Local hospice puts life improvement first on list

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Jamie Alich / Time’s Staff Writer

Imagine a home care service that values human life, and also pays attention to the physical, psychological and interpersonal needs of its patients.

Hospice is this home care service.

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The goal of hospice is to offer palliative care and support services to individuals who are terminally ill and have six months or less to live. In some cases, patients may survive longer than six months or a projected time.

Within Demopolis, there are two great providers of hospice care. Each of these providers has one goal in common: to provide comfort to terminally ill patients and provide quality of life. Comfort Care Hospice, Inc., is located on Bailey Drive and is administered by Nadine Codding.

Ricky and Mary Flowers own and operate Caring Angels Hospice, Inc., located on Southern Walnut Avenue. They are both registered nurses with sixteen years experience in hospice care.

Contrary to popular belief, choosing hospice does not mean giving up hope. Hospice is about living life to the fullest by offering choices to a patient who no longer seeks curative measures, and the patients do not have to be homebound.

The hospice centers in Demopolis both offer chaplain services, counseling services, social workers services, dietary consultations, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, home health and homemaker aides and volunteer services.

Although most patients services are given in a private residence, some patients reside in nursing homes, assisted living facilities or hospice centers.

Unlike home health, hospice does not require patients to be home bound.

“Hospice patients can come and go from their homes as they please as long as they are physically able to,” said Ginger Aldridge, R.N. patient care coordinator for Caring Angels Hospice, Inc.

Medicare, Medicaid, private pay, donations and private insurances pay for or reimburse hospice.

“Our volunteers have to go through a background check, drug tests and orientation before they are able to go into homes with our R.N.’s and C.N.A’s,” said Terry Reynolds, Administrating Volunteer Coordinator for Comfort Care Hospice.

Both hospice centers in Demopolis have a medical director that works with them to make plans for care and services needed for each patient. Comfort Care works with Dr. Lessmann as their medical director, and Caring Angels works with Dr. Travis.

“The medical director oversees all the patients, and patients may still seek treatment from their personal physicians,” said Ginger Aldridge.

Patients that do not meet requirements or has not been referred by a doctor may be turned down for hospice care. In that circumstance, the patient is sent back to home health care services until hospice is needed.

Referrals can be made in various ways: by physicians with direct referrals, by friends or family who may request a referral through their physician, by a social worker or case manager, by personal care homes and by nursing homes.

Sometimes patients under hospice care may make a medical turn-around and show signs of improvement. Periodically, hospice will evaluate a patient’s condition. If it is determined that a patient’s condition is no longer terminal, or becomes stable, it is recommended that the patient be discharged from hospice care.

“We’ve had patients make turn-arounds. We get in there and give them the close personal care that they need. We’ll see them two or three times a week. We follow them to make sure they are doing their medications. When they start to get better and don’t need our care, we discharge them back to home health,” said Reynolds.

Hospice keeps its patients as alert as possible, comfortable and as pain free as possible while providing the support of a patient to live and pass in their own way.

All services provided by the hospice centers in Demopolis include: pain management and symptom control, nursing visits by an R.N., home care aides, 24 hour/ 7 days a week R.N. availability, medical social resources, counseling and spiritual support, all medication and equipment related to the disease, grief support for one year after patient’s death, ongoing patient and family education, caregiver relief and respite care, homemaker services, volunteers and dietary counseling.

Hospice may be called in for patients who are terminal in these illness: cancer in its last stages, liver disease, pulmonary disease, renal disease, stroke and comma, HIV disease or AIDS, heart disease, adult failure to thrive, dementia, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and other eligibility indicators

For more information on the hospice centers in Demopolis, call Ginger Aldridge of Caring Angels Hospice at 287-0799 or Nadine Codding of Comfort Care Hospice at 289-2106. Office hours are from 8 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday for each center.