Kellie Hitchman

Local cancer patients who are terminally ill and no longer receiving curative treatment can find comfort in receiving care from Hospice, as can their families and caregivers. 

The only organization in St. Lawrence County that provides such services, Hospice and Palliative Care of St. Lawrence Valley can offer patients and their families a holistic approach to care, or care with a focus on the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the patient and their family. The organization can also offer support and education to family members and caregivers. 

“Families struggling with cancer can count on Hospice and our many programs to provide compassionate care to the patient and emotional support to the entire family unit. Staff tailor a plan of care specifically to the needs of the patient and adjust it as those needs change, and education is offered to the caregiver and family members to assist them in providing the best possible care for their loved one,” said Kellie Hitchman, the Director of Development and Community Relations for Hospice. 

Kellie is responsible for distributing information about Hospice to the community. Additionally, her department works to organize major fundraising efforts and coordinates with many community groups, groups from local colleges, and families who organize fundraisers on Hospice’s behalf. 

“The importance of support provided to Hospice is evident with each day of care provided to patients and their families,” Kellie said. “There is approximately a $20 per patient, per day deficit between what is reimbursed by insurance and the actual care provided to our patients and families. When community members put $20 in an envelope and send it to us, its impact is felt immediately.”

Hospice patients typically have a prognosis of six months or less, but some receive service, which is provided by an interdisciplinary team including physicians, nurses, social workers, aides, chaplains and bereavement staff, for longer periods of time. Patients can often remain in their home while receiving Hospice services, rather than in a hospital, but if the needs of the patient require hospitalization or placement in a facility, Hospice can continue to work with the patient to the extent of insurance regulations.

“Cancer patients who are eligible for hospice are no longer receiving curative treatments. The emphasis is placed on comfort and quality of life - whatever that may mean to them,” Kellie said. “Our staff have the time to help patients and families work through their illness, their goals of treatment and care, and what the changing illness means for them, all in close partnership with their primary physician or other physicians involved in their care. We want to maximize quality of life for any community member experiencing a serious illness.”  

Hospice can also provide bereavement counseling and follow-up for a year after the loss of a loved one. Counseling is also offered free of charge to community members who have not used Hospice services.

“Hospice is about hope, happiness and quality of life,” Kellie said. “Services are provided with a ’meet them where they’re at’ approach, meaning the patient and family choose the level of involvement of staff and other programs. They are in charge and care is provided on their terms. Patients who are able, continue to go out to dinner, visit the casino, take their beloved Corvette for another ride, attend bingo nights, high school graduations and other outings. In certain cases, Hospice has brought all of these activities to patients in their homes.”

Above all, the Hospice staff is extremely mission driven and dedicated to their work.

“I once heard a nurse describe her work like this: ‘It’s 2 a.m. in the middle of winter and you’re resting peacefully in your nice warm bed. The pager goes off and you know it’s cold out and the snow is blowing. You really don’t want to get out of bed, but you know that in that moment someone really needs you. You get up and you go.’

I think that really says it all. Each and every staff member approaches their ‘job’ with that level of care, concern and professionalism. It is an honor and privilege to walk this journey with a family when they need you the most,” Kellie said.

Although Hospice offers one of a kind services, it is not the only program available to help local cancer patients.

“There are a variety of programs available to the community to assist cancer patients in whatever phase of their journey they are experiencing,” Kellie said.

A branch of service offered by the organization called Advanced Illness Management, or AIM, provides services similar to Hospice care. Although it is not Hospice, the AIM Program similarly focuses on comfort, quality of life, and symptom management. 

“This approach of care is intended as an extra level of support with a close collaboration between staff and the patient’s physician. The staff of the AIM Program make house calls and can focus on the pain and symptoms associated with cancer and the treatments the patient is seeking,” Kellie said. “Each family, illness, case, and situation is different and should be treated as such. Sometimes the smallest things make all the difference.”

For more information about Hospice or other programs and services contact Kellie at, call (315) 265-3105, or visit The center is located at 6805 US Hwy 11 in Potsdam.

“Hospice matters. The end of life deserves as much beauty, care and respect as the beginning.”   —Anonymous