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Thursday, November 15, 2012 - Hospice - Helping People

Memorial Healthcare recognizes November as National Hospice and Palliative Care Month and would like to take this opportunity to educate citizens within our region about the range of choices available when coping with a life-limiting illness. “Most people think hospice is what you do when there’s nothing left to do,” says Vicki Watkins, RN, Director of Memorial’s Hospice program. “That couldn’t be further from the truth – Hospice provides a wide range of services to the family and patient maximizing quality of life and helping people live as fully as possible, on their own terms.”

Hospice is a special “concept” of care provided to patients and families facing a terminal illness. Hospice programs are recognized for their ability to ease the death and grieving experience, and for providing an alternative to traditional care in a hospital setting.

The goal of Memorial’s hospice program is to maintain a patient’s quality of life by focusing on palliative and supportive care. The patient and their family are included in the care plan and emotional, spiritual and direct care support is provided based on the patient’s wishes and the family’s needs.

Palliative care would be provided as part of traditional home health services and can be beneficial to patients earlier in their illness or disease process. No specific therapy is excluded from consideration. An individual’s needs must be continually assessed and treatment options can be explored and evaluated taking into consideration the individual’s values and symptoms. Palliative care, ideally, would transition into hospice care as the illness progresses.

Hospice is all about helping families cope with a loved one’s life-limiting illness. Families often build strong, lasting relationships with their hospice caregivers. Many families often comment that they were not aware of the many different types of services available. “At first I was fearful of hospice and thought this meant the end,” says Bonita Thomas, a hospice patient. “Now, I have a better quality to my life and I’m very much at peace.” According to another hospice patient family member, “I didn’t expect hospice to be as helpful as it has been. We shall always be grateful for the Memorial Healthcare Hospice program and the gifts that it offers. It made a big difference in my stress level, and I now can enjoy these last days with mother with good memories.”

Patients are admitted into the hospice program by a physician’s referral. “Patients and family members can initiative conversations with the physician regarding the benefits of palliative and hospice services,” says Watkins. The hospice team is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The care team consists of hospice nurses, home health aides, social workers, a spiritual advisor and volunteers. Additional team members can include physical, speech and occupational therapists; social services counselors; and nutritionists. The hospice program also provides patient and family education, as well as support; medical supply and pharmacy service coordination; bereavement support and follow-up. “It takes special people to do what they do every day,” says Thomas. “I feel my life has been blessed to have them in it.”

For additional information about the Memorial Healthcare Hospice program, call 989-725-2299 or visit memorialhealthcare.org.