There is one Hospice program serving each of the eight counties in Western New York and since 2003, Robert Wahler has been director of clinical pharmacy services at Niagara Hospice in Niagara County.
Wahler is a clinical assistant professor in UB’s School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.
Niagara Hospice serves as a training site for UB’s third- and fourth-year pharmacy students, but it’s also a place that has personal as well as professional significance for Wahler.
“My dad passed away at Niagara Hospice,” he says. “My family was comforted that dad was able to spend his last few weeks in their care.” But Wahler’s connection to hospice care goes back even further than his family experience.
“I started my career in geriatrics, but found it difficult going into nursing homes every day,” he says. “When the Niagara Hospice opportunity arose, it may have seemed to some that I didn’t make much of a change.”
But the change was significant, says Wahler.
“I hear from families, and my students, who ask why all care can’t be like hospice care, where patient and family are seen as a single unit,” he says. “Hospice care preserves quality of life at the end of life.”
Hospice care addresses all of a patient’s needs. As a pharmacist, Wahler knows the importance of providing symptom relief. But Hospice considers a patient’s social and spiritual needs as well. It’s a team approach, he says.
“None of us can do our jobs without other team members fulfilling their roles – and that’s not just the front-line clinical staff, but financial contributors too,” he says. “It’s these financial contributions that make sure hospice services are available in Niagara County.”
Hospice is available to everyone, regardless of a patient’s ability to pay. Donations are the critical link that help pay for the expenses of those who are underinsured and can’t afford them. They also help provide complementary services - and fulfill patient wish lists - that Medicare, Medicaid and traditional insurance do not cover.
“This is where the giving comes in,” says Wahler. For Wahler, hospice is about compassionate care delivered with the utmost dignity for each and every patient. “And the kindness of donors will always be a part of that care.”