By Dr. Amanda Sommerfeldt
Recognition and acceptance of hospice have grown steadily since their introduction more than 30 years ago. In 2010, an estimated 1.58 million patients received hospice services nationally, according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO).
Yet, many people are still unaware of who is eligible for hospice and when that care can begin. Many believe hospice serves only those with cancer, but hospice services are available to anyone with any terminal illness with a prognosis of six months or less who chooses a comfort care approach.
As Hospice of Mercy’s new medical director, I have seen our staff’s expertise in action and its commitment to the mission of hospice: providing patient-centered care. Hospice of Mercy is the second oldest hospice in Iowa, and the Dennis and Donna Oldorf Hospice House of Mercy is the only hospice house in Cedar Rapids. The interdisciplinary team provides care wherever the patient lives.
Many do not realize that hospice care is covered by Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurance plans. Thanks to Mercy’s commitment to quality end-of-life care and strong support from the community, no patient is denied hospice services based on inability to pay.
Hospice focuses on caring, not curing. It provides patients and their families physical, emotional, relational or spiritual support at the end of life. Our interdisciplinary team of nurses, social workers, chaplains, volunteers, home care aides, a pharmacist and clinical providers is committed to helping patients achieve comfort and dignity at the end of life.
Dietitian support and massage, pet and music therapies can help maximize quality of life. If circumstances or care-needs change, Hospice of Mercy offers longer-term care planning assistance for patients and their families, including the option of respite care. Grief support is provided for loved ones after the death of a loved one.
Hospice care use has increased in recent years but its general use and lengths of stays are still far short of what we’d expect if terminally ill patients were being routinely referred for hospice care. According to the NHPCO, the median length of service continues to be about 26 days.
Research suggests that hospice is most beneficial when provided for at least three months before death.
We want people to realize they have the right to receive high-quality care and support at the end of life. Our hospice team provides expert medical care to keep patients comfortable and allow them to enjoy time with loved ones.
If you think that you or a loved one may benefit from the support of hospice, please talk with a physician or call Hospice of Mercy at (319) 398-6496.
l Dr. Amanda Sommerfeldt, medical director of Hospice of Mercy and Mercy’s Dennis and Donna Oldorf Hospice House, completed fellowship training in 2009 at Mercy Medical Center North Iowa in Mason City, the only such training offered in Iowa. She joined Hospice of Mercy in September. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org