Fact or fiction?

Amanda Moss Richmond County Daily Journal

November 1, 2013

EAST ROCKINGHAM — When the word “hospice” is mentioned, what do you think of?

Community Home Care and Hospice and Richmond County Hospice, both of which provide services to around 70 patients in Richmond Anson, Scotland and Moore counties, are well aware of some myths that surround the word “hospice” and are looking to help distinguish between fact and fiction.

Tim Outen, 64, a patient of Community, is no stranger to workings of hospice care.

“My mom was actually a patient of Community for over two years,” Outen said. “Now I am.”

Outen is a resident of East Rockingham and has been “living on the hill” all his life. He was diagnosed with lung cancer and heart disease and has been a patient of Community for nearly three weeks.

“When I first got the recommendation to go onto hospice care, I knew which one I was going to be choosing,” Outen said. “Based on how well my mother was taken care of and how good they were to my family, there was no question for me.”

And that’s the thing — patients can choose their own hospice provider.

“It is a common misconception that there is only one hospice,” said Jessica Mims, of Richmond County Hospice.

In fact, Tonya Freeman, community educator for Community, said there are four hospice groups that service the Richmond County area. The other two are Liberty Home Health and Hospice and Scotland County Hospice.

“It’s all about the patient’s choice,” Mims said.

Hospice care comes into play when a patient has been diagnosed with a terminal illness and their life expectancy is six months or less, Mims said. All hospices have to follow Medicare guidelines and receive a doctor’s order before placing someone in hospice care.

The requirements for obtaining hospice show exactly why people think automatically of death when they hear the word “hospice.”

“That is not the case,” said David Jenkins, of Richmond County Hospice. “It can prove to be quite beneficial to the caregiver, the family and the patient. We try to help manage the pain.”

Mims said quality of life for their patients is very important. If the symptoms or pain can be managed properly, it can help patients enjoy themselves a bit more.

“If there is something they want to do, we want them to do it if they can,” Freeman said. “You don’t always have to lay there if you feel like moving. That’s not what hospice is about.”

All hospice services include the same basic elements, said Freeman. Each patient has access to a skilled nurse, social worker, hospice aids, volunteers and a chaplain. Each hospice also provides bereavement services for the families of patients who have passed as well as for the community as a whole.

“After the passing of a family member, we stay in touch with the family for 13 months,” Mims said. “Just checking on them and helping where we can. We also provide bereavement for anyone dealing with grief in the community whether it is an individual or a group. This is just opened and does not have a set time limit.”

Freeman added that Community would also help with funeral arrangements as well as issues of power of attorney for those families in need.

Of course with all the services that hospice does provide, may potential patients’ concerns might lead to the cost.

“We bill Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance,” Freeman said. “We don’t have a single patient in our area that pays out of pocket. We also are in connection with a nonprofit to help indigent patients.”

Richmond County Hospice also accepts those who don’t have a pay source, Jenkins said. Being a nonprofit organization, they can take and treat those who don’t have the coverage others might have.

“There is no discrimination,” Jenkins said. “We treat them just like anyone else.”

Thinking about all he had experienced with hospice, Outen, the hospice patient, couldn’t imagine what he would have done without all the help they provided him, his mother and his family.

“They catch the things you don’t think about,” Outen said. “They helped me work out living arrangements for my mom at Rockingham Manor. If I didn’t have their help, I don’t know what would have happened. They are there from start to finish.”

Outen picked up his dog Pookie as he explained how she became his. A Community Home Care and Hospice aide, Amy Deese, who helped with his mother found the dog after someone had thrown her out the window. After getting her treated, Deese found Pookie a new home with Outen.

“They think of everything to help make it a little easier,” Outen said. “To make life a bit easier.”