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Hospice reaches out to Hispanics

As he labored in a Hood River Valley cherry orchard, Antar Pinto knew there was someplace else he needed to be.

That was at home, caring for his 84-year-old grandmother, who was losing her long struggle with congestive heart failure.

The immigrant family had been amazed to learn about hospice care. It wasn’t something they were familiar with.

But the Hispanic outreach program of Providence Hospice of the Gorge had led them to understand, and to trust, that care providers could come into the home and help them take good care of their grandmother.

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Now that outreach program is getting national attention.

In 2006, Providence Hospice of the Gorge began an innovative Hispanic/

Latino outreach program that will be featured at the annual National Palliative Care Congress this June in Anaheim, Calif.

The program provides palliative care and end-of-life education to the Latino community using bilingual staff, community health workers for end-of-life care outreach and education to increase access to hospice services.

More than 25 percent of Hood River residents are Spanish-speaking Latinos, many with active spiritual lives. Increasingly, ill or frail elders move in with their families for care and support. Palliative care and hospice are not familiar to many of these families. Some fear that the services are expensive or unavailable to them. Others have cultural or language concerns.

Since the program began, the community health workers have made referrals and provided information about existing resources. They have also created and deployed innovative education methods in churches and health fairs.

In five years, Providence Hospice of the Gorge has provided palliative and end-of-life care to 17 new Latino families, including Antar Pinto’s family.

Community health workers, called “Promotores de salud,” are central to the work.

Two of the Promotores, Evaristo Romero and Gerardo Lugo, along with coordinator Lorena Sprager will share their experience and discuss program expansions into providing palliative and end-of-life care sooner and coordinating with more partners. Providence Hospice of the Gorge was selected to present at the national conference in recognition of its innovation and quality outcomes.

“This program helps everyone in our community to understand and benefit from our very best care — especially the programs designed to maximize quality of life and address the suffering that comes with illness,” said Mark Thomas, director of mission integration at Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital.

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Providence Hospice of the Gorge has cared for patients in the Columbia River Gorge for more than 30 years and has offices located in Hood River and The Dalles.

— Christina Vanderwerf, Providence

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