Hospice helps kin of the terminally ill Families can keep patients at home CARROLL COUNTY HEALTH

November 09, 1993|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Staff Writer

Carleen Skiles wishes that Carroll Hospice had existed 12 years ago when she was caring for her dying mother in her home.

Ms. Skiles had help from a health department nurse but "it wasn't the same kind of support that Carroll Hospice gives," she said.

Now, as a Carroll Hospice volunteer, Mrs. Skiles provides terminally ill patients and their families with the kind of support she would have liked to have.

"It helps you to grow as an individual," Mrs. Skiles said of her hospice volunteer work. "You're helping others, but you're also helping yourself as a person."

During November, designated National Hospice Month, the Carroll Hospice staff hopes to spread the word about hospice work to people who could use hospice services to care for their dying loved ones.

"We give families as many tools as we can give them to provide the best care for their dying relative in a home setting," said Julie Flaherty, the executive director of Carroll Hospice.

"That's a foreign concept to a lot of people. They don't know it's possible to keep a dying family member at home."

The private, nonprofit Carroll Hospice provides comprehensive care for terminally ill patients through its nurses, social workers, home health aides and other specialists. In addition, about 200 hospice volunteers provide emotional support for patients and their families.

Hospice care was introduced in the United States about 20 years ago and has "snowballed" in the past five years, Ms. Flaherty said.

"We can bring everything into the home that 10 years ago you had to go to the hospital to get," she said.

For example, hospice staff members are able to provide patients with pain-management pumps that allows them to administer morphine themselves, instead of receiving the medication intravenously in a hospital.

Carroll Hospice's patient load has increased from 90 in 1991 to 139 in 1992. Ms. Flaherty projects a 50 percent increase this year.

National Hospice Month activities at Carroll Hospice include speaking to community groups throughout the month about hospice care and information table in the lobby of Carroll County General Hospital Friday and Saturday. In addition, on Nov. 26, the day after Thanksgiving and one of the biggest shopping days of the year, Wal-Mart will donate a percentage of its sales between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. to Carroll Hospice.

"That is a huge gift from the community," Ms. Flaherty said.

Carroll Hospice's approach to care has changed dramatically since the organization became eligible for Medicare reimbursement. Since January, Carroll Hospice has received $92 a day per patient from Medicare.

Now, in addition to volunteer services, Carroll Hospice offers in-home medical care, medical supplies and equipment, and alternative treatments, such as massage and music therapies.

To accommodate the expanded services, the hospice staff has grown from four to 20 full-time and part-time employees and its budget has increased to $300,000 from $80,000.

But Medicare reimbursement doesn't cover all costs of medical care, medication and equipment, Ms. Flaherty said, and Carroll Hospice has had to increase its fund-raising activities.

"In no way does it meet the expenditures we have," she said. "We bring doctors to them [the patients], and it's an expensive undertaking."

Hospice care is not for everyone, Ms. Flaherty said. Some primary care-givers are elderly or too ill to care for a terminally ill person.

In those cases, Carroll Hospice would still provide volunteer services to the family.

In addition to educating people about Carroll Hospice, Ms. Flaherty said, the hospice also uses National Hospice Month as a time to recognize hospice volunteers and families caring for their terminally ill relatives.

"The families are the true heroes in hospice," she said. "We choose this time to honor their courageous decision to care for their loved one at home rather than in an institutional setting."

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