If you are not clear on who and what Shepherd’s Cove is, I’m here to tell you, based on personal knowledge and observation. I have had relatives, neighbors, and lifelong friends served by hospice, so I know of what I write.

Shepherd’s Cove is what we used to know as Hospice of Marshall County. Though now located in the majestic colonial style building on Martling Road in Albertville, it’s the same Hospice that started out in the trunk of Gayle Roadruck’s car 37 years ago.

Hospice was then the fruit of a servant’s heart, founded to deliver care to the homes of the ill who were nearing the end of life. It is still that, and more.

Did you know, though much happens inside those majestic walls on Martling Road, the core service provided by Shepherd’s Cove is still mobile, delivered by automobile to the homes of those who’ve been medically diagnosed as terminally ill, even if those homes are in assisted living or nursing home facilities.

Terminally ill is defined by Medicare as having six months or less of life expectancy.

We can compare Hospice of Marshall County (Shepherd’s Cove) then and now to the acorn and the oak tree.

The acorn that was planted by Gayle Roadruck in 1982 took root, grew strong and tall, and now shelters nine counties in north Alabama. And it’s still delivering “care on wheels” and more, to those patients and families in need of shepherding during the final months of life.

As the acorn sprouted and grew, the accumulation of files and medical supplies outgrew the car trunk “office” and was moved into a small space at the Guntersville Recreation Center. The next move was to the James Townson building in downtown Guntersville.

Then more growth and another move to the Bob Hembree building, near the jail on Blount Avenue in Guntersville.

The growth I’m referring to was in the number of terminally ill patients and families being served by the increasing numbers of hospice nurses, social workers, and volunteers meeting a variety of needs “on location,” where the patients lived.

In 1997, the Hospice of Marshall County headquarters made its way from Guntersville to Albertville and was housed in the Hannah building (across from Catfish Cabin) for a decade or so. The oak tree continued to grow, clearly indicating the need for Hospice to have a permanent home of its own.

A strong component of that need was to provide on-site facilities to accommodate the cases where care in the home was not a viable option for the terminal patient being served. Included in the Martling Road facility are 10 patient rooms, three patient family rooms and a kitchen and dining room.

This was in no way intended as, nor has it been, a replacement for the mobile in-home service that has always been the mission of Hospice. It was merely an additional service to meet exceptional needs.

This in-patient part of Hospice of Marshall County came to be known as Shepherd’s Cove. I heard a comment recently that caused me to think there is broad misconception that Shepherd’s Cove Hospice is only for those in the very last days of life.

Not so.

The core mission and practice of Hospice is still to provide in-home service to those diagnosed by their doctor as terminally ill – typically those with a remaining life expectancy of six months or less. And as mentioned earlier, this same package of care is provided whether the patient is in their original home, assisted living or a nursing home.

The care is delivered to them wherever they call home.

The recent change of name from Hospice of Marshall County to Shepherd’s Cove was not due to a change in mission or function. It was simply to remove the connotation that it serves only patients in Marshall County, when in fact it spans nine north Alabama counties.

Since Shepherd’s Cove was already being used in reference to the in-patient aspect of Hospice’s service, it was natural to just drop Marshall County and retain the familiar Shepherd’s Cove label as the new name.

Thus Marshall County Hospice became Shepherd’s Cove Hospice.

But wait, there is more.

Shepherd’s Cove, in addition to hospice care, now provides palliative care for symptomatic management to those with life-threatening diagnoses who continue to seek curative measures and do not meet other hospice criteria.

Again, this is an in-home multi-faceted service provided by professionals and volunteers under their guidance. This package of care is tailored to give each patient the best quality of life possible for the duration. Yet another expanded service, as the oak tree continues to grow and spread its branches.

And there’s still more!

Shepherd’s Cove provides grief support for anyone, free of charge. Supported by grants, the grief support team works with in-school grief groups and Camp HOPE, serving approximately 400 children who have suffered loss.

This is above and beyond the individual and family grief support services. It just can’t get any better than that.

Or can it?

Provisions have been made and are working to raise funds for hospice care that is not paid for by insurances, grief services and palliative care services. These provisions include the Shepherd’s Cove Foundation and the Shepherd’s Cove Thrift Shoppe.

You probably know the Thrift Shoppe has moved to its spacious new building, with seemingly unlimited parking, in Albertville. If you haven’t been, put it on your list of places to go.

If you know anyone you think would find support under the Hospice branches, please remember what and who Shepherd’s Cove is, what it does, who it serves, and how that support is delivered.

Just think of it as a home delivery service, or “care on wheels.” And at every opportunity, make sure the doctors involved, who are within your reach, know about Shepherd’s Cove when they’ve reached the point of making a terminally ill diagnosis.

They will be grateful for a place to turn, the patients will be grateful for a caring team of professionals and volunteers to help them through their final months in comfort and with dignity, the families will never forget how it was compared to how it could have been without Shepherd’s Cove.

Having someone already present, or just a phone call away, who knows exactly what to do when a loved one passes relieves the family of all the logistical decisions at the hardest decision-making time of their life.

We can thank the late Gayle Roadruck for planting that acorn and the hundreds of dedicated staff, both paid and volunteer, who with servants’ hearts watered and nurtured the oak to full growth, assisted by all the donors who have helped provide the tools for their work.

Now that you are clear on who and what Shepherd’s Cove is, please spread the word to those in your paths who can benefit from your knowledge.

Jean McCrady

P.O. Box 765

Guntersville, AL 35976

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