric item which has some significance to the client. The bears can be made from a favorite nightgown, a blanket, almost any material.

Volunteer Coordinator Kathi Kirby said Home Hospice appreciates its volunteers.

“We can always use more volunteers, especially for Bear Hugs,” she noted.

The equipment and clinicial materials donations are only part of what the auxiliary hopes to accomplish, according to Maxwell.

“The auxiliary is also working on some beautification projects for the outside premises around the building. Some of this will be done through donations. Plans include the addition of flowers and plants and possibly a picnic table. A fountain outside the office is another possibility. We want to have some brightness and make the place more cheerful,” she said.

Above all, auxiliary members want to help Home Hospice.

“The auxiliary officers are very excited about doing things. I don’t want the glory for myself. Whatever we are doing is a team effort. All these things are being done by the auxiliary on behalf of home hospice,” Maxwell added.

Home Hospice of Cooke County is a United Way agency.

Reporter Delania Trigg may be

contacted at dtrigg@ntin.net

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