OHIO VALLEY — Holzer Health System is celebrating November as National Home Care and Hospice Month.
“In celebration of the month to celebrate staff, we’ve been into all the counties to complete proclamations, Gallia, Jackson, Meigs, Vinton, Athens, Ross, Scioto and Lawrence Counties,” said Vicki Nottingham, Holzer Health System Director for Hospice and RN. “In hospice, we take care of patients that have a terminal illness or a life limiting illness. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a cancer diagnosis. It could be something that they’re in the last stages of chronically. Cardiac, pulmonary, Alzheimer’s, those types of things.”
The hospice and home care workers seek to dispel some of the myths about their trade and better raise awareness in the public.
Some believe that hospice is a place whereas it most often occurs as a service in roughly 70 percent of patient homes. Most hospice care is covered under private insurance plans, HMOs and other managed care organizations to include hospice care as a benefit. Patients are able to receive hospice care well after six months, should their physician deem them still terminally ill and believe the patient would benefit from the service.
Overall, hospice care is about providing patients with quality of life. The Holzer Health System Hospice Team consists of the patient’s primary care physician, nurses, pharmacists, dietitians, personal care aides and volunteers. Music therapists, chaplains and social workers are also apart of the team and seek to attend to some of the physical needs as well as spiritual needs of a patient.
The medical director reviews cases for admission into hospice and assists team and staff and physicians in coming up with a care plan as well as acting as a liaison between other health care providers. The director also oversees the management and education of the hospice staff and can act as a primary physician for patients who do not have one.
According to Nottingham, patients have been able to “graduate” from hospice care. She believes that the sooner a patient is discovered to have a terminal condition, the more hospice might due to help the patient by giving them individualized attention spanning both the physical, spiritual and mental needs of a patient and his or her family.
“The myth is once you come into hospice, you’re going to die,” said Nottingham. “Once patients come into hospice, if they come in early enough, instead of waiting, then sometimes they tend to stabilize. They feel better and things can level off.”
“We’re trying to bust through that myth because we want people to know that just because you’re going to hospice, doesn’t mean it’s the end,” said Nottingham. “This is what the requirement is to get on hospice (to have a terminal condition), but depending on the disease process, the person, their will to live, this team approach, there are of factors involved (that contribute to the patient’s care results). Nursing is constantly evaluating and making sure they are helping provide comfort levels, treatment, medication. Do they (the patients) have not only something physical but something psychological going on? That’s when we bring in social work. Team approaches are not just for the patient, but also the family.
Should a patient wish to end hospice care, they are welcome to return to traditional care as they choose. Patients can determine whether or not they wish to have hospice care, they must be certified as having a terminal condition though with a life expectancy of six or fewer months. Hospice is not just for elderly patients. According to Holzer information, almost 20 percent of patients are under the age of 65 in hospice care.