Taking advantage of hospice

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FREMONT, Neb. Medical experts across the country say people are not taking advantage of hospice care. And when they do - it's usually too late. Serese Cole explains in this month's Health Check.

No one likes unfinished business.

"Crocheted dolls. crocheted pillow cases…you name it - it was crocheted," said Kathy Butler.

Crocheting is a process that takes time, and Lois Ransford dedicated thousands of hours to her labor of love.

"She always made an afghan for every wedding, " explained her granddaughter.

Grandma Lois started working on her great grandson's wedding afghan the day she learned she had stage four cancer. The cancer had already spread to her brain. The family called hospice.

"They helped us get the things in the house that she needed…on the medication (she needed) to kind of shrink the swelling in the brain, Butler said. "They moved us into these beautiful suites and all of us could be around her - and with her."

Grandma Lois benefited from hospice care for nearly three months. But her case manager, Jay Kment, says the stay for most patients is two week or less.

"The biggest issue I see is lack of knowledge of hospice - families thinking this is the end,' explained Kment, R.N. Case Manager with Fremont Health Hospice.

He says hospice isn't meant for the final days. It's intended for the last months of life. Longer stays allow patients to take advantage of pain management, emotional and spiritual support . There's also support for the family.

"We come in and kind of hopefully create some calmness," Kment said. "It's more traumatic for the families when everything just happens all at once versus a slower period at end a life."

"Hospice at Dunklau Gardens at Fremont Health has a very unique feature. It's called Project wish. The goal is to fulfill every hospice patients' wish while in their care." said Serese Cole.

Everyone knew Grandma Lois's wish.

"If you ask anyone is this place - she was going to finish the afghan," Butler shared. "But God had a bigger plan - she didn't get it done."

She didn't, but hospice did.

"Pastor Jeff here with hospice took it home that day - the day she passed," Butler remembered.

He gave it to his wife, and using Lois's hooks - she tied up the loose threads.

"Brought it back to me the next morning," Butler said with a smile.

Finishing what Lois started.. a gift for her great grandson and a tangible sign of the support and care she received in her final hours.

...all thanks to hospice.

Some families avoid hospice services because they fear the cost. But hospice managers at Fremont Health say money should not be a factor. Medicare covers hospice patient expenses for 6 months - as long as patients meet the criteria.

The good news is hospice stay numbers are getting better at Dunklau Gardens at Fremont Health. The average length of stay in 2014 was eight days. Last year that number doubled to 16.