Death and dying can be difficult subjects for people to discuss.

But they are necessary topics.

That was the point of "Hospice 101" on July 18 at the Cancer Support Community Central Ohio in northwest Columbus.

"I think this is a very important topic for our participants," said Kate Gilligan, clinical director for the organization. "Even if that conversation needs to happen."

Delaware resident Ted Gach said he thought to himself, "What the heck, I might as well learn."

"The older I get," the 82-year-old Gach said, "the more I realize how much I don't know."

Gach now knows a lot more about hospice than he did before.

"I knew nothing about hospice," he said.

The program was part of the Lunch and Learn series by Cancer Support Community Central Ohio, based at 1200 Old Henderson Road. The nonprofit organization is part of a professionals-led global network that works to provide people affected by cancer with information and support services for patients and families.

The network has 175 locations throughout the world, including Cancer Support Community groups and Gilda's Club centers, health-care partnerships and satellite locations that deliver more than $50 million in free support services to patients and families.

It also conducts research about the emotional, psychological and financial journey of cancer patients, their families and support groups.

The presenter of "Hospice 101" was Veronica Wandrey, community-relations manager for Wesley Hospice on the edge of New Albany.

She opened by quoting from the website of the nonprofit National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization regarding the history of the movement:

"The term 'hospice,' from the same linguistic root as 'hospitality,' can be traced back to medieval times when it referred to a place of shelter and rest for weary or ill travelers on a long journey," Wandrey said. "The name was first applied to specialized care for dying patients by physician Dame Cicely Saunders, who began her work with the terminally ill in 1948 and eventually went on to create the first modern hospice, St. Christopher's Hospice, in a residential suburb of London.

"Saunders introduced the idea of specialized care for the dying to the United States during a 1963 visit with Yale University.

"Some people believe hospice is one big business and we're all connected," Wandrey said. "We're all a little different."

She recommended people seeking hospice care, for themselves or a loved one, conduct interviews with at least three providers in order to find the best fit.

Those typically eligible for hospice care have been diagnosed with what's termed a "life-limiting illness," such as cancer, stroke, Alzheimer's disease and liver failure, Wandrey said.

A physician must certify the parent is expected to live only six months or fewer if the condition follows its normal course.

No curative or aggressive treatment of the disease takes place, but Wandrey said hospice does not mean discontinuing all medical treatment.

In fact, she said, symptom control and pain management are at the heart of such care.

"That's our No. 1 priority," Wandrey said.

Gach, a cancer survivor "going on nine years," said he frequently attends the Lunch and Learn gatherings. He said he was especially pleased with "Hospice 101."

"This, I must say, is one of the best," Gach said.

kparks@thisweeknews.com

@KevinParksTW1