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Navigating the End-of-Life Journey

Hospice Care in the Pikes Peak Region

Care and comfort. Dignity and compassion. Kindness and concern. These words may take on new meaning when we learn that a beloved family member or friend doesn’t have long to live. What do we do? How do we help? To whom do we turn?

Dealing with the heartbreak of the news itself, coming to terms with the prognosis, then moving into the realities of the situation can be overwhelming for all.

Hospice versus Palliative Care?

Hospice care focuses on providing compassionate care during this time in life for the terminally ill person and for those who love and care for that person. How, exactly, does this work?

“Hospice care,” says Gloria A. Brooks, President of Pikes Peak Hospice & Palliative Care (PPHPC) and President and CEO of Pikes Peak Hospice Foundation, “is a specific Medicare benefit for individuals who have a terminal illness with a six-month prognosis to live. 

“Palliative care is a broad term for comfort care—managing pain and symptoms for those living with serious illness.”

The philosophy of Pikes Peak Hospice, says Brooks, is “to help patients and families live every day to the fullest, and to make sure patients get the right care at the right time in the right location.” 

Pikes Peak Hospice provides care wherever the patient calls home, explains Brooks – in their own home, in an assisted living or skilled nursing facility or at the Pikes Peak Hospice Unit located on the sixth floor of Penrose Hospital.

Kindred Hospice in Colorado Springs also provides services where the patient calls home, whether it be in his/her own home, with a relative, or an assisted living facility. 

Amy Carmody, Executive Director with Kindred Hospice of Colorado Springs, says “We also have contracts with facilities to provide care for specific short-term situations including symptom control issues or respite for caregivers.”

Individually Designed Care Plans

Both Pikes Peak Hospice and Kindred Hospice coordinate customized care plans for patients and their loved ones through highly skilled interdisciplinary teams composed of physicians, nurses, social workers, spiritual counselors, bereavement counselors, aides and volunteers. 

“PPHPC provides care and support to any friend or family member of a patient,” says Brooks, “through education of the disease progression, support for caregiving and teaching how to care for the patient’s physical, psychosocial and spiritual pain, and with planning for funeral/memorial services and other supportive services available in the community.”

“Kindred Hospice offers a specialized plan of care for patients based on their physical, emotional and spiritual needs and the wishes of the patient and their family,” says Carmody. “We engage in a holistic approach to care, with clinical excellence, patient comfort and dignity and honor of patient rights. We have dedicated on-call nurses and are available 24/7/365 for patient visits and admissions.”

Part of what makes care so valuable for Hospice patients is the personalization involved—finding what helps each individual. This may include therapies such as touch therapy, pet therapy and soothing sounds, based on the interest of the patient. 

One example, says Gloria Brooks, is PPHPC’s aromatherapy service, which utilizes therapeutic-grade essential oils through touch therapy. “This essential oil therapy aids in the management of symptoms such as anxiety, pain, nausea and edema. Our Touch Therapies services are provided by trained volunteers to incorporate a variety of therapies to help with a patient’s pain and stress, including Healing Touch and other energy and touch modalities, and Reiki.”

Methods of Payment

Pikes Peak’s inpatient hospice unit at Penrose Hospital offers the only acute-care unit in El Paso County. “Hospice services are covered by Medicare, Medicaid and private insurances,” says Brooks. “There are no co-pays for this care.” 

Kindred Hospice is the only in-network hospice for several insurances, says Amy Carmody. “We accept Medicare, Medicaid, TriCare and most insurances. People can also choose to pay privately, but our services are available regardless of ability to pay. The hospice benefit covers hospice services for patients and families as well as the cost and delivery of medical equipment (such as hospital beds, oxygen, etc.), medications, supplies and other necessary items related to the hospice diagnosis.

“We believe that every moment matters. We believe in helping our patients and their families have the highest quality of life possible for the time that remains, with our focus on clinical excellence with compassion and dignity.” 

Did you know …

According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, in 2016:

• 1.43 million Medicare beneficiaries were enrolled in hospice care

 • Approximately 64% of Medicare hospice patients were 80 years of age or older

• The principal diagnoses of Medicare hospice patients were: cancer - 27.2% / cardiac and circulatory - 18.7% / dementia - 18% / respiratory - 11% / stroke - 9.5% / other - 15.6%

 • The average length of service for Medicare patients enrolled in hospice was 71 days

•  Most of the days of hospice care were provided at: a home - 55.6% / nursing facility - 41.9% / hospice inpatient facility - 1.3% / acute care hospital - 0.5% / other - 0.8%