Hospice is about living, not dying.
As National Hospice Month is commemorated this November, the staff at Hospice Compassus in Payson wants residents in their service area to see what they do contributes to the quality of life.
Hospice Compassus serves residents from Tonto Basin to Happy Jack and out to Forest Lakes.
While hospice care is officially for people with a diagnosis giving them six months or less to live, the service provided, both in quality and quantity, can result in so much improvement in a client’s health, they “graduate” or leave the program.
Dorothy Kaufman is one of the graduates from Hospice Compassus.
“I was terrified. Hospice was the death house in my mind,” Kaufman said.
That all changed with that first visit, she said.
Easily at least three clients make this transition every year, according to Mary Jane Rogers, executive director.
Kaufman’s doctors felt there was nothing more they could do after treating her for several ailments and a surgery to remove a mass and part of her intestinal track — which she later learned was cancer when she received a letter from the lab telling her they had been able to get all the cancer.
She said her doctors did not tell her she had cancer or that they were putting her in hospice. She didn’t learn about going into hospice until her first visitor from Hospice Compassus came to her home.
“I learned about all the good things they did,” Kaufman said of her first visit from a hospice representative.
Kaufman was provided hospice care for a couple of months until she improved enough to graduate.
“I have never been so encouraged and uplifted as I was by the people who came to me from Hospice Compassus,” she said.
The encouragement and the honest concern for her well-being is what she remembers most about her hospice care.
The health care professionals who visited her would always check her vitals and always asked if she needed help with a shower or washing her hair.
“That wasn’t anything I needed. Besides my bathroom is too small to have two people in it and I had someone take me to the beauty shop for my hair,” she said.
Patty Kaufman, no relation to Dorothy Kaufman, coordinates the volunteers that work with Hospice Compassus.
“The services a patient receives is really up to them (though their primary care physician has some say as well),” she said. In addition to taking vitals, staff can help the patient with their medications, set up a pillbox for them or something similar and provide numerous other services. Hospice can also provide medical equipment and supplies.
“If it hadn’t been for them, I think I would have been gone by now,” Kaufman said.
She misses the visits. In fact, she misses them so much; she said she almost wishes she could have stayed with them.
Kaufman said she tells everyone she can how wonderful the people at Hospice Compassus were to her and encourages them to learn more about all that can be provided through the services.
Kaufman has resided in Payson since 1977 and had never heard about all hospice can do until her doctors ordered the services for her.
Even if a client does not make the kind of improvement Kaufman did, their life is often extended — again because of the quality and quantity of care provided by the team-care approach. Numerous individuals serve clients — and their families. A team can include the hospice medical director, the client’s primary care provider, experienced nurses with varying degrees of training — from RNs to CNAs, social workers and therapists, hospice aides, chaplains and bereavement counselors and trained volunteers.
“We provide for the whole patient — medically, emotionally, socially and spiritually,” said Linda Robertson, director of clinical services with Hospice Compassus. The care can also include help around the house, shopping and other errands, even assistance taking care of bill paying.
The trained clinical teams (doctors, nurses, therapists, etc.) create plans of care designed specifically for each patient and their loved ones to enhance comfort and quality of life.
Creating a quality of life at the end of life is at the heart of the work of Hospice Compassus. The care provided confirms the belief that it is important to make every moment of life as meaningful as possible, from the first days of a life-limiting illness to the last. Hospice Compassus provides services to relieve symptoms, manage pain and give emotional and spiritual support.
Diagnoses commonly associated with hospice care include: cancer, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, respiratory disease, liver/renal disease, AIDS/ HIV, adult failure to thrive, neurological disease, stroke or coma. Hospice appropriate individuals may exhibit some or all of the following: frequent hospitalizations, progressive weight loss, deteriorating mental abilities, recurrent infections, and specific decline in condition.
The care can be provided in the patient’s home, the home of a friend or relative, assisted living facility, nursing home and if medically necessary, to hospitalized individuals. Hospice has been available in the Rim Country for 18 years.
Referrals for hospice care can come from the patients themselves, families, friends, health care professionals and spiritual counselors. Rogers said anyone with a concern about someone’s need for care can call and the staff at Hospice Compassus will handle getting the necessary orders from the individual’s primary care provider. Hospice service is fully covered by both Medicare and Medicaid and many insurance plans.
To learn more about Hospice Compassus, call (928) 472-6340.