When Is It Time for Hospice Care?

Published: Mar. 16, 2022 at 12:44 PM EDT
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Hospice Nurses

Sponsored - It’s something that caregivers hear all too often from patients and their families. “We should have had hospice sooner.”

It’s just that kind of regret that Donna Morgan, CEO of Columbus Hospice hopes to avoid by challenging the way people view all that hospice care can provide. “Many believe that hospice is only needed when a person is hours or days from dying,” Morgan said. “In fact, our full scope of services, provided over many months, allows the patient and family to have time to find comfort and settle affairs.” To be admitted to hospice, a patient must have a diagnosed terminal illness with a physician saying that they have less than six months to live.

Studies have shown that people in hospice live longer because they have a qualified team looking out for them in every conceivable way. “Hospice patients often live longer than might be expected,” Morgan said, “simply due to the care we provide for all parts of the patient’s life.”

Columbus Hospice is the only hospice in the area—one of only 20 percent in the nation—to achieve Joint Commission accreditation. “This is important,” Morgan said, “because it means that we’ve taken extra steps to demonstrate our commitment to excellence.”

Columbus Hospice

Serving the Chattahoochee Valley since 1979, it is also the only non-profit hospice in the area, meaning it provides care to all eligible persons, regardless of their ability to pay. In 2020, Columbus Hospice provided more than $1 million in charitable care. If current trends hold, that amount is expected to climb to more than $2 million dollars in 2021.”Our non-profit status means that we focus on providing the care that you need,” Morgan said, “with any profit being used for patient care.”

The Columbus Hospice interdisciplinary team of caregivers consists of a physician, registered nurse, social worker, chaplain, a certified nursing assistant and a volunteer if the patient so chooses to have one. Each member of the panel aims to reduce patient stress and worry by helping with everything from pain management and negotiating with the power company about a late bill to assisting with funeral arrangements.

“Our dedicated team members view their work as a mission, and it shows in the loving care they provide,” Morgan said. “Comments we hear from patients and families mention their caregivers as ‘family,’ and, ‘We couldn’t have done it without them.” There are also volunteers available if a patient so chooses.

“Our volunteer program is another thing that makes Columbus Hospice unique,” Morgan said.  “We have a large community of volunteers who provide patient care support, work in our offices, take care of patient’s pets, bake birthday cakes for patients, sew Memory Bears, do lawn care for patients … the list is endless.”

While it normally takes place in the home, Columbus Hospice takes care of patients wherever they are, including in an assisted living facility or nursing home. Columbus Hospice also has the only inpatient facility in the area. “Our beautiful 25-bed Hospice House at 7020 Moon Road provides a non-hospital setting to meet the acute medical needs of patients, as well as a home-like environment to allow caregivers to take a five-day break by using our respite services for their loved one.”

Donna Morgan headshot
Donna Morgan

Columbus Hospice offers bereavement counseling and hosts the annual Camp Hope gathering for kids ages 6 to 16 who’ve lost a parent. These services are available to the entire community, not strictly those whose loved ones were patients. Support staff members remain in contact with those loved ones left behind for at least 13 months, which covers all the major holidays—birthdays, Christmas and anniversaries.

Columbus Hospice is pet friendly and even offers its Pet Peace of Mind program, which provides free pet grooming, flea and tick medication and vet services to residents. This program was funded by a national grant more than 10 years ago, and Columbus Hospice was only the second hospice care facility in the country to offer the service. It has since been used by more than 300 patients.

There are also no specific visiting hours, so loved ones can come and stay with the patients for as long as they want. “Until someone has experienced our care,” Morgan said, “they don’t understand how different our hospice care is from other types of medical care. It’s comprehensive and whole-person centered and the staff ensures that all needs are addressed.”