13:11 PM

Sprinkel: You might be surprised: Home health and hospice care could be right for you


Lisa Sprinkel is senior director for Carilion Clinic Home Health and Hospice.


Meeting the needs of patients and their families during a pandemic required new ways to deliver care. The need for care at home – encompassing home health and hospice care – hasn't stopped because of COVID-19’s challenges. Yet, patients and loved ones may not understand how each can optimize quality of life. 

Patients and their loved ones benefit when home health and hospice care can blossom in our community. It could be the right choice for you and your loved ones. 

Home Health Care 

Home health care is designed to be a short-term, intermittent skilled care program provided by a Medicare-certified agency under a physician's order. But this care isn’t just for the elderly with severe, complex conditions. Pregnant women, newborns and anyone managing chronic conditions or recovering from surgery or wounds are eligible for help getting back on their feet. Patients benefit from the comfort of familiar surroundings and recover better. Home care is usually just as effective, only less expensive, and more convenient than care in a hospital or nursing facility. 

Providers, the home care team and patients work together to develop a plan to meet care needs, therapy goals and lifestyle changes. A nurse or therapist visits your home to assess your physical condition, create a welcome setting for care, review prescription and supplemental medications, and discuss goals with you. Physical, speech and occupational therapy and even social work support are available through home health programs. 

In the communities we serve, many patients are in rural areas. If you live in a rural community, we help you adjust to being at home and living with your conditions. We have meaningful discussions about your disease, medication and diet management, and ways to prevent falls. Telehealth monitoring allows you to record blood pressure, weight and other vital signs to manage chronic diseases better. Telehealth also helps you establish connections between, for example, the food you eat and a higher blood pressure reading. When communicating with a nurse monitoring vital signs and measurements, you’re empowered to control your condition better. 

Hospice Care 

Now, suppose you or a loved one has a severe, incurable illness? If so, isolation and feeling overwhelmed are common reactions. Hospice helps patients explore options for medical care and encouragement. "Carilion Conversations" offers helpful questions and suggestions to plan and communicate end-of-life wishes. Hospice staff provide comfort by addressing fears, offering physical and emotional support, communicating with doctors and other medical professionals, and guiding how to make final plans. 

Terminally ill patients should communicate freely about their conditions with family and friends. These discussions can help achieve peace of mind. Additionally, loved ones develop a better understanding of care goals. 

Preparing for our death may feel uncomfortable. Still, we're able to relieve the decision-making burden on those we love and create the opportunity for a peace-filled end of life. Families should know who will make medical decisions if you become incapacitated. That person needs to understand and agree to carry out your wishes. Share your medical information with them, so they’re not surprised at a critical time later. Tell them precisely which medical interventions you expect and which shouldn’t occur. 

Living the final part of our life is essential to a whole life. If you don’t have a bucket list, create one and identify what you want to accomplish. Where and when have you been happiest? What makes your life worth living? Even if you're healthy now, planning for end-of-life care can help assure that loved ones will carry out your wishes. Also, remember – identify your legacy, those lessons you most want to pass on to family and loved ones. 

It’s all about the people 

And we can’t forget our home health and hospice caregivers. Caring for patients during a pandemic has been difficult for them, too. Personal protective equipment and social distancing requirements mean caregivers must use phone calls, notes and other forms of outreach to stay connected to their patients. That’s why supporting, uplifting and caring for those who care is just as vital. 

Watching providers adapt and respond to patient and family needs during this pandemic has been heartwarming. We are so proud of all home health and hospice teams for their commitment and dedication amid uncertainties. 

If you run into one of these fine folks, ask them about the benefits of care at home. Regardless, do your research if you face a health situation requiring ongoing care. You might be surprised that home health and hospice care are the right options.