40 Years of Leadership and Innovation
“You matter because you are you. You matter to the last moment of your life, and we will do all we can to help you, not only to die peacefully, but to live until you die.”
These words of Dame Cecily Saunders, founder of the world’s first hospice program in the United Kingdom in 1967, capture the essence of the hospice philosophy. In 1974, this new approach to caring for the seriously ill officially arrived in the United States with the opening of the first hospice program in the United States in Connecticut.
By 1979, Delaware’s Episcopal Diocese had established a Hospice Task Force to investigate the feasibility of establishing a hospice in the state of Delaware. Soon planning began, $40,000 in seed money was set aside by the diocese, and the organization was incorporated.
And on November 2, 1982, Delaware Hospice—the First State’s FIRST hospice—admitted its very first patient. To this day, Delaware Hospice continues to be the largest and leading licensed nonprofit community-based hospice serving both Delaware and southeast Pennsylvania.
When Delaware Hospice opened, we brought Saunder’s revolutionary new way of caring for the seriously ill to Delaware. And for 40 years, we’ve continued to serve our community as a leader and innovator in the field.
Over the years, our programs have grown into a continuum of care, including Delaware Palliative, a community-based program for patients receiving treatment for a serious illness, and Delaware Transitions, a resource that provides nonmedical support to members of the community with serious or chronic conditions.
In 1991, we launched our nationally recognized New Hope program to address the unique, unmet grief needs of children and youth in our community—even capturing the attention of Dateline. In 2003 we established our Katybug pediatric program, which provides specialized hospice and palliative care for our youngest patients and their families. With Certified Hospice and Palliative Pediatric Nurses on staff, the program is the only one of its kind in Delaware. In 2000, we were a founding member of the Delaware Quality of Life Coalition. And in 2008, we opened a free-standing hospice center in Milford to provide patients who temporarily needed a higher level of care with a state-of-the-art, home-like setting.
In addition to earning the trust of the community, we’ve been honored to be recognized as a leader in the field by outside organizations, including with The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval® for Home Care Accreditation. We’re proud that Medicare selected us as the only hospice provider in the state of Delaware to pilot the Medicare Care Choices Model (MCCM) in 2016. And just this year, we earned all four rings in the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) Quality Connections program—one of only 12 hospices in the nation to earn this distinction and the only healthcare organization in Delaware to do so.
As we look to the future, we continue to explore national and regional opportunities that will benefit our community. In 2021, we formed a new partnership with Saint Francis Healthcare, Trinity Health Mid-Atlantic to provide palliative consultative services to Saint Francis Healthcare’s patients.
We recently expanded this partnership to include an 8-bed inpatient hospice unit at Saint Francis Hospital, located in Wilmington. The addition of the hospice unit will help meet the growing need for hospice and palliative care services in Delaware as its population ages.
We’re also excited to be participating in Saint Francis Hospital’s new Healthy Village initiative, which aims to better meet the needs of the surrounding community by inviting organizations that provide community services to maintain a presence inside the hospital.
From the beginning, caring volunteers and donors have been the bedrock of Delaware Hospice’s very existence. Afterall, Delaware Hospice was born thanks to the work of a grassroots committee and a donation of seed money.
As our programs have grown, so has our support network. Our many volunteers visit and call patients, help out at Camp New Hope, sit on committees, manage administrative tasks, bring us honored traditions like the Festival of Trees fundraiser, and more. Likewise, many members of the community have made contributions large and small, year after year. It’s only because of these committed individuals who give of their time and resources that we’re able to offer the community the free programs and resources that we do.
To all our many supporters and believers these 40 years, we say thank you!