Life-changing illness impacts every member of the household — and deciding that it’s time to bring help into your home can be a difficult decision. On top of that, you have questions, concerns, and all kinds of emotions to manage as you navigate this period in your and your loved one’s life.
That’s where we come in.
The best care for your loved one starts with the right experts. At VNS Health, we have the care teams, the skills, and the sensitivity to meet your family’s needs — no matter where you are in your home care journey.
Your VNS Health care team will step in to help make life manageable, whether that means overseeing (and explaining) dietary modifications, addressing side effects and symptoms, assisting with light housekeeping chores that are simply too much for your loved one to physically manage, or all of the above.
VNS Health understands that:
- Emotional, physical, and financial stress are often associated with needing in-home care and community support.
- You and your loved ones live in the real world, and you’re already dealing with all of life’s ups and downs.
- You have questions — and you need answers you can trust.
- You and your loved one still want to live your best lives possible.
Home Care Teams
When it comes to choosing a provider to care for your loved one, you have every right to be picky. At VNS Health, we have the resources, knowledge, clinical expertise, and compassion to provide you with the right care teams, so you can feel confident in your decision.
VNS Health works closely with your loved one’s physician to come up with a customized plan of care. We’ll meet with you and your loved one to determine the right level of care. Then we’ll put together a home care team to meet your family’s needs.
Who’s Who on the Home Care Team
Depending on the care you require, your care team might include the following experts:
Home Care Nurse
In most cases, a registered nurse (RN) will oversee the care plan and take care of your loved one’s medical needs, such as giving medications and cleaning wounds. Home care nurses also help you and your loved one understand their condition and follow the necessary care plan.
Your home care nurse will work with you to set appointments for other members of your care team. If your care team includes a home health aide, or if you pay privately for home health aide services, an RN will supervise them.
Your care team may also include a licensed practical nurse. In some cases, a nurse with special training may be brought in. These nurses can help with wounds that are not healing. They can also help you manage diseases like diabetes or heart failure, or with mental health issues.
At VNS Health, our RNs keep your loved one’s physician up to date on any changes in their condition.
Private nursing care is also available from VNS Health. Private care is home care that goes beyond services covered by medical insurance — either for short-term assistance or ongoing long-term care. It’s designed to meet your loved one’s unique needs.
With the help of rehabilitation therapists, your loved one can begin regaining the skills they need to function in everyday life.
Rehabilitation therapists help as your loved one recovers after a stroke, injury, illness, or surgery.
- Physical therapists help develop strength, flexibility, balance, and coordination. Your physical therapist might help your loved one with walking or regaining use of a shoulder.
- Occupational therapists help with the fine motor skills required to perform activities of daily living, such as buttoning a shirt or shaving.
- Speech-language pathologists help with regaining the ability to speak and understand speech. They can also help with strengthening the muscles of the face, mouth, and neck to improve the ability to chew and swallow and to help prevent choking.
Medical Social Workers
Medical social workers assess physical, functional, emotional, environmental, and social needs. They can also offer strategies and resources for emotional, financial, or social support.
Certified Home Health Aides
Certified home health aides provide assistance with personal care (such as bathing, dressing, or meal preparation), help keep track of symptoms, and check vital signs under specific circumstances. They can also escort your loved one to and from medical appointments.
Although certified home health aides cannot measure or give medications, they can remind your loved one to take them.
Private-pay home health aides are also available from VNS Health. They can provide companionship and assistance beyond what insurance covers, whether that means longer hours, extended services, or both.
Hospice Care Teams
Caring for a very sick loved one is challenging — both physically and emotionally. With VNS Health, you will have compassionate experts you can rely on. The members of your hospice care team work together to see that your loved one’s last months are as comfortable as can be, so they can enjoy the best quality of life possible.
Keep in mind that when you use hospice care, you (or another family member or close friend) will always be the primary caregiver. Your VNS Health hospice care team will support you, answer your questions, and give you the information you need to feel confident as you care for your loved one.
Our hospice care team members will always respect your and your loved one’s wishes, and they can provide guidance as you make decisions about care. In an emergency, you can call our 24/7 caregiver helpline at any time to speak to a hospice nurse.
Who’s Who on the Hospice Care Team
Here are the core members of your hospice care team:
VNS Health hospice nurses are the main contact person on a hospice care team. Your nurse will:
- Check your loved one’s vital signs at every visit and manage any pain or other symptoms.
- Coordinate all hospice services and manage other members of your care team.
- Make sure you have all the supplies and medications your loved one needs.
Hospice nurses know that caring for someone nearing the end of life can be overwhelming. Your nurse can answer questions you or your loved one may have. Your nurse will make sure that you have the information you need to provide the best care possible and that you know what to expect as your loved one’s health changes.
Nurses in our hospice program may be nurse practitioners, registered nurses, or licensed practical nurses.
Home Health Aide
Certified home health aides can help your loved one with personal care, such as bathing, toileting, and dressing. Aides can also prepare meals, assist with feeding, keep track of your loved one’s symptoms, and, in some cases, check vital signs.
Aides cannot give medications, but they can remind your loved one when to take them.
Because home health aides are usually the care team members who spend the most time with your loved one, they play a critical role. For example, the aide may be the first to notice a small change in your loved one that’s a sign of a bigger problem. Your aide will alert your hospice nurse so that your loved one gets attention right away.
Social workers assist as your family copes with the present and prepares for the future. They can guide you and your loved one in making decisions. For instance, if family members disagree about what is best for the patient, the social worker may be able to show you ways to make it easier to come to a decision.
Your social worker is also available to help with practical matters and paperwork. For example, they can answer questions as you fill out insurance forms and draw up advance directives, and they can connect you with useful organizations, such as Meals on Wheels.
Spiritual Care Counselor
As your loved one nears the end of life, they may question their values, beliefs, or faith. They may have unfinished business that they need to take care of, want to explore how to leave a legacy for loved ones, or wish to have meaningful experiences with people they love. Spiritual care counselors will listen without judging and assist your loved one in their search for meaning and hope.
Spiritual care counselors are available to hospice patients and families of all values, beliefs, and heritages. They can also arrange a ritual that honors your personal or spiritual beliefs or your religious or cultural heritage.
You can ask for a visit from a spiritual care counselor at any point while your loved one is in hospice care.
Every VNS Health hospice care team includes a hospice physician who is board certified in hospice and palliative medicine. Hospice physicians consult with the care team and oversee medical care related to your loved one’s hospice diagnosis. Because your loved one’s personal provider will continue to be their primary provider while they are on hospice care, the hospice physician will communicate with them.
Bereavement counselors help families make sense of painful emotions. After your loved one has passed away, bereavement counselors are available to you and your family for 13 months to help you through the milestones of the first year.
Grief support is available at any time during this 13-month period.
Hospice volunteers make an important contribution to the care that VNS Health provides to hospice patients and their families. Some ways volunteers can support your loved one include:
- Providing companionship by visiting them in person or calling them on the phone
- Reading to them
- Watching their favorite TV show with them
- Giving them massages
- Bringing pets for therapy visits
- Simply listening to their thoughts during this period in their life
Hospice volunteers can also update extended family on a patient’s condition by setting up websites or making phone calls.
Finally, if family and friends are unavailable, our specially trained vigil volunteers can sit by the bedside of a patient in their final moments.
Hospice Care Team Specialists
Your VNS Health hospice care team will meet regularly to discuss your loved one’s care plan and, if necessary, make changes to it. If your loved one needs additional services, the care team may expand to include other specialists, such as:
A physical therapist can assess your loved one’s mobility (how they move around) to help them stay safe. They can also show you how to help your loved one do simple stretches to reduce stiffness — and show you how to avoid hurting yourself or your loved one when you help them out of bed or up from a chair.
An occupational therapist can help your loved one with fine motor skills so they can still do some things on their own, such as brushing their teeth or getting dressed.
Speech-language pathologists specialize in strengthening the muscles of the face, mouth, and neck. This is important for hospice patients so they can chew and swallow safely and avoid choking.
Diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and heart failure can cause severe shortness of breath, so patients enrolled in VNS Health’s COPD Hospice Care or Cardiac Hospice Care program often have a respiratory therapist on their care team.
However, a respiratory therapist may also be called in to assist patients with any hospice illness. They can set up equipment and recommend ways to help your loved one to breathe more easily. They can also give your loved one tools to help calm the anxiety and panic that breathing difficulties can cause.
Wound Care Specialty Nurse
People sometimes suffer wounds from their disease or just from being bedbound. With VNS Health hospice, your loved one has access to specialized advanced practice nurses who are certified in caring for wounds. These nurses are available to consult with your hospice care team or to provide your loved one with bedside care when necessary.
Liaisons in our Veterans Hospice Care program are veterans themselves, so they understand how military service — especially in combat — can affect a person. Liaisons listen to each veteran’s story. They can also provide information about benefits for veterans and can work directly with the Veterans Administration.
It is normal for a person at the end of life to lose their appetite or to stop enjoying their favorite foods. If you become worried about your loved one’s appetite, a registered dietitian can suggest foods that may be more appealing and easier to chew and swallow.