Mt. Hood Hospice is not new in town; we've been here for a generation.

We continue to be your community-based, freestanding (not affiliated with a medical group) hospice. We want you to be familiar with us and call upon us for information and services when you need them. And we want you to remember that in most cases, you can choose your own hospice.

Our goals are: to help our patients live as comfortably as possible for as long as possible; to provide support to families and caregivers (including bereavement); and to be a resource to the larger community regarding care for our loved ones, care for ourselves and open discussion of the dying process.

We encourage families to have conversations about 'what happens when.' What happens when my doctor reports that I have six months or less to live? What happens when I face physical, emotional and/or spiritual pain? What happens when sadness overwhelms me? What happens when my independence is curtailed significantly? What happens when my caregiver is unable to meet my needs? What happens when my world seems unfriendly? To whom do we turn?

It is through those open conversations with family (or other significant persons) that often some strengths appear, some possible resources are identified and some choices are made in keeping with one's values, goals and faith perspectives.

Those conversations continue as matters of personal meaning, relatedness and hope shift over time in the process of facing our mortality.

Facing the end of life - as natural as it is - generally is something we'd rather put off as long as possible. However, once the challenge is engaged, there is a freedom to experience life in a new way, to have a new depth of conversation and understanding. We are here to help you with the conversation, to be supportive of your individual goals and be responsive to your needs.

We'd be pleased to speak to your service club, faith group or other organization. Please call us at 503-668-5545 or visit our Web site, Let's see how we can continue to be your good neighbor.

Dennis Alger, M.A., M.Div., is the chaplain at Mt. Hood Hospice.

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