Hospice And Palliative Care To Empower Your Loved One
Chris DiMaso | July 28, 2021
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort” 2 Cor 1:3
Hospice and palliative care are unique services available to help empower you and your loved one during end-of-life. This article is to help you make a decision on what services you need and provide you with resources to move forward.
What is hospice?
Hospice is a unique service that focuses on patients and their caregivers who are facing advanced end-of-life illness. Hospice provides compassionate care for people in their final phase of life so they can live in peace and comfort. The guiding philosophy of hospice is to regard death as the final stage of life. It respects life without trying to postpone death. Hospice focuses on the needs of the person and alleviating the symptoms afflicting them, related to their disease process instead of aggressively trying to cure the disease. Hospice works as a holistic team to manage symptoms, so the patient’s final time is met with quality and dignity. Hospice care is family-focused and includes the patient and their loved ones when making decisions.
What does hospice do?
When a care provider deems hospice is the right course of action, the patient will choose a hospice agency that suites their needs. Often the hospital or nursing facility can help provide options if the family doesn’t already have a choice in mind. The patient will be visited by a hospice nurse for an evaluation. Two doctors must agree that the patient’s prognosis is 6 months or less to qualify for services. If a patient qualifies, they are admitted and services begin. An interdisciplinary team is assigned to the patient/family that includes: an RN Case Manager, Social Worker, Home Health Aide, bereavement coordinator and a Chaplain and volunteers if they wish. Often hospice agencies also have complementary therapies such as music therapy, massage therapy, aromatherapy, and beautician services. This team approach is overseen by a hospice medical director who will collaborate with the primary physician of the patient. A patient can choose to have the hospice medical director as their primary physician if they prefer.
Services offered in hospice care include, but are not limited to:
- Symptom and medication management from a nurse.
- Coordinating resources with a social worker.
- Personal care and assistance with bathing needs from a home health aide.
- Spiritual support from a chaplain.
- Companionship from volunteers.
- Bereavement support for 13 months after their loved one passes away.
- Supplies/delivers medications that relate to the course of treatment, medical equipment that the patient needs in their home such as a hospital bed/wheelchair/shower chair etc.
- Supplies personal care protection such as bathing supplies and dignity items.
- On-call nursing support 24/7. Outside of business hours, there will be a nurse available to make visits for emergent needs at all times. Hospice wants to be the new “911” for their patient.
Who needs hospice?
Hospice is considered when you or a loved one has been diagnosed with an illness that will limit the length and quality of life. Speak with your care provider about all options, including hospice. Frequent reasons to consider hospice include but are not limited to late-stage dementia and Alzheimer’s, cancer, heart disease, AIDS, ALS, COPD and others. Patients can become eligible for hospice care services when their provider deems that the natural course of illness has a life expectancy of six months or less. It is important that comfort and care of symptom management becomes the priority, and continuing treatment of the illness is no longer beneficial. Hospice care provides a level of support that is unrivaled. An interdisciplinary team of clinicians, social workers, spiritual and grief counselors, and volunteers rally around you or your loved one to meet their needs. This can range from medical treatment and cessation of pain, to coordination of services, or making peace with family and a higher power.
“At the end of our lives, what do we most wish for? For many, it’s simply comfort, respect, love.” -BJ Miller
What are the options in hospice?
End-of-life care is personal and should be tailored to meet the needs and desires of the individual. This can include everything from the level of care needed to directives of where someone wishes to pass.
Hospice vs palliative care
Hospice and palliative care address many of the same issues, but can look very different on a case-by-case basis. Hospice is intended for individuals will a life expectancy of fewer than six months, where palliative care isn’t limited to this time period. Your loved one could benefit from advanced care even if their illness is not life-limiting in the near future. End-of-life goals and symptom management are crucial in both scenarios, and it is important to meet with your healthcare provider to discuss which is appropriate for you or your loved one.
Depending on the resources needed, some patients choose to remain in the home at the end of their journey. This decision is closely linked to the goals of the patient, their condition, and the amount and quality of support available. It is important to note, that the hospice benefit does not include private duty care/or around the clock nursing services.
Long-term care facilities
Facilities like Villa St. Francis offer higher levels of support and can address needs on a case-by-case basis. We offer tranquil settings both in private and semi-private rooms. Our team works closely with Hospice services to ensure pain and symptom management is addressed 24 hours a day, and our nurses and CNAs are available to take care of the patient around the clock and coordinate care plans with hospice professionals who supply supplementary care. We have social workers and spiritual care on-site. Working with Villa St. Francis and a hospice service offers a comprehensive level of care.
General inpatient care
The highest level of care under hospice is called GIP- general inpatient. A patient can qualify for this if their symptoms are unmanageable in their home. GIP is considered “the ICU” of hospice. This can occur in the hospital, but most patients prefer not to return to or remain in the hospital at end of life. Villa St. Francis has a dedicated wing, called The Hospice Suites, with private rooms that can accommodate GIP level of care, with 24 hour RN support.
Who pays for hospice?
The majority of patients requiring hospice services will be eligible for Medicare Hospice Benefit, which covers up to 100% of services. You should not defer hospice due to concerns about payment or financial concerns. Medicare covers hospice as an inclusive benefit and all services related to a life limiting illness are included up to 100% by Medicare Part A. Services unrelated to the illness are covered by Parts A and B where normal rules apply.
Little known facts about hospice
- Hospice isn’t giving up; it is speaking up. Working with a hospice service ensures you or your loved one’s needs will be heard and addressed.
- People can live longer with hospice. It is not unusual for someone to live longer when the quality of their life increases. Pain management and peace of mind are contributing factors to someone’s life expectancy.
- Hospice isn’t a place; it is a philosophy of care. Most hospice patients receive care in their home, but even when it is it elsewhere it remains about the treatment.
- Hospice gives you control, not take it away. Death, just like life is very personal. Hospice professionals work diligently to ensure that the wishes of the patient and their family are upheld.
- Hospice isn’t about giving up medical care, it merely changes the goal. Rather than focusing on length of life, you focus on quality of life.
- Through medical treatments and therapies, you or your loved one can enjoy the rest of their life.
- Hospice is for the entire family, not just the patient. End of life is a stressful time, not just for the patient but also the family. Hospice can relieve some of the burden by offering care and respite to the family.
- Working with social workers and bereavement counselors can help in planning.
What to look for in a hospice provider.
Talk to the professionals. Your doctor, nurses, and social workers are great resources when it comes to choosing a hospice provider. Also, speak with friends and neighbors for advice, it is likely they have had the experience you can draw from in making your decision. You are encouraged to interview hospice agencies to choose the one that is best for you and your family.
Consider asking some of the following questions of the hospice agencies before making a decision:
- Are you Medicare-certified?
- Who is on the hospice care team and how often do they make visits?
- Are you non-profit or for-profit?
- Do you have a dedicated pharmacy for medicine and do they deliver medications?
- How are pain and other symptoms managed?
- What services are offered in your program?
- What complementary therapies do you provide?
- What services do you offer the family?
Read more about what Villa St. Francis has to offer you and your loved one during this time. Read more…
Bravery In The Face Of Danger, Support Beyond Measure
Chris DiMaso | May 24, 2021
“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecc 4:12
Today we somberly mark the one-year anniversary of Villa St. Francis encountering Covid-19. No one could have foreseen what these twelve months would hold. It is a time that will leave an indelible mark on our lives. We learned so much about fighting infection, but we learned even more about the human spirit. Our brave staff stood in the line of danger and didn’t flinch. You, our friends, supported us through prayer and donations.
Before the news was telling us something different every day about Covid, we were listening to the top scientists in the country. We had made the decision to close our doors and protect our residents early on. Even still we knew it was likely we Covid wasn’t an if, but a when. PPE became the office wear for everyone. Faces masked, hands gloved, and gowns over clothing became the new couture.
On May 23rd, 2020 we had our first positive Covid test return. “A day none of us will ever forget. It felt like the building was on fire,” said Kristie Onkoba LPN, Director of Quality Improvement and Risk Management. It was then we knew that how different life was going to get. Fear swept through the building, but to our amazement, it didn’t change our staff’s commitment to serving.
“It takes a brave individual to knowingly walk into a room with Covid and provide compassion, but that is exactly what our staff did.” Rodney Whittington, CEO. “We could have never got through this without them.”
Over the last year, we saw two outbreaks enter our building. However, every time we saw your support flood in as well. We heard over and over, ” Thank you to everyone for your care and concern.” and “Praying for you and everyone in your community!!” You blessed us when we needed it most. You sent snacks for staff, you donated online, and you lifted us up in prayer. You will never know how much you mean to us.
From everyone at Villa St. Francis, thank you for your continued support.
Nursing Home Week 2021
Chris DiMaso | May 17, 2021
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” Ecc 3:1
Nursing Home Week 2021 proved to be a week of fun and celebration. Last year’s celebration was anything but in quarantine. With that behind us, we set our sites on a week of activities, food, and entertainment. The national theme this year was “Through The Seasons.” This felt appropriate as it had been many seasons since we had time to rejoice together.
Four seasons and five days meant that we needed an introduction day to kick us off. On Monday our friend Laurie with Catholic Community Hospice came to serenade us with songs about the seasons. We ended the day with some “green money” bingo. Residents that won received a dollar bill. It was a full house that day.
Tuesday ushered in Spring even though the weather outside disagreed. Decorations of flowers and bright colors went up. We had planned to go outside to plant the beautiful flowers that you donated, but chilly temps and threats of rain postponed the event.
Fall fell on Wednesday and so did fall activities. The weather was much nicer so we seized the opportunity to plant our beautiful flowers. The courtyards and gazebos are fully dressed with a host of colors. A resident favorite, Rob McHenry, brought his guitar and led us in songs of yesteryear. We celebrated May birthdays and had cider with donuts. Decorations of brown leaves now adorned the walls.
Winter is coming, and so it did on Thursday. Snowballs flew as residents and staff waged war. These fuzzy white balls didn’t melt, nor did they hurt. It was Eunice who fired the first shot, but the volley didn’t stop there. Loren and Helen took aim at anyone within throwing distance. Later we enjoyed hot chocolate as welcomed Carlos Garcia as a new performer. Snowflakes now hung in the main dining room.
We took a trip to the beach on Friday as we celebrated Summer. We played outdoor games like cornhole and listened to the Beach Boys. We used a beach backdrop to take photos and enjoyed popsicles to cool us down. Lunch was hamburgers and brats on the grill. With sides like potato salad and watermelon, it felt like a backyard bbq. Flip flops and other summer icons decorated the walls.
Nursing Home Week might be over, but we are still celebrating every day being together again. We look forward to the time when you can all join us for another party. You can view our monthly calendar here.
The Show Must Go On
Chris DiMaso | March 15, 2021
“Praise Him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe” Psalm 150:3-4
At the beginning of the pandemic, one of the first casualties of normal life was our entertainers had to stop coming into Villa. It was too great a threat of exposure to residents. Days became bland without the upbeat spirit that musicians brought to our building. But the show must go on. As the days became weeks, we found a safe way to bring the musicians back, but they needed to stay in the chapel. From there they would be broadcast over our in-house TV channel. No one was allowed in the chapel during the performance, and residents would watch from their rooms. It just was not the same.
As the infection rate has began to drop and we were preparing to allow people back into the building, we also started to think about how we could bring back live entertainment. We knew we couldn’t have everyone in the main dining room at once, so we needed to have another option for in-room viewing. The answer was to install a new TV channel with a connection in the dining room. And so that is what we did.
Beginning on Monday, March 15, 2021 we were able to bring entertainers back into the dining room. Keeping residents socially distanced, we welcomed Mike Needleman back for our first live performance in over a year. We also broadcast him live to residents across Villa on our new channel. He played hits from the 1950’s and 1960’s like Bob Dylan, The Birds, and The Everly Brothers.
The residents who were in attendance in the main dining room tapped to the beat as smiles returned to their faces. Those who opted to watch in their rooms remarked how clear the picture was and how much they enjoyed it.
Villa St. Francis staff probably had the best reaction while Mike played. It filled our hearts to see our residents out and enjoying life. Masks can’t restrain our smiles. It feels amazing to see Villa getting back to normal. Thank you for your support during our efforts to reopen safely.
A Closer Look: Dining Services
Chris DiMaso | March 10, 2021
Learn more about Villa Life as we take a closer look at the dining services at Villa St. Francis. Learn how healthy doesn’t mean boring, and how residents have the ability to make decisions with their food choices.