Campbell said she felt the same way about calling Hospice before her husband died seven years ago. After learning more about the program, however, she made the call and her husband received Hospice services for seven months before his death.
“They were a huge help,” said Campbell’s daughter Pattie Plumer, who was so appreciative that she became a volunteer and later a board member at Hospice & Palliative Care of Greater Wayne County. So when Campbell’s doctor suggested calling Hospice after repeated hospitalizations, the decision was easy.
“Having them in early is much better than having them in at the last minute,” said Plumer. “The nurses come twice a week - they’re just great. When Mom wanted to go to her granddaughter’s wedding in Chicago, they even helped her prepare for that.”
“You’d have thought they were all going along with me,” Campbell said with a chuckle. “As far as our experience is concerned, they couldn’t be any better. The only thing they haven’t done is give me strength!”
Tammy Cruise, Community Relations Coordinator for Hospice & Palliative Care of Greater Wayne County, said the misconception that Hospice care is just for the last few days of a person’s life is a common one. “Calling us early gives us the opportunity to provide more services to our patients,” she said. “The earlier the referral, the better we can manage the person’s symptoms and get them feeling better. The most important thing is bringing comfort to the patient.”
“When we have them for six months or more, we can help them meet their goals,” added Colleen Nettleton, Executive Director. “Some want to reconcile with family members, attend a family wedding, etc. We can work with them to make that happen.
“When people enter Hospice so late, they don’t even meet the whole team. They miss that benefit from the team approach that takes care of the whole person,” Nettleton continued. The team consists of the patient’s physician and the Hospice team physician, a nurse case manager, hospice aides, social worker and chaplain. In some cases, a massage therapist and dietician join the team as well.
An extensive volunteer network provides additional assistance. “You name it, they do it,” said Nettleton. “We ask families what they need and try to provide it.” Volunteers provide respite care, run errands, care for pets, do yard work and much more. While most of the 180 volunteers are involved with direct care, volunteer opportunities are available in the office as well.
A second common misconception is that only doctors can make a referral to Hospice. The truth is that anyone can call Hospice and receive information about the Hospice program. Patients or families can call Hospice at any time, stated Plumer. However, the patient’s physician is required to complete documentation verifying the diagnosis. To qualify, Medicare requires that the patient have a prognosis of six months or less.
Nettleton said studies show that people actually live an average of 28 days longer with Hospice. Patients have a better quality of life once their symptoms are managed. In some cases, their doctor may even decide they are chronically ill rather than terminally ill and they can be discharged from the program.
A third thing that many people don’t know is that Hospice offers much more than just patient care - it provides a whole host of bereavement services to the community as well. “Because we’re a nonprofit, when people make donations, we are able to utilize those donations in the Community Care Fund offer these services free of charge,” said Cruise.
Bereavement Coordinator Lynn Lilly said that anyone is welcome to participate in their one-on-one counseling program and monthly workshops on topics such as depression versus grief, ways to help people who have lost loved ones, loss of a child, and grieving during the holidays. In addition, multiple six-week support groups offer tools and support for anyone working through the loss of a loved one.
Hospice offers grief counseling services in the schools, usually at the request of a school counselor, meeting with groups of up to 10 children. They run two bereavement camps in the summer for children who have faced a loss as well.
Hospice & Palliative Care of Greater Wayne County serves Wayne, Holmes and Medina counties with offices in Wooster, Millersburg and Wadsworth. To learn more about their services, visit http://www.wchospice.org or call toll free at 800-884-6547.
Published: November 4, 2011