Early access to hospice care provides better quality of life

Early access to hospice care provides better quality of life
By: Beth Ireland Last Updated: May 2, 2019

Many people in the Region have heard of the VNA of Northwest Indiana, but not all are familiar with the many ways it serves individuals and families needing care. A major part of the VNA is its hospice care, but it also offers palliative care, LifeLine services, grief support, and is the Meals on Wheels provider in Porter County. VNA staff are highly-trained and deeply-devoted people whose focus is on the patient, and the patient’s loved ones.

“Our core mission is to provide the best hospice care we can for patients,” said Bob Franko, President and CEO. “We’ve been doing this for 50 years, we have a lot of experience in this community, we know this community, but are constantly listening to the ongoing and changing needs of our community.”

Palliative care services are focused on supporting those who are dealing with long-term illness but still seeking curative measures. Under the supervision of a medical director, nursing staff and social workers help patients focus on long-term care that will improve their quality of life. Clergy, volunteers, and additional therapies are available as well to help patients and loved ones manage the physical, emotional, and spiritual effects of their illness or disability. A large part of the care is to ensure that social needs are met, such as making sure they have access to good food, stable housing, and a good support system. Currently, the VNA is offering palliative care consultations but is strategizing on how to expand the program to full services based on the needs of the community.

Another program of the VNA is The Phoenix Center. This is a place where children who have lost loved ones can gather and process their grief with other children who are experiencing loss. It is a place where kids can come and just be kids. On-going bereavement care is always available at the VNA, but the Phoenix Center is unique as it focuses on helping children process grief through child-appropriate activities.

The VNA offers hospice care in the home, and at its 14-bed in-patient facility in Valparaiso. The Arthur B. & Ethel V. Horton Hospice Center is important for the families. Their loved one is surrounded by 24/7 care and the burden is taken off of the family members. It is one of the only hospice centers in the area to offer in-patient hospice care.

“We see the Horton Inpatient Center as a partnership with the community. The community feels a real need for it and generously supports it through fundraising and volunteering,” Franko said. “It provides a lot of comfort and stability, and not just for the patient.”

With so many patients and services, the VNA relies heavily on their dedicated volunteers. More than 300 volunteers deliver Meals on Wheels, sit with patients, do light housekeeping, and so much more. The volunteers are often the only contact that shut-in patients have with the outside world. Having a volunteer come and visit with a patient can often be a much-needed reprieve for a caregiver as well.

“We could not do what we do without the volunteers,” Franko said.

VNA of Northwest Indiana also provides LifeLine services. With a touch of a button, a patient can be connected with their local emergency services. This is a great option for those who want to maintain independence at home. The LifeLine gives them that extra bit of reassurance and comfort.

The choice to seek hospice care can be intimidating, but the VNA takes time to listen and ease a family or individual through that process. The biggest advice Franko can give is this: Though it may be difficult, don’t wait to seek hospice care. Too often, families or the patient will wait, and in that time suffer. The caring professionals at VNA of Northwest Indiana can usually begin palliative or hospice interventions before a patient begins to feel many of the complex effects of a serious illness.

“When people come into hospice early enough, they end up getting more time and a better quality of life with their families,” Franko said.

Sometimes, the cost of care is a stress to the family or patient, and again, the VNA is there to help. As a non-profit organization, they offer resources to help alleviate this burden, and will work with a patient’s and family’s individual financial needs.

“We don’t turn anybody away who is coming here for care,” Franko said.

For more information about how VNA Northwest Indiana can help with long term or acute illness care, hospice, childhood grief, home care, and more, visit it at vnanwi.org.