Prairie Home Hospice expanding care options

MARSHALL – For 30 years, Prairie Home Hospice has provided care for people at the end-stage of their lives. Now it is expanding its facilities and its core mission.

The Hospice offices are in the final stages of an expansion that more than doubles the space available for offices and is installing spa and salon services. Like many non-profits these days, Hospice is always looking for other ways to support its core mission.

“Currently, we offer hospice services with spa and salon service as part of the care program, along with other enrichment therapies, such as music and pet care,” said Executive Director Pat Mellenthin. “As we were providing spa and salon service, often we’d have families asking, ‘Can we get our hair done, a massage?'”

Spa and salon services are provided at home and at the five-room hospice residence by hospice staff who have taken training in massage therapy and cosmetology. The addition of spa and salon facilities at the office is expected to provide a revenue stream to support the expansion of their mission.

The traditional mission of hospice is limited to providing end-of-life care to patients whose prognosis is terminal within six months, and who have decided to forgo any form of treatment that might be curative.

“We thought, ‘how can we reach those patients who don’t meet hospice eligibility?'” Mellenthin said. “Patients with chronic illness or those whose terminal prognosis is beyond six months.”

Hospice personnel met with physicians at Affiliated Community Medical Centers to explore how to partner with primary care providers to provide services to manage symptoms, prevent repeated trips to the emergency room and hospital, bring quality to their lives and possibly extend their lives.

“We decided we need home care,” Mellenthin said. “Studies show people prefer not to die in an institution. We’re expanding home care to whoever needs that and bringing the hospice philosophy to it.”

Home care can enhance quality of life for the sick and dying but can also serve as a bridge for medical personnel to accept and refer their patients to hospice care. Physicians are often reluctant to refer patients to hospice care well beyond the point all hope for recovery is gone.

“We have a problem with short-term referrals,” said Prairie Home Hospice Clinical Director Jennifer Clarin. “Sometimes they are referred less than seven days before. We have to educate people and physicians. In hospice we see death as part of the journey of life, not as an end, but as a beginning.”

The hospice philosophy is about managing the end of life with dignity, as a fulfillment of life, not just an end. What Clarin calls “helping them with their bucket list.” As an example, a patient in hospice care in her 80s had always wanted to learn to play the piano. Hospice arranged lessons.

By extending the hospice mission to home care of chronically ill and long-term patients, the decision to refer patients to hospice care can be made easier for physicians, family and patients.

“What I think will be so nice about the expansion is, it’s another service that’s lacking in our community and if they need to transfer to hospice, it can be,” said Prairie Home Hospice Senior Social Worker Barbara Moore.