If she could, Christine Coll would stand on the roof and shout about the benefits of hospice for the world to hear.
With 33 years in the nursing industry under her belt, Coll said she felt hospice was the perfect place to wind up serving as she approached retirement – a decision that lead her to open Willow Tree Hospice with her son, Christopher, in West Grove seven years ago.
Now having relocated to Cypress Street in Kennett Square, Coll and her associates are taking their business to new places while still maintaining and providing intimate in-home care, she said.
“My background is basically improving quality in long-term care,” she said. “(Hospice) seemed like a nice segue into retirement – it’s a soft and gentle form of care that makes sense, and it’s a wonderful advantage for these folks who are mostly older folks.”
The goal of her organization, as with most hospice companies, is to allow the patient to die in a positive, healthy environment – often at home with family, or wherever it is they happen to live.
Hospice, Coll explained, is that final stop after the patient, or in some cases the patient’s family, decide along with their doctors to end the measures that are being taken to extend their life.
“It allows people to die the way they came into this works: supported, loved, with dignity, as opposed to the medical model, where people go into an institution and wait to die. This way, we allow people to have a quality of life as long as they can.”
Coll said that they also work to include the family and the patient when it comes to providing care, instead of approaching them as separate entities.
Working with their in-house social worker, medical staff and the patient’s family and physicians, Coll said they approach hospice care in a holistic way that goes beyond the patient’s ultimate death.
“We put a plan into place that’s going to support (the family) while their loved one is going through the process of dying, and afterwards for at least a year,” Coll said. “So it’s a comprehensive process.”
“We have a chaplain on staff, we have social workers on staff, so it’s a lot about educating the family as well as caring for the patient,” said Christopher Coll. “It’s about keeping communication open while you’re caring for the patient, just let them know, ‘this is what we’re doing and this is why we’re doing it.’”
Having worked in a corporate medical structure for several years, Christine Coll said she’s seen the opposite many times, where hospice, family and doctors all seem to act independently of one another – an unnecessary stress in an already stressful time.
“The focus becomes about comfort,” said Beth Adams, community liaison at Willow Tree. “And there are certainly criteria that have to be met before hospice care comes in. But many of our staff members are certified in hospice and palliative care.”
It sounds like a tough job, and it can be, Coll said. It can also be rewarding in ways many people can’t imagine.
“You become very close and very invested in these people’s lives, and their family’s lives,” she said.
“You’re forever bonded. Forever bonded,” Adams said. “That’s why the Willow Tree logo is so important to us, because we work from the roots up to make sure our patients are covered.”
Coll and her associates are officially cutting the ribbon on their new location at 616 E. Cypress Street in Kennett Square, on Thursday, Sept, 13 at 10 a.m.