Hospice House asks for community support

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 16, 2014

By Susan Shinn

For The Salisbury Post

Even though a majority of patients are covered under Medicare, the Glenn A. Kiser Hospice House never turns anyone away. That’s why the facility would like to be on your list for end-of-year charitable giving.

There is a shortfall in reimbursement, explains Ann Gauthreaux, director of public relations for Hospice and Palliative Care Center, a 13-county network which includes the Glenn A. Kiser Hospice House.

The hospice house also offers advanced care planning and grief counseling free of charge to local residents, so financial support from the community is vital, says Edwina Ritchie, director of the hospice house.

“Most of the hospice care is done in the home, by far,” Ritchie notes. But when patients require a higher level of care, they come to the hospice house. Half of those patients are discharged home or to a long-term care facility.

“We want to provide care where patients want to be,” Ritchie says. “It’s all about goals and wishes on this final journey of their life on earth.”

The hospice house cares for acute hospice patients, provides respite care for up to five nights, and gives routine, short-term care for patients who don’t fall into the other categories, Ritchie says. “It’s not a period of time, but based on a patient’s needs.”

“We’re not here to help people die,” Gauthreaux says. “We’re here to help patients live fully until the very end.”

Over and over, Ritchie and Gauthreaux hear families say they wished they’d used hospice services earlier. In Davie County, some 56 percent of people who die are served by hospice. In Rowan County, that figure is 28 percent.

“I think we just need to shift culturally about how we think of death and end-of-life care,” Gauthreaux says. “It’s an ongoing challenge to spread the word about hospice. There’s an instant relief when families make the call to hospice, but people are just reluctant to get there.”

Ritchie admits she doesn’t like to hear doctors say, “There’s nothing more we can do so we’re sending you to hospice care.”

“A better way of saying it is that we’re developing a plan of care for aggressive symptom management,” Ritchie says. “Our treatment is aggressive, so it’s not like you’re giving up.”

In fact, she says, studies have shown that patients under hospice care live longer. “You are managing symptoms better and your body does better.”

And hospice care is for the whole family, she says. The facility is designed so that families can stay with a patient if they so desire.

Gauthreaux encourages families to ask questions about hospice care, to get all the information they need — before they need care.

“We want people to know we are the established, nonprofit organization that has served this region for years and years,” she says.

Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury.