Hospice: Keeping Loved Ones Home for the Holidays

The holidays can be a challenging and bittersweet time for those with a seriously-ill loved one. Electing the hospice benefit may seem like one more item on your to do list, but hospice can ease the burdens of facing a life-limiting illness. If a loved one has unmanageable symptoms, they could end up spending their holiday in the hospital, away from family and friends.

Hospice of the Midwest helps families manage their loved one’s pain and symptoms so they can spend the holidays in the comfort of home–whether that means in their own home, in a loved one’s home, or in a skilled nursing facility or assisted living facility that they’ve made their home.

Hospice Care in the Comfort of Your Home

Whether your loved one is being cared for at home or in a facility, the additional layer of support that hospice can provide can make all the difference. Hospice care can help manage complex symptoms of pulmonary disease, cancer, dementia, Parkinson’s, heart disease, stroke, liver or kidney disease.

Our interdisciplinary approach, which includes care from a nurse, aide, social worker, chaplain, medical director, and the patient’s primary care physician, is designed to support patients and their families physically, psychologically, and spiritually. With the assistance of this personalized care team and the guidance of the patient’s primary physician, your family can have the support necessary to keep your loved one comfortable and supported without unnecessary hospital visits or doctor appointments.

Hospice of the Midwest’s team is local and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year to provide care for our patients and for admissions.

Hospice can also provide necessary durable medical equipment, such as a hospital bed; medications related to the patient’s primary hospice diagnosis; and incontinence products and nutritional supplements. By utilizing hospice services, families have more time to enjoy the most meaningful moments of the holidays — time spent together with family.

“Hospice of the Midwest has always been great with communication and are very pleasant to work with. We love teaming up with them to ensure our patients receive the best care possible.” –  Amy, Director of Nursing at Windsor Manor in Grinnell

Family & Caregiver Support this Holiday Season

With holidays comes stress, as time runs out to shop, run end-of-year errands, and attend special events. Combine that with caring for a seriously-ill loved one during these unprecedented times, and life can become overwhelming quickly.

Our hospice care extends beyond the patient. Hospice of the Midwest works closely with family members to assure they have the tools necessary to cope with stress or caregiver burnout surrounding what may be the final holiday with someone they love. In addition to scheduled visits, patients and their families will have access to a dedicated hospice nurse by phone who is available to answer your questions and dispatch a nurse to your home as needed.

Our team of chaplains and social workers collaborate to address patient and family members’ emotional, psychological and spiritual needs. They make certain our patients’ families have a plan for the holidays, so they can make the most of the holidays without piling up additional stress.

“I’m so glad I had hospice directly involved at the end of my mother’s life. People need to take advantage of hospice and be encouraged to use it – especially this holiday season.” – Bridget Tessler, Daughter of HOMW Patient

Caring for a loved one facing a terminal illness can be demanding, but it can also be incredibly fulfilling. Hospice of the Midwest can partner with you or your loved one’s facility to ensure everyone – patient and family alike – is supported and cared for this holiday season.

If you have a loved one with a life limiting illness, please contact us to learn more about how Hospice of the Midwest can help your family this holiday season, because home should be more than a holiday wish!

The Hospice Benefit for Veterans

Care at no cost to Veterans and their families.

Hospice of the Midwest collaborates with local VA agencies and programs to raise awareness about the benefit of hospice services for Veterans. As a Veteran, expenses for hospice-related services or enrolled veterans are covered in full.

We Honor Veterans Program

Hospice of the Midwest partners with the We Honor Veterans program to give veterans the best care possible. This program provides resources and training to meet the needs of our veteran patients and their families through respectful inquiry, compassionate listening, and grateful acknowledgement so that veterans can have a peaceful end-of-life experience.

VA Hospice Program Benefits

Hospice is a benefit that the VA offers to qualified Veterans who are in the final phase of their lives. This multi-disciplinary team approach helps Veterans live fully until they die. The VA also works very closely with community and home hospice agencies to provide care in the home. The VA hospice benefit includes:

  • Care available wherever you call home
  • No co-pay for hospice care
  • Medical equipment, medication and personal care supplies
  • Personalized pain and symptom management
  • Care coordinated with your doctors
  • Physical, occupational and other therapy services
  • Spiritual care and support
  • Volunteers with military experience (when available)
  • Ongoing grief counseling for patients and family

Veteran-To-Veteran Volunteer Program

Hospice of the Midwest’s Veteran-to-Veteran volunteer program pairs Veteran volunteers with hospice patients who are Veterans as well. Veteran volunteers have the ability to develop a unique connection with patients and their families through their common experiences and stories, establishing a strong relational bond.

How can Veteran Volunteers Help?

  • Reminisce or tell life stories
  • Educate and answer questions regarding Veteran benefits
  • Assist in pinning ceremonies, distribute certificates and help with other recognition events
  • Assist in replacing lost medals

Sepsis Awareness Month: Why Our Program Actually Works

By: Portia Wofford

Home health clinicians play an essential role in caring for patients who are:

  1. At risk of developing sepsis
  2. Recovering from sepsis or septic shock

Home health providers are vital in preventing hospital admissions and readmission among sepsis patients. According to the CDC, sepsis is the body’s extreme response to an infection. It is a potentially life-threatening medical emergency.

Many patients receiving home healthcare services have chronic medical conditions and comorbidities that put them at risk for infection, including COVID-19 and sepsis. According to the Global Sepsis Alliance, COVID-19 can cause sepsis. Research suggests that COVID-19 may lead to sepsis due to several reasons, including:

  • Direct viral invasion
  • Presence of a bacterial or viral co-co-infection
  • Age of the patient

According to Homecare Magazine, approximately 80% of people with COVID-19 will have a mild course and recover without hospitalization. The remaining 20% of patients with COVID-19 may develop sepsis and be admitted. Patients with severe illness will need home health care.

A study published in Medical Care by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests that when strategically implemented, home health care can play an essential role in reducing hospital readmissions for patients recovering from sepsis. According to Home Health Care News, the study points out that sepsis survivors who were less likely to return to the hospital if they:

  1. Received a home health visit within 48 hours of hospital discharge
  2. Had at least one additional visit and
  3. Had physician visit within their first week of discharge

According to the findings, these interventions reduced 30-day all-cause readmissions by seven percentage points.

Home health clinicians are trained to monitor patients and identify signs and symptoms of sepsis. Additionally, they can teach patients and their caregivers how to prevent and recognize sepsis. According to research and estimates, rapid diagnosis and treatment could prevent 80% of sepsis deaths.

Home health care can contribute to early detection of sepsis

Early detection is critical. For each hour treatment initiation is delayed after diagnosis, the mortality rate increases 8%. Home health nurses can monitor and educate patients and their caregivers on signs and symptoms to report to include. Additionally, home healthcare agencies can provide screening tools that fill the gaps in identifying at-risk patients during transitions from inpatient to outpatient settings.

Home health provides case management for chronic comorbidities

  1. Some comorbidities like Type 2 Diabetes, chronic heart disease, and dementia were associated with sepsis risk in almost all infection types. Those with other chronic illnesses, cancer, and an impaired immune system are also at increased risk. Monitoring can help reduce risks.
  2. Post-discharge and follow-up visits, including telehealth visits, may provide positive intervention for post sepsis patients.
  3. Nurses can review and coordinate care to adjust medications, evaluate treatments and interventions, and refer for appropriate treatment.

When it comes to serious complications, our sepsis program effectively:

  • Prevents infections that can lead to sepsis
  • Recognizes sepsis symptoms before they become severe
  • Rapidly responds if sepsis symptoms occur by initiating appropriate treatments and referrals
  • Follows-up with care to ensure continued recovery

Hospice of the Midwest’s sepsis program promotes quality of care and improves outcomes for those at risk for developing or recovering from sepsis.

September is Healthy Aging Month

During Healthy Aging Month, we focus on celebrating the many positive aspects of aging. Here are some tips to incorporate in your daily routine that can lead to a healthier lifestyle, allowing you to live your life to the fullest.

  1. Exercise – Get moving and active on a daily basis!
  2. Socialize – Stay in touch and find safe ways to connect with friends and loved ones!
  3. Stay balanced – Try new methods such as yoga to reduce stress and improve your overall balance!
  4. Rest – It’s important to make sure you are getting a good, quality rest each night.

These are important tips to keep in mind for all ages and stages of life. Not only this month, but from now on, remember to take care of yourself and those who surround you. Healthy aging starts with you and your health decisions.

Supporting Assisted Living Facilities During COVID-19

Happy National Assisted Living Week!

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to change our daily lives, assisted living facilities continue to take the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of their residents and employees. While keeping your loved ones safe might mean you cannot connect in person, here are some ways to support facility residents and employees from a safe distance.

  • Get artsy. Spending the afternoon drawing pictures, painting windows, or snapping some fun photos are all great ways to get creative and share uplifting moments with residents. This can be a great way to engage children of all ages or to turn your talent into the highlight of someone’s day.
  • Become a Pen Pal. Since residents are socializing less due to the pandemic, starting a pen pal friendship with someone in an assisted living facility is a great way to communicate and share stories while practicing social distancing. This is the next best thing to in-person conversations!
  • Send a special delivery. You can never go wrong with sending a surprise package to support both staff and residents! Any sort of delivery – snacks, flowers, games, care packages, etc. – will brighten the day of anyone in an assisted living facility.
  • Coordinate a window visit. Sit outside, have a conversation, and share your smile with your loved one in a facility. You can play an instrument for them, talk on the phone, or even play a game – just to name a few!
  • Shoot a video. Creating a fun video of loved ones saying ‘hello,’ sharing words of encouragement, or acting out a skit are all directions you could take when shooting a video to share with those in assisted living facilities.

Whether it’s a photo of your playful dog, writing a letter sharing an uplifting story, or sending a bouquet of flowers for the front desk to display, it may be just the boost of happiness someone in an assisted living facility needs during this time. As we celebrate National Assisted Living Week, we encourage you to reach out to both residents and staff members with acts of kindness, reminding them of your support and love during these times.

How COVID-19 Affects Diabetes

By: Portia Wofford

Physicians, scientists, and researchers are still learning about COVID-19 and its effects on the body. As they study the impact coronavirus has on different illnesses and disease processes, diabetes is getting attention. The CDC notes that having Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes increases your risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Because people with diabetes are at an increased risk for developing infections, they should take precautions to protect themselves against COVID-19.

Complications from diabetes related to COVID-19

Currently, there isn’t enough research or evidence to prove that diabetics are at an increased risk for COVID-19. However, if your diabetes isn’t well-controlled, you could have worse complications if you contract coronavirus. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), when diabetics don’t manage their diabetes and blood sugars, they are at risk for diabetes- related complications. Additionally, other conditions —such as heart or lung disease — and diabetes worsens the chance of you getting sick from COVID-19 because your body’s immune system is compromised. A recent study showed patients with COVID-19 and diabetes who had high blood sugars were more likely to have longer hospital stays.

If you do get COVID-19, the virus could put you at higher risk for sepsis  and diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). Sepsis is a complication of COVID-19, which causes widespread inflammation throughout your body and can shut down organs. DKA happens when high levels of acid (ketones) are in your blood.

  • It’s hard to manage your fluid and electrolytes level in DKA.
  • DKA makes it difficult to maintain your fluid and electrolyte levels.
  • This makes treating sepsis hard because DKA causes you to lose electrolytes.

In addition to diabetes-related complications, diabetics also have a risk of developing other complications of COVID-19, such as pneumonia, organ failure, and kidney injury.

Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes and Coronavirus

According to the CDC, people at any age with Type 2 diabetes have an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Based on the CDC, the ADA warns that people with Type 1 or gestational diabetes might also be at an increased risk. The ADA states it’s important for any person with either type of diabetes to manage their diabetes. Those who already have diabetes-related health problems are likely to have worse outcomes if they contract COVID-19 than diabetics who are otherwise healthy.

Tips to avoid infection

  1. Stay home as much as possible
  2. Monitor your blood sugar regularly. Maintaining optimal blood glucose, as determined by your healthcare team, is important in preventing severe complications to COVID-19.
  3. Wash your hands
  4. Avoid sick people
  5. Wear a mask
  6. Check-in with your doctors, via telehealth. Most providers schedule telehealth visits—rather than in-person visits. Ask your provider if he or she offers this service.
  7. Exercise. Try exercising at home. Walk around your neighborhood, but be sure to social distance. Right now, there are exercises and workout plans online where you can follow along.
  8. Wash your hands. Wash your hand with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Keep alcohol-based hand sanitizer with you as well.
  9. Wear a mask and social distance. CDC recommends at least 6 feet apart.
  10. Eat a healthy diet:
  • Eat foods low in sugar
  • Limit foods high in sugar, carbohydrates, and fat
  • Try lean proteins instead of fried foods
  • Don’t forget your green, leafy vegetables

If your glucose readings change because of changes in your diet and activity level, speak with your healthcare team before making any adjustments to your insulin or other medications.

Your COVID-19 diabetes plan

Because of social distancing and shelter-in-place rules, it may be harder for you to get your supplies.

Stock up on enough supplies to last you for a couple of weeks, in case you get quarantined:

  • Healthy food
  • Simple carbs like honey, fruit juice, or hard candies in case your blood sugar dips
  • Make sure you have a 30 day supply of insulin and other medicine
  • Extra strips and batteries for your glucometer
  • Extra glucagon and ketone strips
  • Diabetes alert bracelet or necklace

Keep your home health team updated on your plans, and if you notice any COVID-19 symptoms be sure to alert your home health nurse.

What to do if you get sick

Be sure you know the signs and symptoms of COVID-19:

  • Cough, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Fever or chills
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Muscle or body aches

Notify your Hospice of the Midwest nurse , with your most recent blood glucose readings, if you have any of these symptoms. Symptoms can range from mild to severe illness, and appear 2-14 days after exposure to COVID-19.

Portia Wofford is an award-winning nurse, writer, and digital marketer. After dedicating her nursing career to creating content and solutions for employers that affected patient outcomes, these days Portia empowers health related businesses to grow their communities through engaging content that connects and converts. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter for her latest.

Common Hospice Qualifiers

For many people, the decision to receive hospice care is made following the diagnosis of a life-limiting illness. Even so, some families still question this decision. Here are some common Hospice qualifiers to help determine when it might be time to elect the hospice benefit. 

  • Falls
  • Frequent physician, ET and/or Hospital visits
  • Weight loss and or BMI < 22
  • Decline aggressive therapy or is not a candidate
  • Wounds
  • EF < 20%
  • NYHA Class IV symptoms at rest
  • Little or no response to Bronchodilators
  • Serum < 2.5
  • Dysphagia and/or aspiration pneumonia
  • Shortness of breath and/or o2 sat of 88% or less
  • Frequent injections
  • Edema
  • UTIs
  • Upper respiratory infections, bronchitis or pneumonia

If you or a loved one are experiencing any of these symptoms and have questions about our services at Hospice of the Midwest, please contact one of our office locations near you to speak with a staff member about these Hospice qualifiers.

Music Therapy Benefits in Hospice Care

A Music Therapy Case Study | Joshua Gilbert, MT-BC

Throughout life, song can positively affect us both physically and emotionally. It influences bodily functions that we believe are beyond our control, such as heart rate, blood pressure and release of the body’s natural pain relief chemicals. Music therapy offers significant benefits for patients, caregivers and families. We offer it as part of our hospice services.

In a case study conducted (by Joshua Gilbert) on the impact of music therapy over a four-month period, with an older adult in hospice care, results exhibited significant signs of improvement in the following categories:

  • Quality of life
  • Self-esteem
  • Emotional expression
  • Breathing patterns

Through involvement in music-based interventions, these improvements allowed the patient to benefit from music therapy during hospice care. The patient often smiled, laughed and made positive comments about the music. After participating in deep breathing exercises and harmonica playing, the patient’s breathing became deeper and less labored. Additionally, the patient developed increased confidence in improvising harmonica music, and more open about expressing her emotions surrounding death.

Despite patient status or level of consciousness, music therapists can console and comfort them through music. Research has shown hearing is the last outside sensation that registers with a dying patient. Let us help your loved one make this experience more soothing.

To read the full case study, please click here.

Meet Our Carroll Caregivers | Brooke Schiltz

We’re Keeping It Local – Look for the Purple Scrubs!

Hospice of the Midwest is proud to serve the town of Carroll, Iowa and its surrounding communities. We are dedicated to providing exceptional in-home hospice care and pride ourselves on our local caregivers. We would love for the Carroll community to get to know our team better (although many of you might know some of these ladies), so please read on to learn more about Hospice of the Midwest caregiver, Brooke.

Meet Brooke Schiltz

Just down the road from Carroll, in Breda, Iowa, resides new member of the Hospice of the Midwest family, Brooke Schiltz. Despite being new to the hospice field, Brooke’s hospice heart and dedication to helping patients at the end of life is already prevalent.

Brooke comes from a long line of healthcare workers and knew her calling in the field as early as high school. After receiving her CNA certification, Brooke began her career in caring for others as a high schooler, working at a local nursing home for two years. After working at a hospital in Des Moines and with a nursing agency for most of her career, Brooke has made the transition to Hospice of the Midwest in order to be closer to home.

Eager to begin her hospice career and serve the Carroll area, Brooke has a passion for keeping patients comfortable during their last days and assisting in lessening their pain. After hearing her fellow coworker, Barbara’s, praises about the hospice field, Brooke is also ready to learn from her peers and gain experience through hospice.

Brooke would urge those seeking hospice services to choose Hospice of the Midwest because of the dedication our nurses demonstrate. She explains,

“Our nurses will sit down and spend time with their patients, even after all their required tasks are finished. They truly care about the patients’ life experiences and always do more than just the bare minimum.”

If you or anyone you know is in need of hospice services in the Carroll area, please contact Hospice of the Midwest at (641) 332-3006.

We would love to give a shout out to the Carroll Chamber of Commerce, as their beautiful building made a great spot to snap some photos of our employees! Their website offers fantastic resources regarding local events, shopping, businesses within the Carroll community, and more. Check it out!

Meet Our Carroll Caregivers | Joy Vannahme

We’re Keeping It Local – Look for the Purple Scrubs!

Hospice of the Midwest is proud to serve the town of Carroll, Iowa and its surrounding communities. We are dedicated to providing exceptional in-home hospice care and pride ourselves on our local caregivers. We would love for the Carroll community to get to know our team better (although many of you might know some of these ladies), so please read on to learn more about Hospice of the Midwest nurse, Joy.

Meet Joy Vannahme

Also born and raised in Carroll, Joy Vannohme understands more than anyone that in a tight-knit community you care for one another and show respect for your fellow community members who treat each other like family. Through working with Hospice of the Midwest, Joy is able to give back to her community in the most caring of ways.

“It is a privilege to be able to educate patients and their families and to act as a stronghold for them; whether that being someone for them to cry on, hug, or just be near.”

Joy has been a nurse for two years and with Hospice of the Midwest as an RN Case Manager for one year now. She is dedicated to supporting both the patients and their families through what could be the hardest time of their lives. Offering this support allows Joy to ensure everyone is comfortable by knowing what each step of the process entails and what to expect.

“We have an amazing team. It’s not just because of how amazing our nurses are – we have massage, music therapy, and other services that go above and beyond for everybody. Even if it’s a weekend, I know I can call a social worker and she’ll give me the answer I indeed. We are a family. We are all dedicated to the patients on every level.”

If you or anyone you know is in need of hospice services in the Carroll area, please contact Hospice of the Midwest at (641) 332-3006.

We would love to give a shout out to the Carroll Chamber of Commerce, as their beautiful building made a great spot to snap some photos of our employees! Their website offers fantastic resources regarding local events, shopping, businesses within the Carroll community, and more. Check it out!