November 2007

For the Love of Living

Author: Linda Hopkins

Get to Know Hospice of the Lowcountry

“When I hear the word ‘hospice,’ it means somebody’s dying, and I ain’t dying, so I don’t know why you’re here.” —hospice patient to admissions nurse

When you think of hospice, do you envision a near-comatose patient taking his or her last breath? You may have the wrong picture. According to Lynne Hummell, director of communications for Hospice Care of the Lowcountry, one of the most common misconceptions is that hospice means giving up hope and curling up to die. This is far from the truth. In fact, many hospice patients go out to dinner, to the movies, on fishing excursions and on vacations. Although death may be imminent, the goal of hospice is to provide pain management and symptom control so that people can enjoy the final chapter of their lives, she explained.

Hummell urges healthy people to learn about hospice and understand what services are offered. By doing so, when faced with a life-limiting illness, you can make an informed decision concerning the care you need. While you may not be able to control when or how you die, you can make choices that will affect the quality of your final months, weeks, days and hours. “People tend to think of hospice as a last resort, when really it is a positive option,” said Hummell.

Understanding hospice
The underlying theme of the hospice concept is a special kind of compassionate care. “It’s the compassion that fills the hearts of our nurses, assistants, social workers, chaplain, volunteers—even the folks who answer our phones—that makes a difference in how we care for our patients and families. This is not just a job for us; this is a calling and a passion,” said Hummell.

Hospice services are based on comfort care as opposed to curative measures. Hospice Care of the Lowcounty also offers palliative care, a higher level of care, making it possible for patients to continue seeking medical treatments, while addressing all symptoms and pain associated with the illness and tapping into a broad range of other life-enhancing services, including physical, occupational, speech and nutritional therapies, when appropriate. Music therapy is available to any patient or family member upon request.

In addition, hospice provides all necessary equipment and supplies for the patient’s comfort, including beds, oxygen, walkers, wheelchairs and medication. Services provided by Hospice Care of the Lowcountry are covered by Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurance companies. But no patient is ever turned away, regardless of ability to pay. Additional costs incurred are absorbed by the agency, which relies on grants, donations and a variety of fundraising activities for financial support. “To my knowledge, we have never sent a bill to a patient,” said Hummell.

The greater gift of hospice is its capacity to help families share the end-of-life experience. “It’s truly not the end,” said executive director, Lynn Brooks. “It’s the beginning of an opportunity to repair relationships, make new memories and get back in touch with what’s important to you. It’s a great time of reflection for the whole family and a chance to spend quality time together.”

A patient is eligible for hospice care when his or her life expectancy is six months or less, regardless of age. (The youngest patient to be cared for by Hospice Care of the Lowcountry was six days old, the oldest, 102 years.) Care is typically provided in the patient’s home, whether it is a house, apartment, assisted living facility or nursing home.

Unfortunately, many people wait too late to call hospice and miss out on the full benefits of the program. “The time to call hospice is the moment you get a terminal diagnosis,” said Hummell. “Let us tell you your options.”

For more information, call 843-706-2296 or toll free, 877-681-7814. Visit online at hospicecarelc.org.

Five Reasons to Choose Hospice Care of the Lowcountry

All hospices are not created equal. A common misconception is that hospice is one big organization when, in fact, hospices are individually-organized agencies. While the basic concept behind the programs may be similar, certifications, structures and services vary. For example, Hospice Care of the Lowcountry is Medicare certified. Many hospices are not. Some hospices operate on a for-profit basis, whereas Hospice Care of the Lowcountry is a 501©3 non-profit agency. But that’s not all. The level of service and scope of care can also be different. Here are just a few more reasons to choose Hospice Care of the Lowcountry:

Community roots: Hospice Care of the Lowcounty has provided services to the area for 25 years. Every dollar raised on behalf of Hospice Care of the Lowcountry stays here in our community.

Accessibility: All patients are accepted, regardless of ability to pay. The agency is Medicare and Medicaid approved and is on-call for service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Not all hospices accept children. Hospice Care of the Lowcountry embraces patients of all ages, including children and teens.

Qualified staff: Clinical staff members are certified experts in pain management and the majority of the nurses are nationally certified in hospice and palliative care. Two staff members are nationally certified thanatologists (experts in death and dying). In addition to a comprehensive health care team, 150 trained volunteers provide non-medical services to families as well as the agency.

Broad spectrum of service: Hospice Care of the Lowcountry is the only area hospice dually licensed and certified as a palliative home health agency and hospice agency, offering a full range of medical care and restorative therapies. Spiritual counseling, pastoral care and bereavement services (including a youth bereavement day camp) are available to the entire community at no charge.

Educational resources: Speakers are available to local schools, businesses, religious organizations, healthcare groups, civic and social clubs at no charge. For a list of topics or to schedule a speaker, call Lynne Hummell at 843-706-2296.

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