Local Hospice Program Expands | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Local Hospice Program Expands

Cory Fisher

Westley Jones is happy to be home.

The two weeks he spent in a Sacramento convalescent home while undergoing treatment for cancer were extremely unpleasant, he said.

“I called it ‘The Place of the Living Dead,'” he said. “No one smiled. It was all about ‘you can’t do this and you can’t do that’ – it was so depressing.”

His wife, Sarah, saw just how unhappy he was in the large Sacramento facility. Against the recommendations of the convalescent home staff, Sarah was determined to bring her husband back to their Stateline home of more than 20 years.

“They told me it wouldn’t work to have him at home – that it would be too much for me,” she said. “I finally just told them to have him ready – I was coming to pick him up.”

What Sarah didn’t realize at the time was that they were eligible for the newly certified Hospice of the Lake program, operated by Barton Memorial Hospital Home Health.

While having her husband back in the comfort of his own home is a top priority, Sarah now realizes how important the support from the new program really is.

“I don’t know what we would have done without it,” said Sarah. “I just couldn’t have handled it by myself.”

Hospice care is generally reserved for patients who have a terminal illness, with a prognosis of six months or less. This type of care differs from traditional medicine because the focus is on managing incurable illnesses and associated symptoms.

“Pain control is one of the main philosophies of the hospice,” said volunteer and bereavement coordinator John Grady. “If we can keep the pain under control, it’s easier for the patient and family to deal with closure issues.”

Each home is regularly evaluated as health conditions change, Grady said. The hospice team works with families to provide physical, social, emotional and spiritual care, taking into account differing cultural and religious beliefs.

The multidisciplinary team consists of a physician, registered nurses, spiritual counselors, social workers, home health aides, therapists and volunteers. Among the additional services offered are nutritional support, needed medical equipment, educational resources and pharmacy services. Volunteers are often on hand to offer moral support, read to patients or do small chores, Grady said.

In addition, Hospice of the Lake has a bereavement program, which offers support to survivors for up to one year.

“The social worker talks to me about how to deal with it all,” said Sarah. “I’ve learned a lot.”

Westley says he is impressed by the upbeat enthusiasm of the staff.

“Every person I’ve met is full of smiles and positive comments,” he said. “Regardless of what your problem is, they’ve got an answer.”

Many families are in denial when it comes to a serious family illness, Grady said, causing them to wait too long before seeking support.

“Denial can be a trick,” Grady said. “We don’t want to take hope away from families, but many people are afraid and end up enrolling too late in the program. The main thing we want to do is to educate the community about hospice care so they can have a plan in place – it’s pretty tough when they don’t.”

The program is available to anyone in need – regardless of a family’s financial circumstances, Grady said. They have also recently become eligible to accept Medicare, Medi-Cal and Medicaid.

In addition to Hospice of the Lake, Barton Home Health also runs Hospice of the Valley, serving the Carson Valley area.

“They all go out of their way to help,” said Sarah. “It just shows us that these people are really listening.”

Those interested in learning more about the hospice program or becoming a volunteer can call Grady at 542-3171.

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