Three organizations align for collaborative hospice care

March 30, 2012
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Three area retirement/assisted living organizations with ties to varying Christian denominations have signed a partnership to launch Emmanuel Hospice, a nonprofit, faith-based, end-of-life provider.

St. Ann’s, affiliated with the Roman Catholic faith and the Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus, the Presbyterian-associated Porter Hills Retirement Communities and Services, and Clark Retirement Community Inc., which is affiliated with the United Methodist faith, collaborated to create a new entity as a private 501(c)(3) nonprofit hospice. Emmanuel Hospice is jointly owned by the three, with St. Ann’s as the majority owner and Porter Hills and Clark maintaining minority interests.

An interdisciplinary team will provide end-of-life care, which will include medical services (coordination of care with primary care physicians, personal care services and pain management), spiritual care, and bereavement, social, ancillary and volunteer services.

The timing was right to initiate Emmanuel Hospice as a collaborative initiative, said Sister Mary Gabriela Hilke, St. Ann’s admissions coordinator.

Clients said they prefer the continuum of care and a feeling of security they get from the three respective retirement/assisted living organizations because they are already familiar with the staff that’s caring for them before they became terminally ill and are more at ease with their living quarters.

“They want familiar people to take care of them at the end of their life,” said Hilke. “The family is comfortable with that. The caregivers and residents are comfortable with that. It’s not a strange nurse or aide taking care of them.”

Sara Lowe, St. Ann’s business development director and now executive director of Emmanuel Hospice, said she anticipates some staff will be shared between the three entities and that new hires will be made, including nurses, nurse aides, medical social workers and chaplains.

Financial constraints are an added reason for the collaborative hospice. As Medicaid and Medicare exert more financial belt tightening, it’s better stewardship for St. Ann’s, Porter Hills and Clark to work together so that resources can be shared, and perhaps expand the number of people served in a time of declining reimbursement, said Larry Yachcik, president and CEO of Porter Hills.

“This is a big component to saving pragmatically,” said Yachcik. “We are all over the board denominationally as Catholics, Methodists, Presbyterians and all others of a Judeo-Christian mix, and our mission makes sense.”

Robert Perl, executive director of Clark, agreed with Yachcik that more can be accomplished working together, particularly when the federal and state government are trimming health care costs.

“Collaboration is the future in terms of health care,” said Perl.

The collaboration, however, does not mean a new building will be constructed. Emmanuel Hospice will provide end-of-life services within the three entities’ facilities and in the homes of those who request its services. As a result, people seeking care from Emmanuel Hospice need not be residents of St. Ann’s, Clark or Porter Hills, said Lowe.

Demand for hospice services is increasing, said Yachcik, despite Americans’ tendency to avoid discussing all things related to death and dying.

“We, as an American society, avoid death, but it can be a journey that is increasingly enriching,” Yachcik said. “The medical community has done a wonderful job of extending life. We take the medical and spiritual life as an extension of pain medication with support from hospice to treat (men and women) as an individual.”

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