Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

Couple Hides in Apartment When Mom Bangs on Door

DEAR ABBY: I would like to take this opportunity to thank the unnamed heroes who provide hospice care. They are well aware that, in spite of the many gestures of compassion and the kindness they bestow, the patient to whom they have become attached is eventually going to die. Yet that never stops hospice workers from being there for their patients and their patients' families.

Hospice workers make sure the patient doesn't experience pain, is emotionally supported, and that the caregivers have time to run errands and take much-needed breaks.

When the patient passes away, it's the hospice workers who comfort family members and friends. My own family was blessed with three wonderful ladies and a priest who were there to the end for my grandmother. I will always be grateful for their emotional and spiritual support.

I hope my letter will encourage other families facing the terminal illness of a loved one to grant him or her quality of life by allowing that person to die with the dignity that hospice care provides. Sign me ... GRATEFUL IN OKLAHOMA

DEAR GRATEFUL: Please accept my deepest sympathy for the loss of your beloved grandmother.

I have long been a supporter of hospice care. It provides physician services, nurses, home health aides, social workers, clergy, specially trained volunteers and bereavement counselors. As long as a patient is eligible, hospice is covered by Medicare, most private insurers and, in most states, Medicaid.

For more information about hospice care, contact one of your local hospice programs. You physician can refer you. In addition, call the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) toll-free: (800) 658-8898, or visit the Web site, � HYPERLINK "http://www.nhpco.org" ��www.nhpco.org�, for information about and referrals to local hospice programs.