When her husband, John, was diagnosed with cancer and multiple complications, Laura Van Houden felt it was her duty to take care of him herself. And, for a good six months last year, she did just that. She kept a very close eye on him, responding to his every need.
But as the disease progressed and John grew sicker by the day, Van Houden finally acknowledged that she needed help. During one of his hospitalizations, she was introduced to Mercy Hospice.
“Thinking he needed more care than I could give him, I finally said yes. I relented my duties and allowed someone else to come into our home,” she recalled.
“I thought he was my responsibility and I wanted to take very good care of him. But they (hospice team) also took very good care of him.”
July 2 marked the first anniversary of the Mercy Hospice service in Independence. The service was launched a year ago to extend the Mercy ministry to individuals diagnosed with terminal illness and their families.
Hospice services are available 24/7 and a multi-function team provides a full range of clinical and personal care for patients – from pain management to bathing – as well as emotional support, education and respite for family caregivers. The team includes the physician medical director, nurse manager, nurse aide, chaplain, social worker and volunteers.
In sharing her experience, Van Houden recalled how comprehensive the hospice care was – for both John and her.
“I was just amazed at what they brought … to help him,” she said. “I just couldn’t believe the hospice plan, it was just wonderful. They also helped me mentally, as well as him. It was just more than I could ever explain…so much great help.”
Since its opening, Mercy Hospice has served multiple patients and families in the Independence area and also has achieved accreditation by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO).
LaDena Morse, nurse manager for Mercy Hospice, explains that hospice care is really more about living than dying and that engaging hospice services as early as possible when terminal illness is diagnosed can make all the difference in providing patients with a better quality of life, and in many cases, can even help them live longer.
“If I can get that patient soon enough under our services, we can take care of those symptoms patients experience at the end of life,” Morse said. “If I can control some of the nausea, a lot of the pain, appetite issues…patients actually can live longer. They just have a better quality of life if hospice can be involved in their care. My goal is to give them a better quality of life for as long as they’ve got.”
Morse noted that patients can be referred to hospice care by almost anyone…physicians, family members, hospital staff, etc.
“It’s just not hard to get on hospice at all. It’s just a matter of a phone call and anybody can make it.”
Once referred, patients come under the supervision of Ajit Lale, MD, Mercy internal medicine physician who serves as the medical director for Mercy Hospice and comes to meet the patients and families in their homes.
“We have an excellent team,” Dr. Lale said. “We make sure that we do home visits for each and every patient… I go to their house and talk to them, talk to the family.”
In addition to the personal, clinical and emotional care offered, the hospice team also supports patients in yet another special way, thanks to a charitable fund established by Mercy Health Foundation. The fund is supported through donations and is designed to help patients with practical needs – such as assistance paying for medications or a utility bill - or even the fulfillment of a “last wish.” This month, the Mercy foundation has launched the “Works of Love” campaign to facilitate gifts to this cause. To learn how you can help fulfill a need for a hospice patient, please visit www.mercy.net/independenceks/giving.
More information on Mercy Hospice is available by calling 620-332-3215.