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Bridging the Gaps
By Barbara Ivanko

Betty cherished the early daylight pouring through her window at the long term care facility she had called home for eight years.

When the weather was nice, she ventured outside, crossed the small bridge that spanned the courtyard pond, and enjoy the morning rays in the patio that she had come to frequent.

Things have been different lately, though. Diagnosed at the beginning the year with congestive heart failure, and facing declining mobility, Betty and her family engaged the services of Family Hospice and Palliative Care.

Thanks to a new regulation from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the same decision Betty's family made should be just as easy for residents of any long term care community.

Barbara Ivanko

The new rules from CMS, which took effect at the end of August, govern how hospices and long term care facilities provide care for patients who choose hospice under the Hospice Medicare Benefit. The benefit is an entitlement to all Medicare Part A beneficiaries. The purpose of the changes is to improve coordination of care between hospices and long term care facilities, resulting in better quality of life and delivery of services for patients who select hospice care. It also contains a provision that ensures that long term care facilities honor the patient's right to choose hospice, and to receive care from the hospice of their choice. This is important because not every hospice is the same. Each has its own philosophy of care and range of services. Family Hospice offers services beyond the minimum requirements of Medicare.

Family Hospice embraces the new rule, as it assures better communication among the long term care facility, patient, and the hospice chosen by the patient. CMS realized that nationwide, hospices and long term care facilities were not always on the same page. In some cases there was duplication of services – and in others, gaps in service and care.

As experts in end-of-life care, Family Hospice works with long term care providers to determine the best plan of care for those facing a life-limiting illness. It's our goal to have as many people as possible cross that bridge and enjoy the sunrise.

To change gears a bit, I am thrilled to come to Pittsburgh as Family Hospice's new President & CEO. I gained my hospice experience in Florida – and that is where I developed my passion for end-of-life care. I look forward to keeping in touch with you via this column.

Barbara Ivanko is President and CEO of Family Hospice and Palliative Care. She may be reached at bivanko@familyhospice.com or (412) 572-8800. Family Hospice and Palliative Care is a non-profit organization serving nine counties in Western Pennsylvania. More information at www.FamilyHospice.com and www.facebook.com/FamilyHospicePA.

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