How Hospice of the Chesapeake Is Innovating Bereavement Care, Family Support

Maryland-based Hospice of the Chesapeake has been pursuing innovation in its bereavement and caregiver support programs.

The nonprofit hospice and palliative care provider offers grief care to its entire community regardless of whether a family member was one of their patients. Out-of-pocket payments for those services are on a sliding scale. To expand its reach, Hospice of the Chesapeake works with organizations like schools, senior living communities and other community partners, according to Faith Fitzgerald, director of community support programs for the hospice.

“In Anne Arundel County, the crisis response agency reaches out to us when there’s a bereavement need, and they refer those clients to us. We will provide that short term counseling. That’s been a great relationship for quite a while,” Fitzgerald told Hospice News. “Another example is a long-term community that had lost a longtime resident asked for our counselors to come out and provide a grief support program.”


Hospice of the Chesapeake provides hospice care to about 600 patients daily and serves close to the same number through its supportive care program. The organization serves four Maryland counties.

Rounding out its bereavement programs are in-person and virtual counseling services and support groups for adults, teens and children. The organization also offers a weekend summer camp for grieving children.

The scope of Hospice of the Chesapeake’s grief programs includes a range of services, including music, pet and integrative arts therapy, a yoga group and therapeutic writing programs. Currently the hospice is in the process of developing a drumming workshop for bereaved children. Many of these services are financed through philanthropic donations.


Another component of their grief program includes nature-informed therapy, Fitzgerald indicated.

“We have a couple of our bereavement counselors who have certification as nature-informed therapists. We offered one for children and teenagers where they came and went out in the garden and used different found objects to express their grief,” Fitzgerald said. “We say nature is the ‘co-therapist’ through that group. Then we have a regular ongoing nature-informed therapy group that meets in a county park for several weeks at a time.”

Hospice of the Chesapeake has also been building up its caregiver support efforts. This includes anticipatory grief therapy for families expecting the death of a loved one. Other services include music therapy and some disease-specific support groups, including one for dementia. The dementia program includes a simulation of dementia symptoms to help caregivers understand some aspects of the patients’ experience.

The organization is in the process of creating a support doula program. A group of volunteers is undergoing a year-long training program to become end-of-life support doulas. Hospice of the Chesapeake plans to initially roll out this service to its supportive care patients and later expand to its hospice program, including bereavement care.

Programs like these require strong ties to the local community, according to Joshua Magariel, director of quality improvement and compliance for Hospice of the Chesapeake.

“Hospices need to ask themselves who they’re working for. Are we doing this for patients and families and our community? That will direct your creativity and your innovation,” Magariel told Hospice News. “Open your ears to listening to the community, and they will tell you what they need.”

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