February 9th, 2005

At just three years old, Great River Hospice recently ranked in the 95th percentile among hospices nationwide that participate in satisfaction surveys conducted by Press Ganey Associates, the nation’s leader in health-care surveys. Great River Hospice is a service of Great River Medical Center.

The hospice received the highest score in direct patient services such as pain control, education, skill of staff, spiritual needs and availability and responsiveness of staff.

“We were extremely pleased to see the high scores on our surveys,” said Chris Oleson, director, Great River Hospice. “It shows progress in improving end-of-life care in our community. Positive feedback from our patients and families will encourage others to use hospice. We also are striving to increase the use of hospice care by educating the health-care community and the public.”

The admission criterion to hospice is a prognosis of six months or less to live if the disease follows its normal course. Many patients have cancer, but hospice also accepts patients with AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, dementia, end-stage heart and renal failure, end-stage lung and liver disease failure, stroke and natural aging that causes the body’s systems to wear out.

“Patients who are admitted soon after a physician determines their prognosis receive the fullest benefit from the program,” Oleson said. “The greatest financial benefit is that hospice is paid for by most insurance and Medicare. That includes visits by our interdisciplinary team, medications to relieve pain and other symptoms, and necessary equipment.”

The emotional benefits of establishing early relationships with a nurse, social worker, chaplain if desired, and other members of the hospice team, help patients make the final transitions of their lives.

“When there’s time, the hospice team helps families and patients work on end-of-life issues that have an impact on the family after their loved one is gone,” Oleson said. “For example, patients may want to restore relationships or see children they haven’t seen in years. Our training and experience helps us lead them through the journey, first by helping them accept their own death and then helping families prepare by teaching them about signs that death is imminent and helping with funeral planning.”

Every hospice patient receives a lap quilt made by an anonymous local church organization. Families often ask hospice team members, family members and friends to sign the back. Many times, the quilts are displayed at funerals.

Although patients are involved with hospice for six month or less, families receive bereavement care for 13 months after the death. This includes telephone calls, visits if needed, informational mailings, referrals for counseling and bereavement workshops.

Great River Hospice receives comments like this nearly every day: “Thanks to all of you for helping us through such a sad experience and yet making us, as a family, feel like we were doing OK in our caring for Mom. We really needed to feel this. Our nurse took the time to talk to Mom and us. The chaplain was such a blessing at the most-needed time. We just feel like everyone really and sincerely cared.”