By: Laura Senic Registered nurse for Hospice of the Panhandle
For more than 40 years, Hospice of the Panhandle has provided compassionate end-of-life care to patients and their families in Berkeley, Jefferson, Morgan and Hampshire counties. We serve patients of all ages and walks of life, wherever they call home, including all nursing homes and assisted livings in our service area.
The partnership between Hospice of the Panhandle and long-term care is sometimes not well understood. Family members might think, “My loved one is already receiving 24/7 care. Why do they need hospice, too?”
The answer is simple. End-of-life care is a specialty. When you are experiencing heart troubles you will likely seek out a cardiologist. Maybe you have noticed Mom is starting to forget things more frequently, and her primary care practitioner refers her to a neurologist. When curing a disease is no longer possible, or treatment has become too burdensome, the care team at Hospice of the Panhandle has the unique skillset to manage end-stage disease. Indicators such as progressive weight loss or loss of appetite, decrease in the ability to perform activities of daily living, frequent falls, and frequent hospitalizations or trips to the ER are all signs that a person may benefit from specialized hospice care.
At Hospice of the Panhandle, we use an interdisciplinary approach to manage symptoms and bring comfort to residents living in a long-term care setting, as well as provide emotional support and educational resources to their families and long-term care staff. The hospice team consists of our medical director, a primary nurse, aides, a social worker, chaplains, grief counselors and a wide variety of volunteer services. The resident’s physician continues to be their primary care doctor and works with the hospice team to manage care.
To illustrate the breadth of support a resident can receive with hospice care, let’s take a look at the roles of each hospice team member. The hospice medical director determines a resident’s eligibility for the program, meets regularly with the hospice team to monitor a resident’s care, and may visit at the facility when needed. He or she can often facilitate getting a resident comfort medication quickly, as well. An on-call physician is available after business hours for urgent overnight needs.
The resident will be assigned a primary hospice nurse that typically visits once a week, and more frequently if needed. This nurse will monitor a resident’s medical condition and comfort needs, partner with the long-term care team to manage symptoms and provide education about the resident’s disease process, medications, and personal care. Nursing services are also available 24/7 via Hospice of the Panhandle’s overnight triage line and an on-call nurse is available to make visits, as needed.
Hospice aides are available to assist with personal care, such as bathing and feeding, in addition to aide services provided by the resident’s care home. They can report changes in the resident’s condition to care home staff and the hospice nurse.
The hospice social worker supports the resident and family by helping them to navigate and cope with the end-of-life journey through counseling. The social worker can also connect them with resources and provide education and assistance with issues such as funeral planning and advanced directives.
Hospice chaplains are non-denominational and offer support to help with spiritual needs and concerns. They can also perform rites, rituals, and other ceremonies. The hospice grief counselor helps the resident and family to cope with the stresses of serious illness and is available to the resident’s family and care home staff after a resident’s passing.
Finally, hospice volunteers can provide companion visits to residents, serve as 11th hour volunteers to ensure that a resident does not pass away alone, perform Veteran recognition ceremonies and provide a variety of therapies, services or assist with wish granting.
Hospice of the Panhandle is proud to partner with nursing homes and assisted livings to wrap residents, families, and staff in an extra layer of support to navigate the end-of-life journey. Anyone can make a hospice referral by contacting our mainline at (304) 264-0406 and requesting to speak with a member of the Access Team.
Laura Senic is a registered nurse for Hospice of the Panhandle and is certified in hospice and palliative care. She works closely with the long-term care communities in the region to assure quality care for residents reaching end of life. Laura has been at Hospice since 2020 and previously worked in the Access (Admissions) Department.