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Columbus Dispatch: Hospice Care

End of life care is a big decision for families all around the United States. It is also a topic that many families don’t want to think about, don’t want to talk about, and ultimately don’t make decisions on.

Millions of those that are terminally ill do choose the quality of care hospice care can provide, especially during the last few weeks, days, or hours of life.

But doing it the responsible way, legal way, is something that gets many looks from the federal level.

Dr. Charles von Gunten, vice president of medical affairs, hospice and palliative medicine for OhioHealth, says he welcomes a national focus to make sure everyone is doing things the right way for the patient. He stresses that people do their homework when looking for end of life care, to get the best possible result for the patient and for the family.

“There are some hospices with 100 percent discharge rates, which definitely raises a red flag,” Dr. von Gunten said. “Either they’re driving them away with bad care or signing up people who aren’t close to dying.”

Dr. von Gunten says there are many groups that stay on top of exactly what they are doing, and providing what they promise. But as some of the headlines of those not following rules and regulations gets out there, there can be a misperception built; one that possibly scares some families away.

“That’s the biggest travesty,” he said.

Dr. von Gunten says his OhioHealth team works hard at education. He says 15 percent of people will actually be released from hospice care because their health improves to the point where the services are no longer needed as the patient has gotten better with care.

Hospice use in general is actually on the rise, with many people getting care inside of their own homes. There is also a need for more space at homes like the OhioHealth Kobacker House. The OhioHealth Kobacker House is growing with a $4.8 million dollar expansion plan scheduled to be complete in late 2017. The money raised for this project, much like the original plan that created 24 patient rooms, was done entirely through generous donations from supportive community members, and families.

Still, only about 40 percent of the people who are deemed eligible for hospice actually use the services, von Gunten said.

Some families have turned to hospice care and have strong praise for the end of life care. Phil Glandon, of Upper Arlington looked for years for ways to help his ailing father.

Multiple trips to emergency rooms, doctor visits, and accidents inside the home lead to the decision he had always heard of but never considered. A social worker at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital asked if he had considered hospice care for his father.

“It was clear that dad was on his final pathway to passing,” he said.

It was then and there, they decided to turn to OhioHealth Kobacker House for end of life care. They arrived at the location, and within just a few hours, teams worked to make sure Glandon’s dad was comfortable, cared for, and looking much more like the man this family had known and love. The family saw him again, in one of his favorite golf shirts, and in one of the large rooms.

“He looked like my father; he was given his dignity back,” Glandon said. And while they knew the end was near, hospice care meant a chance for the entire family to be together, watching old family videos, and smiling about the lives they had built, together.

“It was a blessing. It was like getting him back before he died,” Phil Glandon said.

To read more about this in The Columbus Dispatch simply click on the logo.

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