For those with no cure, hospice focuses on care

For those with no cure, hospice focuses on care

A Greenwood House nurse with a patient
A Greenwood House nurse with a patient

If there is one message that staff at Greenwood House’s Community Hospice would like to get across, it is that hospice care is all about living.

“We use the term ‘living in the moment,’” said hospice director Bobbi Daugherty. “It concentrates on care, not cure.”

To that end, while providing palliative services for the terminally ill, the staff at the Ewing-based facility also makes arrangements for visits to the mall or even a stroll outside. Daugherty said she has one patient with pancreatic cancer who attends book club meetings.

“We emphasize living life fully,” Daugherty said.

The message is particularly timely; November is National Hospice/Palliative Care Month, and Richard Goldstein, executive director of Greenwood House, said the nonsectarian, nonprofit hospice service is the only such program that is affiliated with a Jewish organization in the Mercer County area.

Hospice care is offered to residents of area nursing homes — including the seven hospice patients at Greenwood House — and those who remain in their homes. The staff includes a physician, registered nurses, certified home health aides, social workers, and spiritual counselors.

The majority of Greenwood’s hospice patients receive care at home, with visits from nurses, home health aides, and social workers. Other services might include nutritional consultations; occupational and physical therapy; and alternative treatments like aromatherapy or massage.

The hospice also provides bereavement services to family members.

The staff at Greenwood comes up with a comprehensive treatment plan, focused on pain and symptom management and treating the patients and their families “as a unit,” Daugherty said.

Hospice staff also emphasize the need for early intervention. Under Medicare guidelines, patients are eligible to receive hospice care coverage when a doctor has diagnosed them with an illness which — in its expected course — will result in death within six months, although many patients live beyond that period. Medicare pays for medications and equipment needed to keep the patients comfortable. “We’ve taken people off hospice a number of times,” Goldstein said. And the palliative care “even helps them sometimes live longer.”

The hospice has two rabbis on staff, and non-Jewish chaplains are available. Some 60 to 70 percent of the clients are Jewish, Goldstein said.

For those considering hospice care, Greenwood House provides free evaluations in a patient’s home.

Sheryl Punia of Princeton, president of Greenwood’s board of directors, recalls the hospice care her mother-in-law received at Greenwood in August.

The service wasn’t just for her, it was “for all of us,” Punia said. “She really needed professional support that we as her family couldn’t give her. I just can’t say enough wonderful things about the hospice program and the people who staff it.”

Greenwood House, a beneficiary agency of United Jewish Federation of Princeton Mercer Bucks, provides long-term care, assisted living, meals-on-wheels, and home health-care services for seniors.

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