Hospice care helps the dying live
By Bob Arnold
Hospice care -- an often misunderstood service -- is not about helping people die, but helping people live -- those who are in their final days, the homebound, their family and caregivers, says Emily Rains, Patient Care Coordinator at the Brookhaven office of Hospice Ministries (HM).
Rains talked to the Wesson Lions Club about her organization and its work and accepted a $300 donation from the local service group.
"Typically, we serve patients who suffer from the effects of a stroke, heart conditions, cancer and Alzheimer's Disease," she explained. "They are often homebound, but not necessarily on their deathbeds." For people in their last days, we're about "helping them live life as fully as possible" and "keeping them with us as long as we can," Rains said. "We provide relief from the demands on caregivers and grief support for families."
Rains said her organization does not seek to cure people, but rather offers "palliative care" that "makes them comfortable and helps them lead a good quality of life for as long as possible." In-home nursing care is a primary Hospice Ministries service, while its facility at Ridgeland, Mississippi, provides inpatient care for up to forty patients as required.
The Hospice Ministries care team encompasses the patient's physician, Hospice medical directors, nurses and aides, pharmacists, social workers, chaplains, bereavement counselors, dieticians, physical/occupational/speech therapists and an array of volunteers.
"The majority of Hospice Ministries patients receive care in their own homes," Rains pointed out. "With our assistance, they can remain at home surrounded by their family and friends and the things that are most precious to them. "We do not limit patient visits by nurses and will send two or more each days, if needed. In addition to going to homes, HM also serves patients in assisted living facilities and nursing homes. Rains said.
Volunteers, an important part of the HM team, assist in a broad spectrum of services for patients and their families including reading, listening, gardening, clerical support and emotional, spiritual and bereavement care. They help both in-home and in-facility patients get out to attend church services and other community events or even go to the beauty shop HM patients can keep their private physicians and take previously prescribed medications.
In Brookhaven, Hospice Ministries, Inc., traces its history to 1992 when a group associated with King's Daughters Medical Center helped organize Hospice Ministries of Central Mississippi to provide in-home hospice care. In 1997, it merged with Whispering Pines Hospice, an inpatient hospice at Ridgeland, Mississippi, to create the present organization, an in-home and inpatient continuum of care that is one of only several in the country. HM serves 31 counties in Mississippi, including Copiah, Lawrence and Lincoln, through its Ridgeland, Brookhaven and McComb offices.
HM patients, Rains related, must be diagnosed with a terminal illness, have a life expectancy of six months or less if the disease follows its natural course, have a physician who agrees to hospice care for the patient and be assessed by the HM team for needs and desire of HM services. "As a not-for-profit organization, we are unusual and turn no one away," Rains said. "Patients without payer sources receive the same care as those with resources." HM is supported without government funding, solely by private donations and grants, and reimbursements from Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance.