Chaplaincy team serving more Hispanic families through hospice care

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The hospice team members dispatched to assist Hispanic families caring for a dying loved one know they must use a different approach to earn their trust.

The Chaplaincy Health Care team knows it’s best to seek out the patriarch of the family and use titles like “Señor” or “Señora” until given permission to use first names. They know they must honor the family’s desire to care for their relative at home, as well as their faith traditions.

Providing more bilingual and bicultural hospice services has long been a goal of the Kennewick agency that provides hospice, palliative, grief and behavioral health care to the Tri-City community.

Five years ago, the agency formed a Hispanic Outreach Team, which includes a bilingual and bicultural nurse, social worker, chaplain and nursing assistants, to better serve the area’s growing Hispanic community.

The team knew it had a lot of work to do to earn the Hispanic community’s trust.

Hospice is often seen as a place to “dump relatives to die by themselves, alone” in Mexico and South American countries, said Chaplain Victor Ortega, one of the team’s members.

“Our purpose is to re-educate people that hospice here in the states is where we provide spiritual and physical and emotional care so patients can have quality of life while respecting and honoring their own beliefs and traditions,” he said.

The group’s efforts are beginning to pay off.

The agency has noted a 2.5 percent increase in serving the Hispanic population since it began focusing on outreach and education.

In 2016, 8 percent of hospice patients served were Hispanic. That’s up from 7.6 percent in 2015 and 5.6 percent in 2014.

Last year, hospice served a total of 79 patients.

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Kristina Lord

Kristina Lord

Kristina Lord has more than 21 years of journalism experience and has been editor of the Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business and Senior Times since July 2016. She spent more than 17 years at the Tri-City Herald and also worked at weekly newspapers in Prosser, Grandview and Yelm. She’s a longtime member of the Society of Professional Journalists’ William O. Douglas chapter and a board member of Warrior Sisterhood, a Tri-Cities Cancer Center support group. She and her husband have two young daughters and they live in West Richland.

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