Friday, April 16, 2010

Everyone Needs Facts about Advance Care Planning

April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day

In a time of serious illness, health care decisions must be made carefully and thoughtfully. Our experience at Hope has shown us that these decisions are extremely difficult in a moment of crisis, whether they are being made by the person in life’s final chapter or by their loved ones.

It is heartbreaking to see family members struggle to make choices when their loved one can no longer respond. “What should we do now?” is a question asked in despair that we have heard many times.

Questions such as this are best discussed well ahead of the time of need, making difficult choices easier. One useful document that Hope makes available for advance care planning is Five Wishes, which Hope makes available to patients and their families. It is a living will that addresses the patient’s personal, emotional and spiritual needs as well as their medical wishes. Using the simple forms, the patient can name a health care surrogate and make choices regarding life support.

Anyone could be affected by a life-changing illness at any time. Whether you are 21 or 91, these documents can help to insure that your health care choices and decisions are honored if you become unable to speak for yourself.

Advance care planning involves:
  • Understanding the patient’s future health care choices
  • Thinking about choices in light of what is important to the patient and family in regard to their values and beliefs
  • Discussing those decisions with physicians and loved ones
  • Preparing written documents to make the patient’s choices known
Research has shown that advance discussion about these issues results in a higher quality of life for patients and their caregivers. In one study, thirty-seven percent of the patients interviewed said they had end-of-life discussions with their physician, and a number of specific benefits were noted:
  • No increase in their rates of depression or worry
  • Lower rates of ventilation and resuscitation
  • Fewer admissions to the intensive care unit
Health benefits such as these bring peace of mind to the patients’ loved ones. For that reason, the most often-heard comment from families in our care is, “We wish we had known about hospice earlier.” By having these conversations, everyone can become more aware of the care that will be available at the moment it is actually needed. Decision-making will be easier.

Discussion about preparing for future health care needs and wishes with patients who have a life-changing illness provides a gift of time and peace of mind by allowing for resolution. It gives the patient time to make choices regarding care while still able to communicate.

The ongoing debate over healthcare reform has made it quite clear that America’s families need accurate reliable information about advance care planning in order to make informed choices before the time of need. Now more than ever, people need information about preparing for their future health care needs and wishes.

April 16, National Healthcare Decisions Day, is a time to raise public awareness and inform others about the necessity of advance care planning. The effort is supported by Hope and other healthcare organizations, along with the American Medical Association and the American Bar Association. An essential part of Hope’s outreach efforts is to clearly explain advance care planning and to stress the value it to the patient and family members. Honoring each persons wishes and choices have always been integral to the Hope philosophy of care.

At Hope, we will continue to provide accurate information to help everyone understand the value and importance of advance care planning. It can make a significant difference.

Please visit HopeHCS.org/fivewishes

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Rainbow Trails Camp for Children Now Accepting Applications

Hope HealthCare Services is now accepting applications for Rainbow Trails, a camp for children aged 6 to 17 and their families in need of special support and counseling.

The all-day camp will take place on Saturday, June 5 at South Florida Community College in Avon Park. Rainbow Trails is provided at no cost to families.

Rainbow Trails includes two programs for children and families, depending on their specific needs:
  • Campers and their families who have experienced the loss a loved one within the past year will gain a better understanding of the loss and grief process. They will have the opportunity to memorialize and say good-bye to their loved one.
  • The camp also serves children who have a long-term illness, along with their siblings who may have lost some of their access to Mom and Dad because of their brother or sister’s special needs. Rainbow Trails will have activities for the parents as well. The families will learn new skills to cope with changing family dynamics.

“At Hope, we know that loss, grief and illness are natural events in life that children may not fully understand,” according to Hope President and CEO Samira K. Beckwith. “Through Rainbow Trails, we can help to alleviate the tremendous emotional burdens that families may be facing. When a little six year-old says ‘Thank you for helping me,’ we know we have made a difference.”

To enroll as a camper or apply as a counselor, visit www.hopehcs.org/rainbowtrailscamp or call (800) 835-1673.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Hope Parkinson Program Supports National Parkinson’s Awareness Month

Each day, hundreds of Lee County residents face one of their greatest challenges in life: living with Parkinson’s disease. The month of April is recognized as National Parkinson’s Awareness Month, to educate the public and to promote support programs that can increase quality of life for those living with the disease, and their care partners.

Parkinson’s disease is known for its visible symptoms, often beginning with shaking, slowness of movement and difficulty with balance, and is sometimes accompanied by depression. Without treatment, the debilitating symptoms progress over time. There is no cure.

Although Parkinson’s disease is usually associated with older adults, it can also be experienced by people in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s.

Each year, 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, along with another 1.5 million who are already affected. The Hope Parkinson Program, the only Parkinson Program based in Lee County, reaches about 500 people who have been touched by Parkinson’s, and their care partners.

Education and support are critical in the life of a person with Parkinson’s, in order to cope and maintain quality of life. During Parkinson’s Awareness Month it’s important to make the community aware that there is hope.

“People with Parkinson’s should have every opportunity to live as well as possible,” according to Hope President and CEO Samira K. Beckwith. “Along with their care partners, they can experience the fullness of life through knowledge, movement, creativity and fellowship – all important components of treatment.”
  • Exercise. A focus of the program is exercise and balance classes that help improve mood, keep muscles strong, and improve flexibility and mobility – all of which helps to reduce the risk of falls. Classes also include dance, art and music and are offered in multiple locations every month; each person participates at their individual comfort level.
  • Support groups. Education programs and discussion groups enable patients and their care partners to learn about common symptoms, pain management, and the emotional impacts of the disease.
  • Socialization. Staying active with family and friends is an important component of living with Parkinson’s disease. A large group of program participants recently enjoyed a seven-day cruise organized by the Hope Parkinson Program.
  • Education. Interactive, educational programming helps participants improve their knowledge of the disease and their quality of life. Monthly lunch-and-learn seminars provide insightful educational topics and time for socializing.

“Parkinson’s Awareness Month provides an opportunity to celebrate the tremendous progress made in the treatment of the disease, as we look forward to the discovery of a cure,” Beckwith added.

For more information about the Hope Parkinson Program, call (239) 985-7727 or visit http://hopeparkinson.org/

Samira K. Beckwith Honored with Lifetime Achievement Award

“She has made exemplary and visionary contributions in the field of health care and social work, driven by a life-long passion to help others to live a better life, even in its final chapter. Future generations will be served by her innovations.”

With that introduction, Hope HealthCare Services President and CEO Samira K. Beckwith was presented with the Knee/ Wittman Award for Lifetime Achievement in Health Practice. The award was presented by the National Association of Social Workers Foundation in Washington, DC.

The award was created to recognize those who reach the highest levels in representing the profession’s values and ethics. It is named in honor of Ruth Knee and Milton Wittman, renowned pioneers in social work who guided the development of social work policy and standards.

Beckwith’s career in social work as a “social architect” began unofficially when she was a student at The Ohio State University, where she earned her BA in Sociology and Master’s in Social Work. At that time, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease. Spending countless hours and days in the hospital, clinics and doctors’ offices with fellow patients, she realized their medical practice at the time was not advanced in regard to pain control, symptom management – and empathy. That was when she made a promise to herself to use her experience to help others live a better life, even during serious illness or in the final chapter. That promise became the foundation of her career. Since then, Beckwith has become a leader in improving and advancing health care on the local, state and national levels. She has served as President and CEO of Hope HealthCare Services since 1991.

“This is absolutely a highlight in my professional life,” Beckwith said. “My career has always been driven by my desire to make a difference and becoming a Professional Social Worker has given me that opportunity. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to make life better for others in our community.”

In conjunction with the event, Beckwith was invited to address the Social Work Policy Institute, a think tank that analyzes health care issues. Based on her own career experience, she gave insight into the essential role of the social worker in hospice care. In working to meet patient and family needs associated with end-of-life care, Beckwith said the social worker’s responsibilities are vast, as they include family education, bereavement care, home safety, assistance with financial planning, and other issues that will ensure the best care for the patient.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Conference on Aging to address the Future of Health Care, VA Benefits and Other Topics

Hope Healthcare Services will host the Ninth Annual Southwest Florida Conference on Aging, to be held in Fort Myers on Friday, April 16. The conference is sponsored by Osterhout, McKinney & Prather, P.A., Elder Law Attorneys.

The conference will provide information on a wide range of issues related to aging, including the role of the health care advocate, brain fitness and the future of health care for seniors. Other topics include accessing Veterans Administration benefits, medical errors, and holistic health.

“This year’s conference coincides with National Health Care Decisions Day,” according to Hope President and CEO Samira K. Beckwith. “Decisions Day focuses on how to make informed decisions and choices regarding future health care needs, and the conference will be extremely helpful in that regard.”

Beth Prather of Osterhout, McKinney & Prather, P.A. added, “Our elder law firm is pleased to sponsor such a quality event as the Southwest Florida Conference on Aging. This conference has earned the reputation of offering excellent opportunities for professionals in the filed to enhance their knowledge of best practices and available resources.”

The conference is presented in partnership with the Alvin A. Dubin Alzheimer’s Resource Center, Florida Gulf Coast University, United Way and Dottie Hummel Consulting.

The conference will be held at the Broadway Palm, 1380 Colonial Blvd. in Fort Myers.

To register to attend, call (239) 433-8069. The registration fee for professionals is $80, $40 for caregivers and students and $70 for United Way agencies. Continuing Education Credits are available.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Everyone Needs Facts About Advance Care Planning

April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day

In a time of serious illness, health care decisions must be made carefully and thoughtfully. Our experience at Hope has shown us that these decisions are extremely difficult in a moment of crisis, whether they are being made by the person in life’s final chapter or by their loved ones.

It is heartbreaking to see family members struggle to make choices when their loved one can no longer respond. “What should we do now?” is a question asked in despair that we have heard many times.

Questions such as this are best discussed well ahead of the time of need, making difficult choices easier. One useful document that Hope makes available for advance care planning is “Five Wishes,” which Hope makes available to patients and their families. It is a living will that addresses the patient’s personal, emotional and spiritual needs as well as their medical wishes. Using the simple forms, the patient can name a health care surrogate and make choices regarding life support.

Anyone could be affected by a life-changing illness at any time. Whether you are 21 or 91, these documents can help to insure that your health care choices and decisions are honored if you become unable to speak for yourself.

Advance care planning involves:
  • Understanding the patient’s future health care choices
  • Thinking about choices in light of what is important to the patient and family in regard to their values and beliefs
  • Discussing those decisions with physicians and loved ones
  • Preparing written documents to make the patient’s choices known

Research has shown that advance discussion about these issues results in a higher quality of life for patients and their caregivers. In one study, thirty-seven percent of the patients interviewed said they had end-of-life discussions with their physician, and a number of specific benefits were noted:

  • No increase in their rates of depression or worry
  • Lower rates of ventilation and resuscitation
  • Fewer admissions to the intensive care unit

Health benefits such as these bring peace of mind to the patients’ loved ones. For that reason, the most often-heard comment from families in our care is, “We wish we had known about hospice earlier.” By having these conversations, everyone can become more aware of the care that will be available at the moment it is actually needed. Decision-making will be easier.

Discussion about preparing for future health care needs and wishes with patients who have a life-changing illness provides a gift of time and peace of mind by allowing for resolution. It gives the patient time to make choices regarding care while still able to communicate.

The ongoing debate over healthcare reform has made it quite clear that America’s families need accurate reliable information about advance care planning in order to make informed choices before the time of need. Now more than ever, people need information about preparing for their future health care needs and wishes.

April 16, National Healthcare Decisions Day, is a time to raise public awareness and inform others about the necessity of advance care planning. The effort is supported by Hope and other healthcare organizations, along with the American Medical Association and the American Bar Association. An essential part of Hope’s outreach efforts is to clearly explain advance care planning and to stress the value it to the patient and family members. Honoring each persons wishes and choices have always been integral to the Hope philosophy of care.

At Hope, we will continue to provide accurate information to help everyone understand the value and importance of advance care planning. It can make a significant difference.

Please call us at (800) 835-1673 or fill out a form for a free copy of Five Wishes.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Hope Healthcare CEO makes advocacy her business

Originally published in Fort Myers News-Press Grandeur

Her first bout with cancer, when she was 24 years old, taught Lee's Hope Healthcare Services Samira Beckwith about power at a true grass-roots level. She was in the second year of a master's program in industrial psychology when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease. It was the era, she says, when people still whispered the word "cancer," and when physicians thought that what the patients didn't know about their diagnosis and disease wouldn't hurt them.

Her first bout with cancer, when she was 24 years old, taught Lee's Hope Healthcare Services Samira Beckwith about power at a true grass-roots level. She was in the second year of a master's program in industrial psychology when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease. It was the era, she says, when people still whispered the word "cancer," and when physicians thought that what the patients didn't know about their diagnosis and disease wouldn't hurt them.

"People were well-meaning; people were kind," she says. "But I thought about what I really disliked about the way everyone was treated as objects and diseases."

As Beckwith looked around at her fellow oncology patients (10 scheduled at once with one doctor, she remembers), she saw that the problems weren't with the people but the system.

Today, she's responsible for having changed much of what's typical about end-of-life, or hospice, care. This is true not only locally, in her position as CEO but as a national thought leader on the subject, having testified before Congress about end-of-life care and having held high-profile national association positions.

None of it happened according to plan, which was perhaps the secret path to her current leadership role.

"I prefer the word 'responsibility' to 'power,'" Beckwith says, but if she does wield influence, it's because of the way she's handled the unexpected and not from any five-year plan. If she hadn't had Hodgkin's disease, she wouldn't have gone into health care, says Beckwith, who is also a breast cancer survivor. It freed her in a way, too, she says, to be her authentic self.

"I always wanted to be like everyone else," says Beckwith, from the time she came here as a young child with her parents from Lebanon. Battling her disease, talking to other patients, she came to realize, she says, that "Everybody isn't like everybody else. When you get to know people, you find out they have their own story."

She doesn't count on the solidity of man-made plans. For Beckwith, chance is another word for opportunity.

"Things happen. The only things we can control are our actions," Beckwith says.

Every experience is a learning experience, and everyone holds power.

"Go out in the morning and decide that you're going to smile at everyone-they'll smile back," she says, adding "Wouldn't it be a different world?"