Kristen Owens with Legacy Hospice, Inc. serves as the volunteer/bereavement coordinator and is quick to answer questions and correct misinformation about hospice services.
"This is a wonderful group of people," she said. "We have four medical directors, Dr. Wagner in Manila, Dr. Cullom in Osceola, Dr. Denton in West Memphis, and Dr. Myers in Memphis. We have a team of registered nurses, certified nursing assistants, a chaplain and a social worker."
Owens is building up the volunteers program. She said volunteers will relieve caregivers to run errands or meet appointments. Volunteers can read to patients, help with light housework, run errands, or meet other needs.
"We offer bereavement support for 13 months after a loved one is gone," she said.
Owens said Hospice services are for patients with life-limited illnesses who choose comfort care, not curative measures. Pain control is a major focus of the nursing staff.
There is a 24 hour availability of the hospice team members.
Owens said most hospice patients want to remain in their own homes, assisted living facilities, or their nursing facility rooms, where they have friends and neighbors.
"Our staff works with patients, families, and caregivers to respect the patients' wishes," she said. "We do need professional service agreements with nursing facilities to serve their residents."
The staff works with patients, caregivers, and patients' physicians to develop treatment plans so everyone is informed of any changes in condition, plans, or needs.
Owens pointed out the patients are never billed for services.
"Patients who qualify for hospice and do not have insurance are served and treated the same as other patients," she said. "When patients choose hospice, they are not giving up. In fact, a recent study showed that hospice patients lived 29 days longer than similar patients without hospice services."
Patients are encouraged to keep their own physicians and pharmacists. They do not have to use Legacy's medical directors. They can use the doctor of their choice. Patients do not have to be homebound or bedbound to receive hospice services. In fact, patients are encouraged to live life to the fullest.
"We execute 'travel contracts' with other hospices so patients can go on a dream vacation or visit family members," Owens said. "We contact hospice in the area they are traveling to and they can be assisted while away from home."
Hospice usage showed a reduction in Medicare expenditures by an average of $2,309 per hospice patient in a 2007 Duke University study.
Patients' physicans and hospice medical directors determine patients' hospice eligibility.
Hospice patients can choose to be admitted to a hospital. Due to billing guidelines and our patients Plan of Care, such decisions must be carefully coordinated.
All hospices are held to minimum standards by state and federal regulations. But not all hospices provide the same services.
"We encourage patients and caregivers to always compare hospice services in their area," Owens said.
If anyone would like to learn more about Legacy Hospice and what they have to offer there is a team available for speaking engagements, to train volunteers, or to help with health fairs.
"You don't have to have a medical background to be a volunteer," Owens said. "We even need volunteers to work in the office. We will go above and beyond what is required. Our policy is to treat our patients like we would want our own family treated."
Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer, or anyone in need of hospice services, can contact Owens at (870) 563-9995.
"We have been told by patients and family members they do not know what they would do without us," Owens said. "Our goal is to provide support and care for people in the last phases of incurable illnesses so they can live as full and comfortably as possible."