“We really believe in neighbors helping neighbors,” prefaced Diana Hergenrader, executive & clinical director at Heart ‘n Home Hospice in La Pine. “Our amazing staff can bring comfort at the end-of-life journey, educate family members about taking care of their loved ones, and provide emotional and spiritual support.”
A registered nurse for 30 years, 23 of them in Central Oregon, Hergenrader said that “one of our biggest challenges is educating people – even medical providers – about what hospice is. A common misconception is that a hospice nurse comes to the house with a lot of medications and most family with say “a big syringe of morphine” to treat a patient, and three days later, that person has died.
“On the contrary, we’re there to make clients comfortable. And we’re all about patient choice. ‘This is your end-of-life journey,’ we explain. ‘Tell me what you want it to look like.’ Nor do we judge our clients,” she added. “We come into their homes. love and take care of them, and accept who they are. Heart ‘n Home educates that hospice is about living and affirming their life. Our goal is to get patients on services with hospice sooner so they can complete their bucket list.”
To qualify for Heart ‘n Home’s services, a person must have been given an end-of-life diagnosis or have a life-limiting condition, and want to manage their symptoms at home through what Hergenrader calls comfort care. “There is no time limit,” she specified. “The average length a person is in hospice nationwide is 29 days – but we’ve had patients for as long as three years.”
Another qualifier is that the disease or condition is progressing, or going through its natural process, as signaled by symptoms such as increasing shortness of breath, increased pain or having increased more difficulties completing activities of daily living. “Often people don’t admit to their doctor what is going on, or the information isn’t relayed. And different diseases have different progressions, so many patients do not that hospice could be an option of health care for them.
“That’s where a visit at the patient’s home comes in. We can use our eyes, ears and noses to accurately gauge the situation, and determine how much assistance is needed in terms of taking care of finances, administering medication and carrying out the activities of daily living. We also do a lot of educating about available resources such as Meals on Wheels, and qualifying for Medicaid. We’re only here to help – and we only help if clients will let us.”
Hergenrader emphasized that “we are always honest, including those times when it’s necessary to tell patients that they can no longer drive, must use their oxygen more often, or highly recommend that start a certain medication to assist with their symptom management. ‘We have to have a hard conversation, we care about you and we can’t help you if we are not honest,’ is how we phrase it.” Our team always makes it clear they have choices, this is their journey not ours.
Heart ‘n Home, a family-owned organization with eight offices in Idaho and Oregon, is paid 100 percent by Medicare. Patients are accepted whether or not they have insurance, and incur no charges, even for most medication and equipment such as oxygen tanks, wheelchairs and hospital beds.
“One aspect that differentiates us, is our desire to become a community partner,” said Hergenrader. “Of our 11 employees, 10 live in La Pine, and are invested in the area. We’ve become a safety zone – from answering questions to providing extra medical supplies and equipment such as walkers and wheelchairs from the hodge-podge we’ve accumulated – all of which are free to the community to borrow.
“In making any decision, while the priority is always the patient first, our employees are right behind. The result is a retention rate of 93 percent, and a winning equation: happy employees equal amazing care.”
Newberry Eagle Editor, La Pine, Oregon