Nursing homes sign partnership with hospice for terminally ill care

September 03, 1992|By Deidre Nerreau McCabe | Deidre Nerreau McCabe,Staff Writer

Terminally ill patients at two county nursing homes will have access to hospice services for the first time, under a new agreement reached between providers.

Hospice of the Chesapeake, which provides numerous services to the county's terminally ill, signed separate contracts within the past three weeks with two Meridian nursing homes, said Lars Egede-Nissen, president of the hospice.

"This is new for Anne Arundel County, but it is something that's happening all over the country," said Mr. Egede-Nissen. "Hospices are becoming partners with nursing homes because nursing homes have expertise we don't have, and we have expertise they don't have."

Mr. Egede-Nissen said hospice organizations are experts at palliative care, more commonly known as "comfort care," which focuses on eliminating the physical and emotional pain associated with terminal illnesses. Hospice of the Chesapeake serves about 275 county residents a year, most of whom are dying from cancer, he said.

Hospice services are only available to patients with less than six months to live, he said, adding that most patients who seek hospice services are close to the end of their lives. "People who come to us are very, very sick. On average, they live about 50 days," he said.

Nursing homes, on the other hand, are experts at long-term patient care, said Richard Kincaid, administrator of the Meridian Nursing Center in Severna Park. The average stay for residents at his facility is 1 1/2 years, he said. Although some patients die there, others enter for rehabilitation and then return to the community, he said.

Mr. Kincaid said the new arrangement with Hospice of the Chesapeake will allow patients at the 141-bed center who become terminally ill to receive hospice services without leaving the center.

A second nursing home, Meridian Nursing Center-Hammonds Lane, in Brooklyn Park, will also offer the hospice services, he said.

"Patients will have the support of the hospice inter-disciplinary team, which includes nurses, counselors, chaplains," said Mr. Egede-Nissen. "We will help them live out their lives as comfortably as possible."

For patients who qualify for hospice services, the cost is generally covered by Medicare, he said.

But the services traditionally have been offered only to patients being cared for at home.

The new contract will allow Medicare to cover hospice services for nursing home patients as well.

"Nursing homes are homes after all," Mr. Egede-Nissen said.

"The contract just spells out who gets paid to do what," said Mr. Egede-Nissen, who added that no money will be exchanged between Meridian and Hospice of the Chesapeake.

Mr. Kincaid said Meridian and Hospice will be scheduling a number of joint educational ventures to inform patients and their relatives about the partnership and what new services will be available.

Right now, only one patient is using the services, he said, adding that he expects many more will as word spreads.

Mr. Egede-Nissen said if the partnership with Meridian goes well, Hospice of the Chesapeake will attempt to set up similar arrangements at other county nursing homes.

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