Chinese Team Visits Good Sam to Learn About Hospice Care

“Good Sam” Sue Ranson (far end, center) and the Chinese team break bread at Good Sam.
“Good Sam” Sue Ranson (far end, center) and the Chinese team break bread at Good Sam.
“Good Sam” Sue Ranson (far end, center) and the Chinese team break bread at Good Sam.

In home, end-of-life hospice care administered by a team of caring professionals – the kind of care Good Samaritan Hospice in Roanoke is known for – does not exist on a large scale in mainland China. Hospice care in that emerging giant is typically based more in a nursing home type setting.

Traditionally in China the elderly and infirm lived out their lives with their families, but with China’s one child policy of recent years in place to keep the population in check, and young people now leaving home to live and work in the big cities, in-home hospice is a model the Chinese are taking a closer look at.

Recently a group of Chinese medical professionals and business people spent time in Western Virginia. For a second time in several years they visited Good Samaritan headquarters in Roanoke, where they met with President/CEO Sue Moore Ranson.

Good Sam is a not-for-profit, community-based hospice serving the Roanoke and New River Valleys, and Smith Mountain Lake. “There is no hospice service in China,” said Ruoxia (Row-sha) Li. She lived in Blacksburg for a time with her husband Eric Miller, who has Virginia Tech connections. Miller helped translate for some of the other Chinese visitors during the visit to Roanoke; they now live in China. Li spoke English herself.

“People are getting sick, people die, but there is no home-based care,” said Li as the group gathered with Ranson in a meeting room. “There’s no [home hospice] support at all in China.” Li said ailing people used to stay with their families in accordance with Chinese tradition, but the traditional model is changing. There is end of life care in China, but it is not the hospice model and there is no professional organization like Good Sam providing that service.

“We came here to learn…about professional end of life care,” said Li. They want to learn about how the team of professionals work together here – nursing assistants, chaplains, dietitians, therapists and bereavement counselors – to make that time easier for all involved. Good Sam will also provide hospice care for people that are not at home but may be in a nursing home.

In China these days, as it becomes more of a business-oriented Western-type society, “children don’t stay with their parents [as much]. The families don’t know how to handle [terminally ill family members]. They can’t get any guidance or support from a hospital or nursing home,” said Li. That’s why the study of home based hospice might be a sign of where China is headed in the future.

Ranson has visited China in the past to make presentations on the Good Sam hospice model. Li was a Good Sam volunteer when she lived in Blacksburg, and “has always been interested in hospice,” said Ranson. In April 2012 Li brought over three Chinese physicians to tour the Good Samaritan offices. A few months later Ranson spoke to medical groups in China about home based hospice.

“They are very interested in starting hospice over there from a home based perspective,” added Ranson, “[because] the concept does not exist in China.” She did tour the nursing home concept now employed there while in China. “They have always cared for their elderly, that’s part of the culture,” added Ranson. “But knowing how to manage pain, how to take care of people at home, that’s what [Li] wants to help teach people to do.”

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by Gene Marrano