Top: Phyllis Colvin sings “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” to set the tone for the Affinis Hospice presentation.
Bottom! Kimberly Kimbrel explains Affinis Hospice’s services and philosophy, while clearing up misconceptions.
The program opened with a beautiful rendition of a verse of “Precious Lord, Take My Hand”.
After she finished, Phyllis Colvin, social services director for Affinis Hospice’s Albany regional office, related to the Kiwanis Club of Dougherty County on August 18, “When I think about hospice, I think about how when we come into contact with people, they’re tired and worn and their caregivers are weary. We need to come into their homes and provide them some type of support, and I feel that with hospice care we can come in and be that support, not only to the patient but also to their family members.”
Colvin then turned the program over to Kimberly Kimbrel, Affinis’ regional community outreach coordinator. From its Albany office, Affinis serves 21 counties in Southwest Georgia. In addition to Albany, throughout Georgia, Affinis Hospice has regional offices in Augusta, Cartersville, Gainesville, Newnan, Vidalia, and Watkinsville.
Kimbrel offered some history on hospice care and sought to clear up misconceptions she said people often have about hospice.
According to Kimbrel, the hospice concept originated with Cicely Saunders, a World War II English military nurse who recognized three “very important things people need as they are dealing with the end of life”: dignity and compassion, pain and symptom management, and counseling for psychological and emotional needs. Hospice Inc. was founded in 1974 in the United States by Florence Wald and hospice care has grown nationwide since that time.
Also, said Kimbrel, “Hospice is not necessarily end of life, that might surprise you.” Affinis can provide services during a life-threatening illness, and it’s beneficial, Kimbrel said, to begin in-home services early “so that we can have a relationship with the family and teach them caregiving tips so that it’s not so hard on them.” Medicare pays 100 percent for eligible clients, she added, including medications and hospital equipment for a wide range of illnesses.
If a patient doesn’t have Medicare or insurance, however, Affinis doesn’t turn them away. Operating under the multi-faceted Community Health Services foundation umbrella provides additional resources, but “of course we have to have a population of people who have insurance so we can survive. We are a nonprofit company” and the foundation helps.
Kimbrel addressed several “misconceptions.”
“I had one family that was in hospital and they would not come on services with us because they thought we were going to stop Mom’s medication. We don’t do that, we don’t stop medication. We don’t stick somebody with morphine and keep pumping it in them. We don’t do any of those things, those are misconceptions. We let the family make all the choices for the caregiving that we do. We don’t do anything without the family knowing. Everything we do has to be approved by the family, because we understand that the family is the caregiver. We’re just there to help.”
Another false idea is that a doctor has to decide when hospice care is needed. “Hospice is not something that a doctor has to say you’re ready for,” Kimbrel said. “You need to make that decision, it’s a patient’s choice. You can actually call us.”
While a doctor does not have to refer a patient, a doctor’s order is needed for Affinis to go into a patient’s home. When a patient contacts Affinis, said Kimbrel, Affinis must contact their doctor and request the order and the patient’s medical records.
Also, Kimbrel added, “Hospice never wants to say you have to sever that relationship with your doctor. We don’t ever say that.” But, “We want to be your 911. If you have an emergency while you’re with us, call us. If you go to the hospital while you’re with hospice, we have to discharge you,” due to Medicare regulations. “We have to discharge the patient while they’re in the hospital and then we’ll bring them back on afterwards.”
A patient may want to continue being seen in hospice by their regular doctor, but the decision is ultimately up to the doctor, Kimbrel said. Affinis has a local medical director, Dr. Michael Satchell, to monitor its patients, and some people choose to switch over.
“We go over our patients with our medical director bimonthly,” said Kimbrel. “Every two weeks we have a meeting and go over each patient, and the nurses will be there in the meeting talking about different things going on with each patient, if they need medicine changes or if they have a symptom that needs to be managed.”