As a chaplain and bereavement coordinator for Weinstein Hospice, Deanna Lawrence said she’s “shared and witnessed in many emotional, spiritual and life changing moments with our patients.
“It’s not an easy decision to choose additional support through a palliative care program when one knows hospice may be the next step along their life’s journey. As hard as that decision is, we strive to provide additional support, knowledge, understanding and comfort, before the decision for hospice is near.”
Hospice care focuses on people with advanced life-limiting illnesses who have a life expectancy measured in six months or less, and provides comfort and quality of life rather than a cure, according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.
NHPCO explains that palliative care is recommended, regardless of life expectancy, and the care can be provided in a senior’s own home and surroundings, hospital, nursing home or assisted living community, depending on the program.
Palliative care is delivered alongside other treatments, services and primary care, the Virginia-based organization reports. This type of senior care focuses on quality of life and is essentially not having to do it on your own, having the best life for the longest possible period, according to NHPCO’s website.
Or as the National Consensus Project for palliative care describes it: “patient and family-centered care that optimizes quality of life by anticipating, preventing, and treating suffering. Palliative care throughout the continuum of illness involves addressing physical, intellectual, emotional, social, and spiritual needs and to facilitate patient autonomy, access to information and choice.”
Palliative care programs differ in rules for admittance, specialties and service offerings.
The palliative care team at Weinstein Hospice helps communicate the illness and its progression to family members, provides emotional support to patients and caregivers, helps coordinate care between all providers, and makes referrals to community resources for assistance with social and practical needs.
Weinstein Hospice, located in The William Breman Jewish Home and part of Jewish HomeLife, consists of a director of palliative care, a nurse practitioner, and a member of the team to guide spiritual services. These professionals coordinate care with doctors, provide emotional support and manage symptoms, among other capabilities, according to Weinstein Hospice.
Lawrence explained her role further. “Patients feel free and comfortable to speak to me about life’s challenges, changes and small triumphs because I try to promote a calming presence and listening support by meeting the patient and families where they are in times of acceptance and contemplation.”
The hospice program offers palliative care to patients pursuing aggressive treatments for cancer, heart disease and lung disease, including chemotherapy, radiation, blood transfusions and hospital intervention, when needed. Patients who enroll in this palliative care program generally have a life expectancy of one year and will require hospice services within six months, Weinstein Hospice reports.
Patients can be referred to this service in several ways, including a physician, other facilities and the JHL community. Once referred, the Weinstein team coordinates with the patient’s existing medical team to determine if he or she is appropriate for the services that can be provided. And once admitted, new patients are seen once every two weeks for the first month, then receive at least one visit a month, and more if needed or requested, according to Weinstein Hospice. Long-term patients who are considered very stable are seen about once every six weeks. Palliative care patients can be seen in their home or senior care and assisted living communities, the organization reports. The Weinstein Hospice palliative care team can also provide some services using telehealth visits as needed.
The palliative care team works with other healthcare professionals to help maintain the highest quality of care possible for as long as possible, Weinstein Hospice states. They help families manage serious chronic illness and navigate and manage chronic symptoms, and they help the community become more knowledgeable about treatment options.
Weinstein Hospice recommended a few questions to consider to choose the right care:
- Do you have an end-stage primary diagnosis of cancer, cardiac disease or pulmonary disease?
- Do you still wish to pursue aggressive treatments (such as hospitalizations, if necessary, chemotherapy, blood transfusions) and remain under the care of your physicians?
- Do you currently have a primary care physician and/or referring physician
- Could your current needs adequately be managed on an outpatient basis with bi-weekly or bi-monthly visits and/or the use of telehealth services that operate on a Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule, or are your needs much more urgent, requiring immediate assistance outside of those parameters?
If you answered yes to these, Weinstein Hospice believes palliative care may be the right choice. ì
For more information about Weinstein Hospice and Palliative Care, call Emily Fain, director of palliative care at 404-790-7792 or Weinstein Hospice at 404-351-1897.