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Round-the-Clock Hospice Care Keeps Patients and Families at Home - And Out of the Hospital
By Evalisa McClure


Evalisa McClureFamily members who provide hospice care to a loved one at home can experience emotions and encounters that range from immensely satisfying to intensely scary.

When a hospice patient takes a turn for the worse at home—struggles to breathe, experiences sudden pain, loses consciousness, becomes agitated, or battles chronic nausea, vomiting or diarrhea—VITAS Healthcare offers an additional level of care that brings a nurse or aide directly to the bedside, when medically necessary, for temporary shifts of care up to 24 hours a day until symptoms resolve.

It’s called Intensive Comfort Care® (ICC), one of the four levels of hospice care mandated by the Medicare hospice benefit. ICC makes it possible for appropriate patients to receive around-the-clock hospice care at home, where ICC teams manage symptoms, relieve pain and keep hospice patients out of hospitals and emergency rooms.

ICC supports hospice’s focus on quality of life
ICC is rooted in VITAS’ commitment to honor hospice patients’ wishes to remain at home, surrounded by familiar places and their families. This level of care also extends to patients who have complex conditions or challenging diagnoses.

Sometimes, ICC patients have been diagnosed with more than one disease (e.g., heart disease and diabetes; chronic lung disease and end-stage kidney disease). These high-acuity patients often require special levels of care that other hospice programs are not equipped or able to provide.

Hospice care begins after curative treatments stop or are no longer effective. But some modalities can support quality of life for hospice patients with complex needs, even if they do not treat the underlying terminal disease. For example, intravenous hydration or antibiotics can help manage the pain of an underlying disease, while respiratory/ventilation support can ease breathing discomfort or anxiety in patients with advanced lung disease.

For complex patients, ICC and complex modalities keep care focused on the hospice philosophy: compassionate care that supports quality of life at the end of life. The good news is that ICC can be provided wherever the patient calls home: private residence, nursing home or assisted living facility.

Evalisa McClure is General Manager for VITAS® Healthcare in Pittsburgh. For more information about end-of-life care options, call VITAS Healthcare at (866) 759-6695 or visit VITAS.com.

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