Hosparus Health Care

She was a young mother who wanted to be there for her children, but cancer had turned her days into an unceasing cycle of pain and fatigue. As her disease progressed, she was given weeks to live. She decided to take back control of her care and focus on quality of life by choosing Hosparus Heath’s hospice care. Hospice is a type of palliative care that offers an extra layer of support for patients with serious illness. 

When Dr. Lori Earnshaw first met her, the young mother couldn't do much more than lift her head from the pillow. Despite receiving cancer treatment for a year, she had never met a palliative care specialist. "She was falling asleep constantly. She couldn't do anything for herself," says Dr. Earnshaw, who is a Senior Hospice & Palliative Care Physician for Hosparus Heath. "But what was so wonderful to see was that with good symptom management and some adjustments to her pain medications, we were able to get her up and functioning." 

Thanks to Hosparus Health’s hospice care, the young woman was able to go out shopping with her kids and play miniature golf. When Christmas came, she was able to celebrate the holiday with her family. Adding that extra layer of supportive care allowed her to get enjoyment out of life again.

"That's an example of what can happen if you get involved with Hosparus Health early, which she did. In eight months, she lived a full life," says Dr. Earnshaw.

This is just one of many instances that illuminates the power of Hosparus Health’s care. One of the biggest misconceptions about hospice care is that it’s about dying. In fact, it’s about getting the most out of the final weeks, months or even years of life. 

Families and patients often need help coming to terms with the fact that a loved one's life may be drawing to a close, and Hosparus Health provides resources to make the last weeks or months easier for everyone involved. "I think that often is the elephant in the room,” Dr. Earnshaw says. "It takes truth-telling by a hospice and palliative care specialist to have the courage to say, I see the elephant, too, and I'm going to walk with you through this." 

Palliative and hospice care

Hospice care was developed in the United States in the 1970s, through a grassroots movement fueled by medical and religious professionals who had seen too many people pass away without the support they needed to treat their symptoms, prepare their families, and remain at home at the end of life. Since its founding in 1978, Hosparus Health has served patients in their homes, in nursing homes, and even in homeless shelters. "We will take care of patients wherever they are," Dr. Earnshaw says.

Hosparus Heath’s care team provides expert pain and symptom management, helps patients take part in their favorite activities, offers emotional support services for families and children, and assists in making end-of-life plans. 

When Hosparus Health is called in early in a diagnosis, it can provide care and support through all the decisions and uncertainty of serious illness.

While Hosparus Health has provided hospice care in our community for decades, it has developed new palliative care programs for patients who are expected to live longer than six months but want to improve their quality of life — palliative care is available to anyone navigating serious illness who needs pain or symptom management, while still undergoing curative treatments. 

In the case of cancer patients, the American Society of Clinical Oncology recommends seeking palliative care as soon as a diagnosis is made.

"Palliative care is not driven by your prognosis; it's driven by need," Dr. Earnshaw says. Palliative care can help manage the symptoms of serious illness, such as pain, anxiety, shortness of breath, nausea, or other issues that require ongoing medical care. Hosparus Health’s palliative care team helps you align your care with your values, beliefs and available treatments. They can help with advanced care planning, counseling and spiritual care.

If curative therapies have been exhausted, palliative care transitions into hospice care, which is for patients with a terminal diagnosis of six months or less. Hospice care is about engaging a team to help you or your family member live better in the time you have left.

When to contact Hosparus Health

One of the first signs patients might need hospice care is repeated trips to medical facilities — whether a doctor's office, emergency room or hospitalization — and they don’t bounce back.

"I think that's probably the biggest sign," Dr. Earnshaw says, "that they're increasingly using the healthcare system, but they're not getting back to the way they were before."

Another sign is an increasing number or severity of symptoms, which often means the underlying disease is progressing. Also, weight loss is an indicator, which is something that those living with the patient may not recognize but can be evident to a visitor. And then there's functional decline, either physical or cognitive, which may include difficulty with daily living activities, such as dressing or feeding themselves, or they may become incontinent.

Dr. Earnshaw urges families to not wait too late to call Hosparus Health. " Maybe a patient has never even talked about what they wanted at the end. It just creates so much stress that could have been prevented." 

Hosparus Health can help guide families through all the tough decisions that surround the end of life. They take the stress out of serious illness so patients and their families can focus on making the most of their time together.

Are you interested in learning more about the hospice and palliative care programs available at Hosparus Health? To schedule a consultation and learn which program might be best for you or a loved one, call (800) 264-0521, fill out their online form, or visit their website at HosparusHealth.org.