Emerald Coast Hospice

The Emerald Coast Hospice team can be found at 3015 Jefferson St., Suite E, in Marianna.

Sometimes terminal patients find their treatment options are no longer adequate and their quality of life is not what they desire. According to Emerald Coast Hospice Specialist, Chris Milton, “This is when hospice care is an option.”

Chris Milton and Chaplain Gino Mayo of Emerald Coast Hospice took a little time out of their busy day to share the benefits of hospice care.

Gino was born and raised in Marianna. After graduating from Marianna High School and Chipola College, he obtained his Master’s in Theology from Christian Life School of Theology. From 1991 until 2004 Gino pastored a church in Georgia. Following his father’s death in 2003, he decided to look for another ministry. “In my position at Emerald Coast Hospice I have more opportunities,” he continued, “and the opportunities are in the presence of people with great needs.”

Chris Milton was also born and raised in Marianna. After graduating from Marianna High School and Chipola College, Chris graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in Health Sciences. He came back to work at his family’s business, Daffin Mercantile, but also found that he wanted a change. “I wanted an opportunity to give back to my community where my family and friends live,” Chris explained. “There is rarely a time when there is not a connection to someone I know in the community,” he continued. “I feel like we are giving a gift.”

While many people have heard the term “hospice” used, few understand the meaning. The term dates back to at least the 11th century, has the same root as hospitality, and refers to a place of rest for weary travelers. Today, hospice is a specialized form of home health care that provides services for terminally ill patients.

According to Gino, the misconceptions about hospice care prevent approximately 50 percent of those eligible from receiving services. One common misconception is that hospice care speeds up the death process. However, Gino corrects this fallacy by stating, “Hospice is not about death, but about quality of life.”

Another misconception is when hospice care is engaged, the patient only has a few days to live. “Many patients live past six months,” Gino added. The patient will live out the normal progression of the disease under hospice care.

Still another misconception many people have is that they are unable to afford hospice or may have to surrender property to pay for the services. “Hospice care is covered by Medicare, Medicaid, Indigent Care, VA, Tricare, and some private insurance policies,” added Chris. Emerald Coast Hospice is a nonprofit organization set up to help people in the Panhandle of Florida within the Central time zone.

Others believe hospice care is only available for patients suffering with cancer. This myth is simply untrue. Emerald Coast Hospice is available for patients with terminal illnesses, including but not limited to heart, lung, dementia, neurological, renal, and liver diseases. When medical treatment cannot provide a cure, hospice care is available for the patient and family to provide quality of life through the remainder of the patient’s days, and a peaceful, dignified passing.

You may wonder how hospice works. According to Gino, “a skilled and compassionate support team that works together with the number one goal of patient care” is what makes treatment with Emerald Coast Hospice effective. Chris added, “Our team consists of: two medical directors, Dr. John Spence and Dr. Joe Gay; nurse case managers; spiritual care coordinators; medical social workers; hospice aids; and hospice volunteers.”

“The nurses visit the patient’s home two to three times a week to ease symptoms,” Gino continued. Then, hospice aides provide comfort care known as basic Activities of Daily Living (ADL), including bathing, feeding, grooming and similar personal care for the patient. The social workers at Emerald Coast Hospice are experts at helping families find the information to solve problems, such as “a contractor to build an accessible ramp” or “arranging for temporary respite care to provide the caregivers a needed break,” Gino clarified.

The Medical Directors at Emerald Coast Hospice review patient care every two weeks. Then, hospice volunteers fill in the gaps by assisting with office tasks, reading to patients and providing caregivers short breaks when needed. The final part of the team is the spiritual care coordinators. Gino finds himself busy comforting families and providing for spiritual needs for the patients throughout their care and after their passing. In fact, Emerald Coast Hospice provides care until 13 months after the patient’s passing.

Gino explained that when it comes to comforting someone who is grieving the loss of a love one, “sharing emotions helps people grieve”. “Their loss is not a problem to be fixed,” he continued, “but a journey that needs to be traveled.” Therefore, validating emotions helps more than anything.

Emerald Coast Hospice provides an annual memorial service for all the patients who have passed during the previous year. The service includes a meal and grief counseling. The organization also provides a youth bereavement camp called “Camp I Believe” that is free to any child in the community suffering from a significant loss between the ages of about 7 to 17. “There is a great amount of stress on families and it’s good to have a support system and someone to vent to,” Gino added. Hospice workers absorb the grief for the families.

Emerald Coast Hospice is a nonprofit organization with two offices under the direction of Julie Pettis, who works in the Chipley office. The Chipley office serves Holmes and Washington counties, and the Marianna office services Calhoun and Jackson counties. Additional branches are located in the Panhandle area. In February 2019, data was released by the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services on quality process measures comparing hospice providers (https://data.medicare.gov/data/hospice-compare). Emerald Coast Hospice exceeded the State and National aggregate quality measures.

Gino and his wife Susie have been married 42 years. They have two sons and five grandchildren. When he has a little free time, Gino enjoys golf. Chris and Amy Milton live in Marianna. Amy is the Marketing and Public Relations director for Jackson Hospital. They have a daughter, Tatum, who recently graduated from Marianna High School. Their son, Cooper is in the 7th grade. Chris loves spending time with his family.

To learn more, visit the Emerald Coast Hospice team at their office, 3015 Jefferson St., Suite E, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., or call Chris at 850-557-9405. Emerald Coast Hospice is available by telephone 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year at 850-526-3577. What a wonderful service for the community! Visit the City of Marianna’s website at http://www.mariannafl.city/335/New-Businesses-and-Other-Community-News to learn more about businesses in Marianna.

Kay Dennis, MBA, MPA, A.I.C.P., is the director of Municipal Development for the City of Marianna.

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