Hope and hospice: CEO, nursing officer talk compassionate care

Feb. 26—ASHLAND — Given the news of former President Jimmy Carter entering hospice care, Community Hospice in Ashland has fielded an influx of calls and inquiries, according to the organization's marketing and community outreach director.

Beth Taylor said the same care Carter is under has been available in the area through Community Hospice since 1979.

For 30 years, hospice care was solely at home or in nursing homes, and then the care center opened in 2008. There are 15 beds in the care center on Pollard Road. Community Hospice's staff — which consists of 110 employees, according to Chief Clinical and Nursing Officer Lori Ison — is currently caring for 140-150 patients a day.

"So the vast majority are either in their own home or at a long-term care facility," Ison said.

When Community Hospice CEO Rod Hieneman learned a great deal about hospice when his father died in 2020, he said.

Hieneman and Ison spoke to The Daily Independent on Friday in hopes of dispelling myths surrounding hospice care.

"We'd love to speak to folks and educate the community about hospice," Hieneman said. "This Jimmy Carter opportunity is perfect for us to go out to speak to groups."

Ison said one of the major misconceptions is thinking when one enters hospice care, that death is imminent.

"When people hear 'hospice,' they think people are going to die tomorrow, but we're really set up for a six-month process," Ison said. "A lot of people say, 'my goodness, we wish we would've had you sooner.'"

Studies show patients live longer in hospice are than out of it, Ison said, citing a specific example. Patients with heart disease live an average of 82 days longer in hospice care, Ison said.

"A lot of these patients are getting better care than they did before, between caregivers and nurses," Hieneman said. "A lot of them rebound because of awesome care here."

Ison said a common question is the following: What makes a patient appropriate for Hospice?

While physician consent is necessary, a family care initiate the process of obtaining hospice care. Hospice keeps communication lines open with physicians.

Hieneman said Community Hospice provides care in seven counties, including five in Kentucky and Lawrence and Scioto in Ohio.

"This place, it never stops," he said. "I think it's important to realize how available we are."

Ison said Community Hospice isn't just for elderly people.

She added that most patients don't have cancer, contrary to popular belief. About 30% of hospice patients have been diagnosed with cancer. Lung disease and heart disease are other primary diagnoses.

Ison said "we try to make it as homey as we can" for the patient, whether in the care center or at home.

Community Hospice offers bereavement services for families, too, after a loved one dies. It's not just limited to patients' families, Ison said.

"We follow up with their family for 13 months following the death," Ison said. "If somebody needs a little more, we can provide little more."

"Hospice is for the patient, but also for the family," Hieneman added.

Ashland Mayor Matt Perkins proclaimed Feb. 23 Hospice Employee Day, shortly after a board member's mother passed away, Hieneman said.

"That was pretty cool," Hieneman said. "It was heartfelt."

Visit chospice.org or call (606) 329-1890 for more information about Community Hospice.