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Niagara Hospice will hold several programs throughout Niagara County starting next week designed to teach people the benefits of early hospice referrals.

“The time to learn about all that Niagara Hospice can offer is before a person receives a potentially terminal diagnosis,” Niagara Hospice spokeswoman Patricia Degan said in a news release. “Far too often, families are faced with a health care crisis before they explore their options – and making decisions at that time can be very difficult.”

The free Live Longer and Better with Hospice program, which can help families make informed decisions now and in the future, will be held at 3 p.m. on the following days and locations:

• Wednesday: Schoellkopf Health Center, Niagara Falls.

• Thursday: Northgate Health Care Facility, North Tonawanda.

• May 20: Odd Fellow & Rebekah Rehabilitation and Health Care Center, Lockport.

The programs are expected to last about an hour and include information about how hospice helps reduce emergency room visits and hospitalizations; that choosing hospice care is not giving up, but getting help; and how more care, more comfort and more visits improve the quality, and in many cases, length of life for individuals with serious illness.

Degan said the programs are being held at Niagara Hospice’s three collaborative skilled nursing sites to allow more people an opportunity to learn and ask questions about how they want to live when faced with terminal illness.

No registration is needed for the programs. For more information, call 439-4417.