Written by Nancy Sokoler Steiner
Olivia Giuliano knew how hospice could make the end of life easier for
patients and families. Now retired, she was the assistant to the director
of Torrance Memorial Medical Center’s hospice program. Still, like
many family members of patients expected to live six or fewer months,
Giuliano hesitated to initiate the process when her father was very ill.
As a result, he had little time at home with his family at the end.
She chose differently eight years later when her mother, who by then had
dementia, was approaching the end of her life. “The whole family
benefits,” she says of Torrance Memorial’s program. Hospice
offers physical, emotional and spiritual support and focuses on making
the most of a limited time. “It’s very comforting that people
are there to help. They’re available 24/7 to answer questions. And
every one of them was so kind.”
Terri Ferry, Giuliano’s former boss and the executive director of
home health and hospice, notes people tend to misunderstand hospice. “They
think it signals an immediate end,” she says. “But hospice
doesn’t mean a withdrawal of treatments. It means someone has decided
not to take aggressive, curative measures and instead wishes to receive
care, helping them remain comfortable at home.” In fact, Giuliano’s
mother lived for a year on the program.
Hospice participants benefit from the services of a dedicated care team.
They first meet with a hospice physician who evaluates their medical situation
and considers their desires to create a home-based care plan. The doctor,
as well as registered hospice nurses trained in pain and symptom management,
visit regularly. A licensed clinical social worker provides counseling
to patients and their families and/or long-term caregivers. She or he
also offers recommendations and resources for such services as home modifications
or private duty caregivers.
“We can fund those services if needed, thanks to donations made to
our program,” says Ferry. She notes Torrance Memorial partners with
Caring House, a residential home for hospice patients not able to remain
in their own homes.
The hospice care team also includes nondenominational chaplains who help
prepare patients and families for peaceful transitions. “We encourage
a life review where patients can shift their attention to things that
brought them joy, such as their accomplishments, family, religion or hobbies,”
says chaplain Tenzin Kiyosaki. “We help them appreciate their lives.”
Key members of the hospice program include medical director Peter Tseng,
MD, hospice manager Paola Marie Rodriquez, licensed clinical social worker
Lisa Pahl and registered nurse Ann Issa.
Ferry notes the broad array of services provided by hospice can relieve
some of the families’ burdens. “Also, many families struggle
to get the medications and supplies their loved one needs. Hospice insurance
benefits provide and pays for medications, equipment, oxygen, supplies,
etc. They will get what they need without having to worry about finding
or affording it.”
Hospice support continues even after the patient passes away. Social workers
stay in touch with the family to provide emotional support and help with
logistics and paperwork. They remain available to families for the year
following their loss. Torrance Memorial also offers drop-in bereavement
groups (now provided virtually).
Giuliano says every member of the hospice team was exceptionally sensitive
and accommodating to the needs of her mother and the many family members
involved. “They would give you as much or as little support as you
Bidding her mother farewell was “a heart-wrenching but wonderful
experience,” she shares. “She went at home, with the whole
family there. I couldn’t have asked for a better end.”
New Home-Based Palliative Care Program Available
In March 2020, Torrance Memorial Medical Center launched a program similar
to hospice but available to patients seeking curative treatments. “This
program focuses on symptom management and does not require a terminal
diagnosis,” says Terri Ferry, executive director of home health
and hospice at the hospital. “It is particularly appropriate for
people with chronic illnesses.” Like hospice, the program involves
an array of services including physicians, nurses and social workers who
visit patients at home rather than requiring them to travel to the medical center.
Torrance Memorial Hospice is located at 23326 Hawthorne Blvd, Ste. 100
in Torrance. For more information about Torrance Memorial's hospice
program, call (310) 784-3751 or