Patients in hospice are no longer seeking treatment to cure their illnesses; instead, care focuses on managing symptoms, such as pain, shortness of breath and nausea.

Lake Regional Health System is pleased to announce the opening of Lake Regional Hospice. Hospice care helps patients live as fully as possible, surrounded by family and friends, through the end of life.

“Hospice provides what the majority of Americans say they want at the end of life — the chance to spend their days at home with pain management and support for them and their family members,” said Jill Wilke, Lake Regional’s director of Palliative Care, Home Health & Hospice. “It’s unfortunate that often, families do not consider hospice until the patient has uncontrolled symptoms or is near death. Although hospice will provide care at these times, patients and families benefit more when hospice services begin earlier.”

One Lake Regional Hospice patient who is glad he enrolled sooner rather than later is Donald Simpson, an 80-year-old who lives with his wife, Patricia, in Camdenton. For Donald, being in hospice has meant being able to go to bingo, mow his own lawn and manage his end-stage COPD well enough at home to avoid trips to the hospital.

“It allows me to do things that I would not be able to do,” Donald said.

Most of Donald’s care has focused on treatments and equipment to help with his shortness of breath. He is especially thankful for the oxygen concentrator the Lake Regional Hospice team brought him. The lightweight, portable device makes it possible for him to receive the oxygen he needs without using bulky, heavy oxygen tanks.

“It makes it so he’s not homebound,” Patricia said, adding they tried, unsuccessfully, for four years to get Medicare to cover a concentrator. Now that Donald has one, he’s back to going to bingo.

Another hospice benefit Donald and Patricia value is the close medical oversight Donald receives. Lake Regional Nurse Toshia Melton visits Donald and Patricia in their home at least twice a week.

“If something shows up that makes me worry, I’m on it right away,” Melton said.

And Donald and Patricia don’t have to wait for Melton to visit to ask for help. For example, one Saturday, they called because Donald was having a hard time breathing. Melton rushed to their house and helped him do breathing exercises while using his nebulizer, and his breathing improved.

“She builds your confidence up, and it really means a lot to me,” Donald said. Patricia added knowing help is just a phone call away has been a huge relief.

“That really takes a big load off of you because alone, you feel helpless,” she said. “But with hospice, if I have a concern, I will call Toshia in a heartbeat because she’s the rock. She’s the one we depend on.” 

Enrolling in Hospice

To be eligible for hospice, patients must be diagnosed with a life-limiting condition and have a life expectancy of six months or less, as determined by a doctor. Patients in hospice are no longer seeking treatment to cure their illnesses; instead, care focuses on managing symptoms, such as pain, shortness of breath and nausea.

The hospice team includes doctors, nurses, aides, social workers, chaplains and, when needed, physical, occupational and speech therapists. Hospice also provides grief support for an entire year for surviving family and friends.

Learning about and discussing hospice is appropriate at any time during a life-limiting illness.

“Enrolling in hospice does not mean giving up hope or all treatment,” Wilke said. “Hopes may shift and change, and the hospice team will be there to support patients and families through these changes. Studies have shown that people have improved quality of life and actually live longer in hospice care because many symptoms, such as pain, are better controlled. Also symptoms that might have needed a hospitalization or an emergency room visit can be managed in the patient’s home by the experienced hospice team members.”

To learn more about Lake Regional Hospice, visit www.lakeregional.com/hospice or call Jill Wilke at 573-348-8290.