Palliative Care Helps Fill Service Gap for the Chronically Ill
While the word “Hospice” is most often associated with end-of-life care, Hospice of Siouxland also offers Palliative Care services for people with serious illnesses. “We developed our Siouxland Palliative Care program in 2001 because we saw unmet needs of individuals and families coping with advanced chronic illness,” says Hospice of Siouxland Director Linda Todd.
Unlike hospice patients, patients receiving palliative care may continue active treatment and have a life expectancy greater than a few days or months.
Dealing with a chronic illness can be complicated and overwhelming for both patients and caregivers. It’s not uncommon to have several healthcare providers, multiple medications, emotional stress, financial concerns, and caregivers trying to balance caring for their family member and working full time to retain insurance to pay the bills.
Filling the Healthcare Service Gap
“Unfortunately, under our current healthcare payment system, individuals with advanced chronic illness may fall in the gaps of healthcare delivery,” says Todd. Patients may not meet eligibility requirements for home health or hospice funding for services such as day-to-day medication management, disease management or emotional support for the individual or caregivers.
Because they don’t know who to call with questions or needs, these patients may have recurring emergency room visits and hospitalizations. That’s where Palliative Care Services can help.
Teaming Up to Improve Care
Hospice of Siouxland takes a team approach to palliative care. A primary physician, palliative care nurse, and social worker collaborate in the development of a plan to address the needs of families and patients, alleviate suffering, and improve quality of life. This team:
- Coordinates healthcare with the patient’s primary physician
- Education patients and families on the illness and medications
- Addresses new symptoms or problems
- Coordinates community resources such as financial applications
- Clarifies treatment goals and helps with advance directives
One of the most important elements of this support is a nurse who is on call and available to respond by phone or in person 24/7.
No One is Denied Services
Palliative Care funding relies largely on public support because there is no funding from Medicare or Medicaid. Some patients pay privately based on a sliding fee scale and ability to pay. However, Todd notes, many patients do not have the ability to pay for services. No person is denied services because of an inability to pay.