40 years

Hospice hope and innovation

Photo submitted to Times Observer The Hospice hub at 1 Main Ave.

Over five Saturdays, the Times Observer is presenting Hospice of Warren County from its perspective in honor of its 40th anniversary.

Being open to new ideas throughout our 40-year history, Hospice of Warren County has continuously created and revised innovative programs to support our clients and their caregivers.

Hospice of Warren County’s “Hospice” program is central to the success of all other programs.

Changing from a volunteer-based Hospice program to a Medicare-certified entity has allowed our Hospice program to offer patients and families help in many more ways.

Hospice of Warren County continues to accept all clients regardless of their Medicare status or ability to pay. Alongside nursing, social work, caregiver teaching, and skilled medical and personal care, our innovative offerings now include massage, pet, music, art, reiki therapy, and extensive bereavement services. Volunteer services continue to be the heart of our Hospice program, meeting patients’ needs for companionship and/or caregivers’ needs for respite. We utilize the same training template of our first volunteer training class and have introduced modern topics such as “social media” and “ethical considerations” in Hospice care. Two layers of active Board oversight are also comprised of volunteers with far-reaching areas of expertise that contribute important input into agency operations.

The passage of time surely brings a need to adapt. While program offerings have adapted based on latest trends in hospice care and input from patients and families over the years, some of the biggest changes, especially occurring in the most recent of these 40 years, have been to Hospice of Warren County operations. Significant changes in every segment of health care have transformed how we document patient data and care, the bill for our services, reimbursement, and how we sustain operations.

Hospice of Warren County has had to confront realities of for-profit competition, rising costs coupled with relatively stagnant reimbursement rates, heightened regulatory demands, and the presence of increasingly large and sophisticated business customers (payors, large health systems, and regional/national partner medical facilities and vendors).

The challenge for our leadership is to remain mission-focused, create economic efficiency, and preserve our people and our programs.

Hospice of Warren County has been the recipient of generous and committed support that so many have given in so many ways throughout the years.

This brainpower, labor, and financial support greatly contributes to our success and sustains us, enabling us to offer an enhanced Hospice program, along with our other programs you will hear about in the coming weeks.

Despite the need to adapt, there are many values we consider to be timeless, unchanged, and desirable, and we work hard to make sure they come across consistently. We continue to follow the same bedrock principles on which we were founded: the promptness of the response to patients and families in need, close and careful teamwork internally and with our professional partners, and quality of care standards. The great constant in our Hospice program has been people caring for people in a personal way and with the greatest amount of skill and compassion. We are blessed with having an exceptional group of staff and volunteers, all highly trained and deeply committed, selflessly giving of their time and talents. We strive for the highest quality of life for every patient for whom we have the privilege of caring.

We’d like to share conversations with family members who have been involved with Hospice of Warren County’s Hospice program. These comments address many of the misconceptions about “hospice.”

“I expected clinical care from the staff. What was unexpected was that care is so personal.”

“I didn’t realize how much Hospice helps not only the patient but the family as well.”

Hospice directly helps and benefits our patients and Hospice also helps relationships. Due to the guidance and teaching done during Hospice staff visits, Hospice helps caregivers be even better caregivers when Hospice staff aren’t around. With Hospice care in place, people can relax more and reconnect with that family relationship and not just be a caregiver. The little things that Hospice brings make a big difference and one doesn’t realize this until Hospice becomes involved.

“I would have gotten Hospice involved a lot sooner now if I had to do things over again.”

One thing that never changes is families and friends wanting the best for a loved one.

Choosing Hospice over continued invasive medical treatment can be a difficult decision. It’s human nature to want to continue to fight.

Hospice of Warren County’s Hospice program fully supports decisions patients and families make in the course of their care. If a person is diagnosed with a disease that is known to be life-limiting, it becomes a top priority to think through what that person wants the rest of his or her life to look like. Even with a complicated and convoluted healthcare system, it’s important and possible to seek care that will help make that person’s vision a reality. It’s especially important to assure that the final stage of living is filled with comfort, dignity, respect, caring, and love.

“Hospice dispenses — without holding back anything – love and kindness in their purest forms, to people who need it more than they have ever needed it in their whole lives.”

With Hospice, there is ALWAYS something that can be done; perhaps not in curing the disease, but in caring for persons and their loved ones.

Lisa To, Executive Director