Home is a special place around the holidays, especially for older adults dealing with serious illness. The sound of familiar voices, the smell of favorite holiday foods, the family traditions that have carried over year after year. For many elderly people, nothing could be more comforting than being home.
Of course, for some, being home isn’t an option. The hospital is the safest place given their health care needs. But for those who can manage their symptoms with home health care or hospice, the ability to stay home for the holidays is a welcome gift.
Health Care at Home Makes a Difference
Breanna Wicker, Amedisys’ director of growth solutions and a senior caretaker for her mother, will never forget the Thanksgiving she spent with her mom in the hospital. “Whether you’re the patient or caregiver, it changes your perspective when you spend the holidays in a hospital or long-term care facility,” she says. She was used to sitting around the table with her family, all together in one place, but that year’s Thanksgiving meal was in a hospital cafeteria.
“It’s a very isolated feeling,” she recalls. “The whole family can’t change their holiday plans because a loved one is in the hospital. So the patient and caregiver are in the hospital but everyone else is still celebrating and carrying on the traditions. Life outside the hospital goes on.”
Fast forward one year, and the following Christmas, Wicker was home with her mom for the holidays with the help of home health care. “Home health helped her be independent enough to achieve goals on her own,” she says. “And it allowed me to get ready for the holidays and take care of some of my own needs.”
Every week friendly faces came to her home – a nurse, a physical therapist and an occupational therapist – who her mom could talk to about her health care needs. “It was nice to have someone else reinforcing the importance of taking medication as directed and practicing daily self-care,” Wicker notes. “Home health care allowed me to focus on being her daughter, not just her caregiver.”
Going Above and Beyond to Help Patients Stay Home
Every year, hospice care teams and home health teams work hard to make it possible for patients to be home for the holidays. Here are a few examples:
Getting a Patient Out of the Hospital and Home for Thanksgiving
Matthew McLain, senior account executive at an Amedisys home health agency in Florence, AL, visited a hospital in person and pled for help to make it possible for a patient to get the complex drainage system supplies she needed to be able to manage her condition at home. It took a team of people working around the clock, but thanks to their collaborative effort, the patient spent Thanksgiving home with her family rather than in the emergency department.
A Patient’s Last Christmas at Home
An Amedisys hospice care team in Elizabethton, TN overcame several hurdles to help a patient with metastatic kidney cancer move from Florida to Tennessee to spend his last Christmas with his family. The hospice team handled the logistics to help him get established and connected with local resources.
A Blessing to Help People Stay Home
It is a gift for patients to be home with loved ones for the holidays, but it’s also a gift for those providing their care. Anna Long, director of operations at an Amedisys hospice care center in Plymouth, NC, remembers the first time she was on call as a hospice nurse for Christmas. On Christmas Eve, she received the call that a beloved patient whom she had been visiting daily had passed away. She got to the home and the yard was full of cars from family members who had come over to share holiday dinner.
“The patient’s wife immediately came to me and hugged me. We cried together and sat by her husband’s bedside,” she recalls. “We then called the other family members in. I asked if they would like a prayer. We all held hands at his bedside and I prayed. That Christmas I knew God had placed me in this nursing career of hospice.”
Starting Home Health Care on Christmas Day
Erin Siciliano, RN, the director of operations at an Amedisys home health care center in Lexington, SC, remembers one year when a new patient started care on Christmas day. The patient’s whole family was there for the holiday meal when she arrived to provide wound care. “My being there meant they could have their loved one home for Christmas rather than the hospital, and they were so grateful,” she recalls. “They welcomed me in as a member of the family, and even offered to fix me a plate. It’s such a blessing to help people stay home with the ones they love for the holidays.”
Ways Home Health and Hospice Can Help
Home health care and hospice have several benefits including:
- Providing care wherever the patient calls home, such as a family home or assisted living
- Care from a diverse team of nurses, social workers, aides and other professionals
- 24/7 support to address symptoms so patients can avoid costly trips to the hospital
- Personalized care planning tailored to each patient’s needs and goals
- Costs are covered by Medicare for eligible patients
Make treasured holiday memories. Call your local care center to find out if home health care or hospice is right for you or your loved one.