November is National Home Care and Hospice Month. The National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) celebrates home care and hospice professionals and the special relationships they maintain with patients and their family members while providing care in their homes.
Lincoln Medical Home Health and Hospice uses this industry celebration as an opportunity to provide information and education about the benefits of home care in weekly articles published in The Elk Valley Times all month long.
“We are especially excited about Home Care and Hospice Month this year,” said Susie Compton, administrator for the agency. “We are celebrating our 30th year as a home care agency, and we are proud of the work we do in our community.”
In 1983, Lincoln County Health System recognized a need to assist patients in their homes and established a home health agency to help patients recover from illness or injury or to assist them to manage their disease process and limit their need for hospitalization and other acute treatment. Since that time, the agency has undergone a few changes, including a change in location from Maple Street to the current address on Wilson Parkway in 2000. A name change from Lincoln Regional Home Health to Hospital Home Health and Hospice occurred in 1992 when the agency was also licensed to provide hospice care.
Most recently, in 2010, Hospital Home Health and Hospice became Lincoln Medical Home Health and Hospice, to more closely identify the agency as the home health and hospice provider of Lincoln County Health System.
“We are part of a locally owned, not-for-profit health system that can provide an excellent continuum of care and meet the needs of the citizens of Lincoln County and surrounding communities. We’re very proud of that and want our name to reflect that relationship,” said Compton.
While there have been some personnel changes over the years, most individuals with the agency have been a part of the organization for many years and bring a wealth of experience to the table.
“One thing has never changed in 30 years: the unwavering dedication to high quality home health and end-of-life care that is the cornerstone of our agency,” said Mary Frances Jones, a registered nurse who has been in home care for over 30 years and with the agency for 12 years.
“We are a provider of two very distinct services, and while we have one name, it is important to realize that we are skilled in providing both home health care services and hospice consultation and hospice care.”
All staff are cross-trained to care for both types of patients and to be familiar with the numerous regulations that govern both the Home Health and Hospice industries.
When a physician determines that a patient would benefit from home health care, he or she makes a referral to a home health agency. This can occur following a patient visit at a physician’s office; through discharge planning during a hospitalization either at Lincoln Medical Center or elsewhere; or at the request of a family member or caregiver.
“Once a referral to our agency is received and accepted, a nurse schedules a visit to evaluate the patient’s needs and set up home health services,” said Ellen Poarch, RN, case manager for the agency. “Although there are many patients who might benefit from assistance at home, Medicare, Tenn Care and most insurance providers require that a patient needs an intermittent, skilled service in order for that care to be a covered benefit. A “skilled service” means that the type of care that the patient needs must be provided by a licensed nurse or therapist under a physician’s order.”
If a patient only needs homemaker or sitter services and doesn’t have a skilled need, then a non-medical home care provider or sitter should be utilized. Another stipulation for home health care is that the patient must be essentially home bound. While not bed bound, a patient must have extreme difficulty leaving home on a regular basis to qualify as “home bound”. Those patients who can drive themselves, go shopping or out to eat will likely not meet criteria. An occasional trip to a barber shop or beauty parlor or to church or the doctor’s office does not disqualify a person from receiving home health care.
For those patients who are terminally ill, referrals may also come from physician offices, hospitals, clinics, home health agencies, patients and caregivers.
“The first step in the hospice referral process is to determine if the patient meets criteria for hospice care. This includes physical and clinical indications of terminal illness, but more importantly, it involves determining if a patient and family are ready for and accepting of a hospice approach to end of life care,” said Poarch.
In hospice care, the focus of all care and treatment is on the comfort and dignity of the patient and support of the caregiver to be able to allow the patient to die at home, whether that home is a residence, nursing home or assisted living facility. Treatment is no longer curative, but supportive, and directed at managing symptoms and keeping patients pain free and comfortable.
Compton concluded, “We are privileged to have provided home care to residents of our community for such a long time and we welcome questions from individuals who are interested in the services we can provide at Lincoln Medical Home Health and Hospice. Our website at http://www.lchealthsystem.com/ is a great source of information about home care, hospice and the other quality services provided by Lincoln County Health System.”
Future articles this month will address specifics of hospice care, including bereavement and grief support and frequently asked questions about home care services and payment for those services.