Many people think that hospice means a philosophy, not a place. Caregivers prefer to view hospice as a concept of care that can be provided wherever the terminally ill patient considers home, according to the Taos Hospice brochure.
A recent interview with Dexter Fields, director at the Taos Hospice facility, 1340 Maestas Road, behind the Taos Living Center, revealed much information about benefits, care and a team to help those in the last phase of an incurable illness. “Our function is to help a patient when cure of an illness is not an option. We help with relief from symptoms, such as pain and nausea,” said Fields.
Even though Taos Hospice exists at a facility, home care also remains an option for patients and family members who prefer the service. To qualify for services, patients must not seek curative treatment, such as chemotherapy, hospitalization, dialysis, etc. Medicare and Medicaid provide financial assistance to those terminally ill patients in the final six months of life or “regular course of life.” Physicians must order patient care, but one may call for information in order to begin a process of discussion with a medical doctor.
The Taos Hospice brochure said the organization "is on pain and symptom relief so our patients can live in comfort and peace. Our comprehensive hospice services are provided by an interdisciplinary team of compassionate professionals. … [Patients may spend time] mending and restoring relationships, spending quality time with those they love, and finding peace and comfort.”
Special care at a home or inpatient setting includes help with physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual needs and respite for caregivers in order to allow patients to live their life in comfort and dignity. The brochure sums up the situation best: “People who choose hospice are not giving up hope, they are in fact redefining it.”
On occasion, people confuse the Taos Living Center with Taos Hospice because of their close physical proximity. “Our agency and [Taos] Living Center have the same owner,” explained Fields. "The same company, MDA Consultants, owns both companies, but runs them as separate businesses.”
The staff consists of two full-time nurses and one part-time nurse – Hector Herrera, Fields and Kathy Wolf. Susan McQuaid is the nurse practitioner. The agency enjoys the services of Dr. Olan Bassett as medical director. Social worker Linda Todd and office manager Anita Manning assist in the process. Tara Lupo serves as chaplain, and due to her sabbatical, Hollie Laudal fulfills the spiritual needs as interim chaplain. Several volunteers provide invaluable assistance, too.
Fields' affiliation with Taos Hospice began before the first patient entered the door. In 2015, he helped open the new facility. Fields then moved to Austin, Texas, for a year to open a new agency for the same company. However, Fields liked Taos so much that he requested to return here to work. He came back in September 2016.
Here in Taos, when Fields enjoys spare time, he paints, works on mosaics and raises chickens. He tends to a small garden, growing peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, squash, cilantro and dill. Community involvement includes membership in the Taos County Chamber of Commerce. Fields also belongs to the New Mexico Hospice and Palliative Care Association and volunteers for Pride.
Along with gardening, Fields includes the color pink, vegetarian food and his family among his favorite things. Fields is the only child of Claude and Sharon Cooley, who reside in Bay Minette, Alabama, where Dexter was raised. Fields’ husband, Joseph Foxhood, is director of the New Mexico Division of Health Improvement, a state agency based in Santa Fe. Fields' adopted son, Mathew (now age 20), felt that math was his worst subject, so as a child pronounced his name “Math-ooh.” “I didn’t let him use the name as an excuse for long,” laughed Fields. Mathew lives in Dubuque, Iowa. His “favorites” include Lambert’s Restaurant, the color pink and vegetarian food. As a self-avowed vegetarian, Fields especially brightened up when mentioning specialties such as tacos and fajitas.
When asked about his favorite aspect of Taos life, Fields quickly answered, “The people. They are eccentric free spirits and fun, a collection of good people.”
Again referring to Taos life, Fields admitted that New Mexico health care remains “underserved.” He concluded the interview with the following words: “I am doing my best to help offer and promote quality care in this area."
Anyone wishing information may call Taos Hospice at (575) 737-0681.