Rotary Club hosts Hospice presentation

Hospice of Acadiana’s Medical Education Coordinator and Community Relations Coordinator, Tiffany Steward gave a presentation all about Hospice of Acadiana and hospices in general at Tuesday’s Crowley Rotary Club luncheon.

Steward began with a brief history of the program which was started by Cicely Saunders. Steward quickly pointed out that Hospice of Acadiana was the first hospice in the state and the first to be Medicare certified in the country. It is also the only non-profit hospice in Acadiana.

Hospice of Acadiana serves 9 parishes in it’s 50-mile radius.

She then moved to what exactly the organization is and does. Hospice as we know it, according to Steward, is for people who want to die with dignity and with people around them. However, she also stated that “dying with dignity” encompasses a lot of things. Steward pointed to their mission statement to prove that.

“When I first really got started in hospice, I often go up to our CEO at the time and ask him, ‘What about this or that,’ and his answer was always the same, ‘Are they comfortable? That’s all that matters.’,” said Steward.

Steward said that while making sure the patient is comfortable is their bottom line, they also hope to maintain or even sometimes improve the patient’s quality of life during their time with them.

She went over the admissions process with the Rotary Club, pointing out that Hospice of Acadiana hasn’t changed their admission standards in a long time. For hospice to take over, the patient must have a life expectancy of six months or less; the patient, his or her family and physician must all be in agreement over move to hospice care; the patient must live in the service area, of course and there must be a caregiver for the patient willing to assume responsibility.

The final criteria element led to Lafayette Parish creating a program called “No One Dies Alone” for those people who had no one to keep a constant vigil with them like most do. Steward pointed out that the amount of weight caregivers feel, particularly nurses, is great and a driving factor for the program’s creation.

Steward also went over hospice’s referral process, patient profile and levels of care. She also discussed the many myths that surround hospice care.

“The biggest one has to be that hospice stops all your medicine,” she said. “We look at what provides comfort and what is adding to the discomfort. You know those side effects you hear on TV with each medicine? That’s what we focus on.”

While on the subject of myths, Steward also joked about another myth hospice faces, that they take all your money.

“I’d say that’s true, but we’re a non-profit. We don’t see that money at the end-of-the day.”

In fact, Steward pointed to many programs, especially many of the grief counseling programs, that are not reimbursed through normal paysources like private insurance or Medicare and Medicaid.

Throughout the presentation, Steward used many personal stories to illustrate her points, including how she ultimately became involved with Hospice of Acadiana.

“I was lucky, at about age 12 I had a good experience with a hospice. My uncle was dying of colon cancer and hospice did such a good job with his wife, my aunt.”

When she did a quick poll, an overwhelming number of members said they had some dealings with a hospice group before.

Hospice of Acadiana currently has about 400 volunteers. But to volunteer, people must first go through a training seminar with the group as well as pass a background check and tuberculosis test.

“We don’t just take anyone as volunteers. But always welcome anyone from different walks of life because everyone has their own area that they can help in.”

The Hospice of Acadiana office is located in Lafayette.

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