INDIANOLA, Iowa – Most people think when you enter hospice, death is not far away. But, that isn't always the case. Doctors say the comfort care may benefit patients sooner than you think.
Naomi Grimes and Kelly Sheldon seem like two friends having a regular conversation, but they have a unique relationship. "They have all been so supportive, and Kelly being my main nurse is very supportive to say we're here for your comfort," said Grimes.
Grimes entered hospice through WesleyLife in June. "I was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer and given three months to a year to live," she said.
Doctors said she could go through chemotherapy and surgery or opt for comfort care, also known as hospice. "Hospice can be a very scary word for people who don't understand it. Sometimes people think if you're in hospice, you are giving up hope," said Sheldon.
Sheldon, a registered nurse with WesleyLife Hospice, visits Grimes' home one to three times a week. She checks vital signs, disease progression and coordinates therapies to make sure Grimes is as comfortable as possible.
"We have social workers, we have nurses, we have pet therapy, music therapy, massage therapy. The whole idea is to look at the whole patient, emotional, physical and spiritual care of the patient for whatever time they have left," said Dr. Kathleen Jones, Internal Medicine Physician at The Iowa Clinic and Medical Director of WesleyLife Hospice.
Since hospice care is meant for the end of life, doctors say it makes people uncomfortable and patients often wait too long to talk to their families about it.
Dr. Jones said, "Sometimes our patients are there for one, two days, sometimes two weeks, when really it's a six month or longer process. We actually have a couple patients that have been in hospice and then they're discharged from hospice, but it's all about the type of care you can receive when you're in hospice."
Grimes is happy she talked to her family about hospice right away and they supported her decision. "It's a learning procedure, and if you've never been faced with a terminal situation, it's a little tough to take. But, I've got it, so I'll go from there."
November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month and doctors say patients with a terminal illness should ask about hospice and consider getting evaluated to see if end of life care is appropriate.