GREENVILLE — Caring for patients who are nearing the end of life might seem intimidating to some, but Dr. Edward Hosbach doesn’t look at it this way. Instead, he feels it’s his role to be a tour guide on a patient’s individual journey to what awaits them in the next phase of their journey, according to EverHeart Hospice.
In fact, Hosbach has been helping hospice patients as the medical director with EverHeart Hospice for 32 years. He has been with the non-profit organization for over three quarters of its existence. This consistency and dedication truly allow him to practice as an expert in the field of hospice.
For those unfamiliar, Hospice is a special type of healthcare for individuals facing a terminal illness. The care focuses on keeping a patient comfortable and is individualized for each patient. Hospice uses an interdisciplinary approach to caring for a person’s mind, body, and spirit. The care team at EverHeart Hospice includes a doctor, nurse practitioners, nurses, aides, social workers, chaplains, music therapists, a bereavement coordinator, and volunteers.
Hosbach began his hospice experience with a rotation in medical school. While observing a hospice physician, he was instantly amazed by the communication taking place and the compassion being shown for the patient and their family.
“You get a sense right away that management of the family is just as important as symptom management,” said Hosbach in a EverHeart press release. “Being there for them and helping all of them get through this journey is important.”
Hosbach actually has a background and undergraduate degree in electrical engineering. In medical school, his favorite subject was anatomy. He was fascinated by the structure and function of the body.
“If you like machines, the most cool machine in the world is the human body,” he said.
After medical school, Hosbach opened his own practice in Mercer County. Hospice of Mercer County was a newer provider at that time and needed a physician. Because of the positive experience he had with hospice in medical school, Hosbach stepped up and volunteered with Hospice of Mercer County and attended their meetings every few weeks. Eventually, this blossomed into a full-time position as Medical Director.
In 1990, Hospice of Darke County Inc. and Mercer County Hospice joined to provide an expanded service area. The two later became known as State of the Heart Home Health and Hospice. In 2021, the name was changed to “EverHeart Hospice” as a testament to the everlasting love and care that is given to their patients.
Even through the name changes, providing quality of life for dying patients has remained a top priority for the team at EverHeart Hospice. Their staff often feel a strong calling to work in hospice, doing work that is bigger than just a job.
“Where hospice comes into play is to help maintain the integrity of a patient’s goals. I always say when we see the end, we want to get them there with as much dignity and comfort as possible,” said Hosbach.
Hospice is a whole different scope of practice compared to his time spent in his family practice. In medical school, everything is about prevention, cure, and lengthening life, but there is little mentioned about how to care for a dying person. Hospice on the other hand is a different mindset. The goals of care change. Once a patient is facing a life ending disease, the goal becomes how to maintain comfort as much as possible when there are no more options to treat the disease.
It’s a field of work that requires compassion above all else.
The most common advice Hosbach gives to families when their loved one enters Hospice focuses on goal setting and to really hone in on what the patient wants.
“We can get lost in what the caregiver wants, what the medical team wants, and what the family wants. And sometimes we lose sight of what the patient wants. It’s important to negotiate on behalf of the patient to meet their wishes,” shared Hosbach. “I always say in medicine we can do a lot, but should we do a lot. It is not our job to argue with the patient. We want to get them to the finish line as gracefully as possible.”
Hosbach encourages medical students and new doctors to have some exposure to hospice and try to get comfortable talking about end of life and goal setting. Honest communication is important, even when it isn’t easy.
Hosbach often ends these long discussions by reminding families that even when death is peaceful and the patient is in a better place, it’s ok to admit that as the family member,
“It’s still hard, it just sucks. I have found that to be true with the losses in my own family. Sometimes there is just nothing you can say to change that,” he explained.
Balancing the emotions of constantly learning that your patients have passed is something that can weigh heavily on you, according to Hosbach. It is something all the employees in the hospice industry face. He feels that maintaining his private practice helps bounce his spirits back.
“I still get to see the babies and nursery visits, and do a little with sports medicine,” Hosback said.
The combination of a family practice and hospice work truly paints the image of the full circle of life. But at the end of the day, doctors are human too, and they are not immune from the sea of emotions that build up as someone passes away.
“What gets to me is especially if I am in a home with a dying mother and her kids. I have been known to shed a tear and my voice will crack. That’s part of the way we learn to cope with things,” he said.
But the opportunity to provide comfort and warmth for patients at a time when it is needed most far outweighs the negative.
“Everybody at EverHeart has a big heart and works hard as a team. I am blessed to be a part of it,” said Hosback.
Working in a rural community has also been a positive experience for Hosbach, noting that the family unit is very strong in this area. Our team spends one-on-one time with patients, and their loved ones often note that our staff become like family. There are also more opportunities to positively impact the community in a rural area, where you don’t get lost in the noise of a big city.
“I just LOVE the employees of EverHeart,” he says with a genuine smile and bounce of excitement in his voice. “You guys are FUN people!”
“From everyone at EverHeart, we thank Hosbach for his 32 years of service to our organization!” the release said.
Hosbach graduated with honors from Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine. In addition to serving as medical director at EverHeart Hospice, Hosbach maintains a private practice in Fort Recovery and St. Henry in affiliation with Mercer Health. He is the recipient of the 2022 Ohio American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians (ACOFP) Distinguished Physicians Award and is a current member and past president of the ACOFP. His hobbies include golf, sports, playing with his kids and grandkids, playing trumpet, and writing humor and performing humor.
EverHeart Hospice is a non-profit organization caring for patients in West Central Ohio and East Central Indiana for over 42 years. To learn more, visit their website at www.everhearthospice.org