I don't know about you, but my concept of hospice care has always been that it means care for the terminally ill patient focusing on alleviating pain in the last stages of life, in a hospital-like environment.
But American inventiveness and pragmatism transformed hospice services from care for the incurable in institutions such as hospitals to care in nursing homes and primarily in the patient's own home. In fact, according to official statistics, 86 percent of Americans wish to be taken care in the last stages of their life in their own home.
To fulfill this need, numerous organizations and companies were formed across our country to provide compassionate care and medical professionalism. One of the earliest and leading providers nationwide has been the Gentiva Health Services. It has recently opened a Williamsburg office to serve residents and their families in York and James City County, Hampton and Newport News.
Similar services are provided by High Peaks Hospice & Palliative Care and North Country Home Services in the Tri-Lakes Region of the Adirondack Park.
One of those who has joined the Gentiva team is Iveta Marston. She is serving as clinical liaison. With extensive experience in all phases of patient care, particularly in the geriatric area, Marston sees her new career at Gentiva Hospice not as a job, but more as a mission.
"I am looking at this as a long-term opportunity where I can contribute to the greater good by helping significantly increase awareness of hospice benefits," she said in an interview with the Lake Placid News and the Virginia Gazette. "I am persuaded that Gentiva's goal is to improve quality of people's lives through the delivery of clinical excellence, extraordinary service and compassionate care."
Marston explained that she intends to spread awareness, not only among medical professionals but also the general public about the hospice assistance that is available and fully covered by Medicare/Medicaid and most private insurers.
"Consulting and education are my strong and favorite areas of expertise," she said.
According to a summary of "Hospice care in the United States," it has grown from a volunteer-led movement to a significant part of the health care system. In 2010, more than 1.5 million patients received hospice service. It is the only health care service with Medicare benefits that includes pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, and 24/7 access to care. At the same time, it plays an important role in reducing Medicare costs. Over the past 20-30 years, about 30 percent of Medicare's total budget was spent on individuals in their last year of life. Hospice care reduces inpatient hospitalization, which is very costly.
In a statement issued by Gentiva, Marston was quoted saying, "It is difficult when a loved one has been diagnosed with life-limiting illness. So our company's hospice care is centered on the entire family. We focus on helping the individual make the most of each day, while offering the family all the support they need."
According to the information booklet issued by Gentiva, their hospice service includes skilled nursing, inpatient medical equipment and related medication, pain and symptom management, emotional and spiritual support, and a comprehensive bereavement program.
"I have enjoyed my previous job in the ranks of management at a local senior living (facility)," Marston said. "It was a great team of professionals that I worked with. It provided me with the opportunity to gain a wealth of experience, skills and knowledge. All this would come handy as the new clinical liaison at Gentiva. To be part of a team of professionals here makes me very excited. I hope now I can play an integral part in helping Gentiva reach the goal of becoming recognized also in this area, as a leader in home health care and hospice services."
Frank Shatz lives in Williamsburg, Va. and Lake Placid. His column was reprinted with permission from the Virginia Gazette.