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Crossing Rivers Health Palliative, Hospice Care create awareness for programs

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November is nationally recognized as Hospice and Palliative Care month. It’s an opportunity for professionals and advocates to celebrate their dedicated workers/volunteers, and at the same time, a moment to raise awareness for the work done every day to help those in need.

 

Hospice Care

Hospice care is a specialized program for people faced with a life-limiting illness, such as incurable cancer, end stage chronic disease, Parkinson’s and advance dementia. Covered by Medicare and most insurance, Hospice offers a holistic approach to patients and their loved ones when curative options are no longer viable.

“I think people have the idea that the minute they sign that piece of paper, they’re saying, ‘It’s over, I’m giving up,’ and what the hospice team tries to do with people is to get them to realize they’re not giving up,” Sophie Rose, Hospice RN Coordinator, said. She pointed out a patient who has entered their services hasn’t given up. Many patients have continued to receive the care needed to manage their symptoms. Instead of “giving up” their goals have changed from prioritizing curative treatment to optimizing the quality of time they have left.

Rose boiled it down to a question: “What can we do to give them hope?”

Hope can mean many things; it changes from person-to-person. Hope might be someone who doesn’t want to die in pain or it could be the ability to participate in his or her community. It could be seeing family and friends or visiting favorite places. The care provided is tailored to address the physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs of their patients.

“As things change, we continue to be there,” said Brittney Miller, Hospice Social Worker.

Hospice is a multi-disciplinary service: a combination of health care workers, social workers and volunteers to facilitate an individual and their loved ones. Rose stated Hospice goes to their patient to provide care. “Wherever the client calls home,” whether it’s a residence, a nursing home or other living situation.

“With hospice, we look at the patient and the family as one unit of care. And there’s a reason for that: it takes a whole family to go through it,” Miller said.

Family care has been an important part of their service. Hospice has provided caregivers Medicare-covered, five-day respite care when families needed to go out of town or do anything that may pose too high of physical or emotional demands for a patient. When a person has passed on, bereavement services are offered to the families for up to 13 months.

“It gets to the point they’re not afraid for themselves,” Miller said. “They’re more afraid for what they’re leaving behind.” Bereavement has provided phone calls, in-person meetings and support groups to help as the family processed and adjusted to loss. “We’re able to spend time to provide that service,” Miller said.

Along with their core team, Crossing Rivers Health Hospice Care also has enlisted volunteers to help individuals and their loved ones. More than 10 specially trained volunteers (most of whom have been through the hospice process with a loved one) assist the team to provide short respites for families, organize materials for the nurses and give a 1:1 contact for the patients.

If a caregiver needed to step away for a short time or get out of the house, the volunteers have been there to sit with their loved one as a friendly face or reassuring hand. Hospice was originally a volunteer program, and they have remained an important part of its values.

 

Palliative Care

If someone were asked to define hospice care, they would likely have said something close to, “The services a person gets before they pass on.” It’s a fair, though simplified answer. If asked to define palliative care, many people wouldn’t know what to say. While there are similarities, there are also important delineations between the two services.

Palliative care can serve a person of any age as long as they have at least one medical complexity, such as a chronic pain disorder, diabetes or renal failure that has caused limitations in the person’s life, the utilization of essential medical technology or a situation that is consider a high use of a person’s resources.

Jennifer King, Nurse Practitioner for Crossing Rivers Health Palliative Care, stated palliative care can be a transition from primary care to hospice, but there are important differences. “We are independent, but we help get patients ready for hospice care. So at some point, my palliative patients will roll into hospice care, just like you and I, but they still want aggressive measures as far as going into doctor’s appointments.”

Palliative services at Crossing Rivers Health have often been provided in a person’s living space. King said 90 percent of their services are provided in the community and the remaining 10 at Crossing Rivers Health. Patients have received medical care, medication management and cognitive exams among other services in tandem with their primary care. Services have also addressed pain management, needs assessments in the home and quality of life care. King said what the patient wants in their care is her priority.

“When they’re frustrated with their healthcare and need an extra set of eyes, that’s what I’m here for,” King said.

 

Access to Services

The Palliative Care and Hospice Care Teams at Crossing Rivers Health accept self-referrals and referrals from loved ones, caregivers and providers. For more information about hospice services at Crossing Rivers Health, visit their web site at: www.crossingrivers.org/hospice. To contact the Hospice Care Team by phone, call 608.357.2262. For more information about palliative care visit www.crossingrivers.org/palliativecare.

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