New center comforts terminally ill - Catholic Courier

New center comforts terminally ill

By mid-July, St. Ann’s Community and Visiting Nurse Hospice and Palliative Care intend to open a Palliative Center for Caring on the second floor of The Heritage, a high-rise independent-living facility on St. Ann’s Irondequoit campus.

Renovations for the unit, which features five studio apartments, began in April. Caregivers aim to accept their first patient by July 16 and are planning an open house July 12.

The idea to permanently dedicate skilled-nursing facility beds to the care of high-needs terminally ill patients is new to Monroe County and is rare in New York state, said Beth Dorscheid, hospice director of Visiting Nurse Hospice, which is operated by Visiting Nurse Service of Rochester and Monroe County.

“This situation is very unique to utilize nursing-home beds to provide this type of care,” Dorscheid said.

The facility will provide advanced, short-term care for patients with less than two weeks to live, Dorscheid said. The new center’s care will include acute pain, symptom and crisis management, and it will feature round-the-clock nursing staff, said Betty Mullin-DiProsa, president and CEO of St. Ann’s Community.

“This is for people who otherwise have to be admitted to a hospital,” Mullin-DiProsa said.

The center was renovated using $300,000 raised through fundraisers by the partnering agencies. Also, in January the Greater Rochester Health Foundation gave St. Ann’s Foundation $210,000 for the project, including $150,000 to cover start-up costs and $60,000 to educate health-care professionals, clergy and the general public on hospice and palliative care.

The unit is being renovated to make it peaceful and homelike, Dorscheid said. Each of the rooms will be private, will have a bathroom and will be wheelchair accessible. Another feature will include a call-button system that transmits through a nurse’s pager, not through a noisy beeping system.

Family members will be able to stay on pull-out beds in each patient’s room and will be able to use a family lounge complete with a kitchen and shower, which will occupy a sixth room on the floor.

“One of the philosophies is that (hospice workers) serve the family, not just the patients,” Mullin-DiProsa said.

The new unit will give terminally ill patients another alternative for their care, Dorscheid said. Visiting Nurse Hospice, which serves about 90 patients at a time, will continue to support hospice care at homes and nursing homes, she said. It also will maintain its contracts with area hospitals to provide advanced end-of-life care at its locations as needed, Dorscheid said. Visiting Nurse Hospice is one of two local providers offering hospice services; the other is Lifetime Care.

The decision to create the unit was prompted by a 2004 study of area hospice services by the Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency, Mullin-DiProsa said. She said although one hospital, Unity Health’s St. Mary’s Campus, has 15 inpatient hospice beds, the report showed that there could be a demand for up to 25 inpatient beds. She said on a given day at Rochester General Hospital, between eight and 12 people might qualify for the end-of-life care that the St. Ann facility will provide.

“Our goal is to increase access for people,” Mullin-DiProsa said.

One benefit of opening the new center would be its geography, Dorscheid said, noting that some patients want to stay close to a preferred hospital or the area where they live.

“We are trying to give them an opportunity to live each day to the fullest, as they can, and an opportunity to be included in their health care,” Dorscheid said.

Referrals come from nursing homes, hospitals and sometimes directly from families or patients, who have decided not to continue seeking aggressive treatment of a terminal illness, Dorscheid said.

Modern hospice care — which emphasizes caring for a patient’s physical, spiritual and psychological health, humanizing death, and taking a holistic approach to the patient and family members — was pioneered by Dame Cicely Saunders, a nurse, social worker and doctor who founded St. Christopher’s Hospice in London, England in 1967, according to St. Christopher’s Web site.

The philosophy of hospice care swept through the United States beginning in 1982, when Congress instituted a new Medicare benefit for such care, Dorscheid said. In addition to Medicare, Medicaid and private insurers often pay for hospice care, she said. Fundraising and donations to the nonprofit Visiting Nurse Hospice help cover treatment of the uninsured and any amount not reimbursed by insurance plans, Dorscheid said.

As baby boomers age, health-care workers are preparing for a jump in the use of hospice services, Dorscheid said. She said an increase also is expected as people become better educated about end-of-life care when they prepare advance-care directives and health-care proxies.

“These beds now just give us another alternative for these patients,” Dorscheid said.

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