In death, Mt. Lebanon hospice celebrates life

| Friday, Sept. 13, 2013, 7:58 p.m.

As Bob Adams battled lung cancer for 2½ years, he cared for three retired race dogs that helped him to cope with radiation and chemotherapy treatments.

The West Mifflin man was weak and bedridden in October when his children brought the greyhounds, Marcella, Champ and Kal, to visit him at The Center for Compassionate Care, an inpatient hospice center in Mt. Lebanon. Adams, 81, opened his eyes and smiled.

“He wanted to see all the dogs before he passed,” said Ann Adams, 46, of West Mifflin, who credits the center with making her father's last days as comfortable as possible.

Ann Adams and her brother Tim, 52, also of West Mifflin, donated $1,000 in July to have their father's name engraved on the Celebration of Life Wall outside the center, operated by Mt. Lebanon-based Family Hospice and Palliative Care.

The 20- by 6-foot granite wall was installed in November near a statuary garden. So far, 81 names are on it, but it can hold more than 1,000. Anyone can donate $1,000 to memorialize a deceased loved on the wall. The money raised goes toward providing free care to people who don't have government-sponsored health coverage or private insurance.

“Like everyone else, we've had to deal with sequestration,” Family Hospice spokesman Greg Jena said, referring to federal budget cuts, “but our organization is very healthy, and we're able to meet the needs of all of our patients.”

Last year, the nonprofit Family Hospice provided $209,736 worth of free care, about 1 percent of its total.

More people are using hospice services, which improve quality of life for terminally ill patients by managing pain, counseling and other means. Between 2007 and 2011, the number of hospice programs increased about 13 percent nationally, from 4,700 to 5,300, according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization in Alexandria, Va.

The number of patients served by hospices increased from 1.4 million to 1.65 million in the same period.

Founded in 1980, Family Hospice provides end-of-life care, mainly in patients' homes, but also in long-term care facilities and hospitals. The nonprofit operates a second inpatient center in Lawrenceville.

Like most hospices, Family Hospice receives most of its funding from Medicare reimbursements. In fiscal 2012, 85 percent of Family Hospice's $28 million operating budget came from Medicare and Medicaid. Private insurance and donations made up the rest, Jena said.

Family Hospice's wall also helps to pay for education programs, and building and equipment maintenance, said Lynn Helbling Sirinek, vice president of development and communications.

Family Hospice plans to engrave names in the wall in groups twice a year, Jena said.

Ann Adams credits the nonprofit with making a difficult time easier.

“They were the only ones who were able to control (my father's) pain, and they helped us realize, you know, he isn't going to come home. … The Family Hospice shows you that dying with dignity is not giving up,” she said.

Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or

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