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At Community LIFE, End of Life Care Is Exquisite
By Nancy Kennedy

Maria DePasqualeIn a region that is blessed with many topnotch medical facilities, it is not difficult to find excellence in healthcare. Excellence can mean care that is highly skilled, delivered by the most proficient professionals using the latest technology and pharmaceuticals, with great attention to quality, patient safety and satisfaction. But among the region’s outstanding medical services, there is one truly exceptional setting where the care actually transcends mere excellence. That is Community LIFE, a community-based, comprehensive program of services for frail older adults, where the care is nothing less than exquisite.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “exquisite” as that which is marked by flawless craftsmanship or elaborate execution, perfected, with deep sensitivity and subtle understanding. That pretty much sums up the caring environment of Community LIFE, where a passionately dedicated staff of physicians, nurses, therapists, aides, social workers, nutritionist and chaplains provide care that is person-centered, holistic, relationship-driven and deeply humane. Community LIFE provides frail, chronically ill older adults with medical and support services that enable them to remain in their own homes, despite medical and functional challenges. Whether their need is for primary care, rehab, or specialty care, Community LIFE participants are always given care that is practical, thoughtfully designed and highly individualized, provided with recognition of personal needs, values, and history. This approach is evident in every aspect of the organizations services, and it takes on even greater meaning in the palliative care program.

Maria DePasquale, RN, CHPN, Palliative Services Manager, explains the Community LIFE philosophy. “At Community LIFE, we believe that care has to be individualized to be truly high quality. We get to know our participants and their families well; they remain in our care through their lives, until the end of their lives. We know what their values are and what they want for themselves. People come in as participants, and never leave. You don’t get transferred to a new set of caregivers. There is continuity here and this makes a difference.”

With 41 years of nursing experience including several years in critical care, DePasquale has witnessed the evolution of end-of-life care first hand. “In the past, it was common practice to continue treatments while patients begged us to let them die. Today we have palliative and hospice care; we can offer possibilities and options to people. At Community LIFE, our palliative care team and their primary team teaches patients and families about the choices and resources that they have and may not know about. We help people understand the breadth of treatment options and the impact of those options on their quality of life. It’s empowering. The healthcare system can be intimidating, and many people lack the confidence to ask questions or disagree. It’s easy to passively accept whatever you are told, even when you feel that it’s not the best thing for you or for your loved one. At different times of life, different kinds of care are needed.”

The palliative care team provides “pre-palliative” care to the chronically ill, and palliative care to those who are seriously ill, with a diminished quality of life. The care is provided by a team of professionals from various disciplines who work together and blend their expertise; the team collaborates with the patient and family as equal partners. “Our care improves quality of life. This entire organization is trained in palliative and end of life care. We are a close team and we are all experienced and dedicated. Our work is physical, emotional and spiritual; we give our hearts and souls. All staff are generalists and my team is the specialist group who give additional support. When a patient is very ill and admitted to the hospital, they still have their original caregivers and we are an added layer of support. We provide guidance; we review the choices and help with the difficult conversations. Our two chaplains play a vital role.”

Most people want to remain in their own homes at the end of life, DePasquale says, and Community LIFE’s palliative care team specializes in enabling them to do so. “This is what we do best, and we are creative in finding ways to do it. It takes three things to keep a person at home: 1) they must want to be home; 2) they must have a caregiver; 3) they must have a medical team trained to provide care, education and support at the end of life.  When they remain in the comfort and familiarity of home, they have quality of life to the very end of life.”

To learn more about Community LIFE, visit www.commlife.org or call 1-866-419-1693.

Community LIFE is an alternative to nursing home care. The program is available at five day health centers. Services include medical, vision, dental and podiatry care, plus physical and occupational therapy and care coordination. Each location has a day health center. Medications are provided, with no co-pays to qualified individuals. Transportation is provided, not only to and from the day center, but also to medical appointments.

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