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Charity helps elderly

Friends of Hospice provides musical therapy, grief support and other programs to people near death.

HANNAH WELZBACKER | Evergreen reporter

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Whitman County Friends of Hospice has supported hospice and end-of-life care for more than 22 years.

“Our mission is to ease suffering at the end of life through a variety of ways,” Executive Director Annie Pillers said. “This includes augmenting hospice services through patient needs. For example, a lift chair in the home or helping with heating bills.”

Pillers said Friends of Hospice is a network of volunteers, friends and companions who actively work to provide a variety of programs to local residents.

These programs include musical therapy, grief support, massage therapy for patients and caregivers and resources on the topic of death.

Threshold Choir of the Palouse, one of the offered programs, is a group of 12 volunteers that perform about eight times a month in the Pullman area. Co-Director Marsha Olsen said the group is active at local nursing homes, adult day care facilities, adult family homes and retirement communities.

They focus on singing in small groups to help ease the dying process for those at the end of life. They also do large group sing-a-longs with music that helps create positive memories.

“It is a total music experience,” Olsen said. “Even if they can’t sing and are just tapping their feet, we are helping to create an atmosphere of relaxation that lessens anxiety and eases breathing.”

Music and Memory, another Friends of Hospice group, uses music to bring joy into the lives of people suffering from Alzheimer’s, other forms of dementia and cognitive or physical impairments, Pillers said.

The group meets with individuals and their families to create a personalized playlist that usually includes their favorite songs like those from their childhood or music played at their weddings. The individual can then enjoy this music with their family even if they are unable to communicate verbally, Pillers said.

“This program eases pain and supports memory while also providing families an opportunity to connect through a form other than words,” Pillers said.

Ginny Hauser, a volunteer with the Threshold Choir and Music and Memory, said the wide variety of programs at Friends of Hospice brings happiness to both volunteers and recipients.

“Being able to provide the comfort of music for the listener and their loved ones brings much joy to me,” Hauser said. “At a time when a person is removed from all they know and love, from the comforts of their own home, and sometimes from their family members and pets, I am honored to be able to help by creating a space filled with music.”

Death Café is a relatively new program to the Palouse that creates a confidential space to share thoughts and ideas related to death, Pillers said.

“This opens up the conversation and helps make death and life a kitchen table conversation,” Pillers said. “If we do this we can know how to support and care for each other.”

Death Café is free of charge and will happen again in March in Pullman. Community members can register online at either the Friends of Hospice website, their Facebook page or deathcafe.com, she said.

“The measure of a community is how it supports its members throughout the life cycle,” Hauser said. “The gentle care offered by Friends of Hospice volunteers recognizes and honors the humanity in each of us.”

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Charity helps elderly