Pictured above, Amedisys employees raise awareness for hospice. Pictured, from left, front row: Christie Shields, Jamie Anthony, Lola Stracener, Shelby Bush. Pictured from left, back row: Melissa Price, Megan Rome, Valerie Nunn, Connie Gunn, Cauleen Greene, Elizabeth Hyatt, Jenilyn Howard, Meghan Kerr, Luke Small.
By Katie Bohannon, News Editor
November represents National Hospice and Palliative Care month, a time to recognize the incredible men and women who serve families nationwide in some of the most significant moments in life. Amedisys Hospice and Home Health workers embody this year’s theme, “It’s About How You Live,” striving each day to ensure that the families they serve experience lives filled with comfort, hope and love.
Serving families almost statewide, Amedisys offers home health, hospice and personal care services that align with quality clinical practices to maintain a sense of independence and dignity for their patients. Amedisys values passion, integrity and respect, with team members who share the belief that each life is precious, valuable and deserving of genuine care. Those team members are not limited to nurses alone, but feature several positions such as chaplains, social workers and volunteers.
While social workers handle advanced directives, they also provide incredible patient support. Chaplains assist with spiritual support for both patients and caregivers, while nurses work hand-in-hand with families to promote education to ensure a smooth adjustment period and provide families with a deeper understanding of their loved one’s transition.
Volunteers spread joy and happiness in the form of handwritten cards and notes, or birthday cakes to be delivered to patient homes. These individuals contribute to a food pantry at Amedisys’ office in Rainbow City, designated to provide meals for families in need.
“That is one of the best parts of hospice in all the difference disciplines,” said Amedisys Hospice Liaison Elizabeth Hyatt. “We’re here to support you in learning how to reassess, and even sometimes change roles. You have children who become caregivers who have always been cared for by their parents, and wives whose husbands have always taken care of all these things who are readjusting. Your social workers, your chaplains, they each individually assess the needs and try to help them through education and support and making those transitions and changes.”
Although individuals might possess certain preconceived notions associated with the term ‘hospice,’ Amedisys strives to introduce families to the true meaning of the word.
“Hospice is hope,” said Hyatt. “We are a different level of hope. It changes everything – in a good way. That’s a different point of view when you start thinking about hospice. We do try to work closely in our community, with our senior centers and independent livings. Each family we meet, we hope that the joy and the gift of hospice is something they can share with folks.
“Sometimes, we have families that are on service for quite a while, sometimes a year or longer. Those families get what we call ‘the full benefit of hospice.’ That includes families being able to just take a deep breath…that’s the gift. Yes, you’ll be a caregiver always. But we want you to be able to take a moment and be a family, and have us do some of that work that can be stressful and overwhelming.”
Amedisys understands that no two patients are alike, and no two families are the same. Amedisys workers carefully craft individualized plans specific for each family, walking the entire journey step by step. They believe that finding the right hospice for each family is equally as important to finding hospice, and they promote their sister home health company that serves as the first line of defense.
Without its home health company, Amedisys could not achieve its mission. Amedisys Home Health meets patients wherever they are in life, offering services such as physical, occupational and speech therapy, medical social work, pain and medication management and wound care in the comforts of patients’ homes.
In addition, anyone can make a hospice referral. With a simple phone call, individuals can discuss the possibility of hospice for their family members, friends or neighbors. Amedisys in return will reach out to the person in need of help, working with his or her physician to determine the appropriate response, if necessary. If hospice is not the answer, but someone still needs assistance, Amedisys workers will discover the best personalized care plan for whoever comes across their path.
Amedisys’ services and support does not cease at the passing of a family member. Amedisys offers bereavement for 12 months afterward, extending comfort to families through visits, phone calls and care packages.
Amedisys exceeds the national average across hospice and home health company rankings, earning 100 percent patient and family satisfaction. But apart from the numbers that emphasize the quality of care, the devoted and caring people who serve remain the heart of Amedisys.
Hyatt recalled a recent moment when she reconnected with a woman from the first family she helped through Amedisys. While the woman expressed her gratitude for Hyatt’s service, sharing she had never forgotten her, Hyatt assured her that her appreciation was mutual.
From patient to patient and family to family, Amedisys reaches out helping hands to create an environment that abounds with comfort and love. While hospice represents a transitioning season of life, it also signifies the hope that coincides with precious moments that families experience together – the hope of a friend to walk through a this new chapter in life beside them. That friendship extends beyond physical treatment, as Amedisys workers develop memories with the families they serve each day, remembering lives flourishing with purpose and a beautiful legacies that will forever remain alive.
“Hospice [at its core] is meeting families and patients where they are and doing that in a loving way to help them manage their needs and symptoms step by step,” said Hyatt. “That is a very important process. People plan so much for their births. When you’re having a baby, people plan everything from which doctor to pick to which hospital to go to, to just the right outfit to come home in…all those perfect things. Not many people feel comfortable with even thinking about how we’re going to die.
“I know that sounds weird. It doesn’t mean you’re planning it in a morbid way, but it’s about quality over quantity sometimes, and learning to embrace the very best you can have and living your best level of life. That’s what I think hospice is all about – how can we help someone who is really sick live their best life? It’s about hope and compassion and meeting families where they are to get them to that highest level of care. It’s about taking care of them and being careful to look at patients as individuals. It’s about peace of mind that their family has gotten everything they need, and peace of mind that they’ve done everything they can. It’s about dignity in the hardest times…and love.”