If you or someone you know is experiencing the holidays for the first time without a loved one, it is important to remember it is going to be challenging. Even for those whose loss happened long ago, the holidays can bring grief back to the surface.
Because SSM Health at Home recognizes the holidays can be difficult for those who are grieving, we hold “Grief Through the Holidays” support groups in many of the communities we serve. These groups are offered at no cost and are open to adults. Find a group near you.
Early admission to hospice can improve quality of life
Many people at end-of-life wish to stay at home surrounded by the people and things they love. Hospice can help make that wish a reality, providing physical, emotional and spiritual care to both patients and their families.
However many potentially eligible patients never have the opportunity to experience this special type of care either because they do not seek hospice services at all or because they do not seek them soon enough.
Early admission can help patients maintain their best quality of life and help them remain at home. Learn more.
Like many of our employees, patients and neighbors, SSM Health at Home was affected by the recent flooding. Due to the rising water, our Reedsburg office was closed to the public from August 30 to September 4, 2018.
When an event like this occurs the well-being of our patients becomes our focus. We have emergency preparedness plans in place to make sure our patients continue to receive the care they need. Patients in affected areas were identified and contact was made to ensure their safety. Staff continued to make home visits and deliveries to everyone they were physically able to get to, navigating road closures and detours as needed.
Our team did incredible work to provide assistance to our patients and each other. We would like to thank everyone involved for the resilience and compassion demonstrated across our organization.
The images below were taken outside our Reedsburg location (164 Second Street) in the days following the flooding.
SAFE at Home
Preventing falls is much more effective than treating their results. The goal of SAFE at Home is to help people live falls free at home. Learn more.
Get your tickets
Spirit of Life 2018
Mark your calendars for December 6, 2018, and plan to join us at the Kalahari in Wisconsin Dells for Spirit of Life. All proceeds from the event support the SSM Health Hospice House Resident Fund which provides assistance with room and board fees for patients staying at the House. Buy your tickets now!
Heels for Meals
On August 23 guests joined us at the Discovery Center in Madison for an elegant evening of dining, dancing and donating in support of our Meals On Wheels program.
The event, hosted by NBC15’s John Stofflet and Amy Pflugshaupt raised more than $21,000 which will provide about 2,600 meals.
SSM Health at Home’s hospice helps keep patients at home
Thinking about hospice can be overwhelming for patients and their families. However the sooner an eligible patient is admitted to hospice, the sooner our care team can begin treating symptoms, managing pain and providing support.
Most hospice patients prefer to remain at home surrounded by the people and things they love. SSM Health at Home helps make that happen, helping patients achieve the best quality of life possible for however long they are in our care.
Sharing Helen’s stories
SSM Health at Home provides so much more than physical care to our patients and their families. It is an honor and privilege to be allowed to join an individual’s end of life journey. Each person’s journey is as unique as they, and so our care is tailored to each and every patient. For hospice patient Helen, sharing stories was a way for her to connect with caregivers and our staff.
At SSM Health at Home we are proud to offer our patients a selection of home-based health services designed to keep people at home. From skilled nursing to telehealth monitoring, chronic disease management to post-surgical care, our home health services are here to help you heal at home.
Our dedicated team coordinates with physicians, nurses and specialists to create individual care plans for patients that help treat and improve chronic conditions, support those recovering from an injury or illness, or assist people healing from surgery.
SSM Health at Home provides support to patients of all ages, providing compassionate care that travels from our home to yours.
Don’t let sleep apnea keep you awake at night
A good night’s sleep is important not just for our mood, but for our overall health. Sleep apnea is a relatively common condition that impacts not only a person’s quality of sleep, but left untreated, can have detrimental effects on their health.
Doing all the good we can with the help of our donors
Every day, through every gift that is given, our donors help our Foundation do all the good we can.
Last fall, a donor wanted to give her Green Bay Packers tickets to a patient in our care. Due to her generosity, we were able to grant a wish for a hospice patient and his family. When we asked the donor why she had chosen to do this, she quoted John Wesley.
“Do all the good you can, by all means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”
We later learned the patient’s family chose to share the sentiment with all who knew him by printing the quote on his funeral program.
Through your gift to our Foundation you can help us to continue to do all the good we can, by all the means we can, in all the places we can, at all the times we can, for all the people we can, as long as ever we can.
Our donors impact the lives of every senior who receives a noon meal through our Meals On Wheels program, to every family who spends final days together at our Hospice House, and to each hospice patient who plays cards with a fellow veteran volunteer through our We Honor Veterans program. Every day, through every gift that is given, a life is touched by the generosity of our donors.
Please join us in doing all the good we can, by all the means we can, in all the places we can, at all the times we can, for all the people we can, as long as ever we can. Donate today.
Save the Date – Heels for Meals
Save the date on August 23, 2018, and join us for the inaugural Heels for Meals event in support of our Meals On Wheels program.
Held at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery in downtown Madison, the evening will feature a four-course meal, music, dancing and much more.
Wendy has been with SSM Health At Home for almost 28 years and has held various positions within the company. In her current role as Scheduler at our Madison East office, Wendy meets challenges head-on and solving problems quickly to ensure her co-workers have a positive day. Wendy brings a cheerful and positive attitude to the office and is always willing to go above and beyond for everyone. She is a team player and a great asset to SSM Health At Home.
What do you enjoy most about working for SSM Health at Home?
My co-workers. I work with a great group of people who are always willing to work together and help each other out. I also enjoy helping our patients over the phone when they call.
What does employee of the month mean to you?
To me, it means a lot. It means my co-workers feel I do my job the best I can, that I listen to them and work with them to make everyone’s job easier. That they know I’m a team player. That I’m here to help in any way I can.
When you’re not at SSM health at home, what do you enjoy doing?
Spending time with my family and my ten grandkids. Reading, photography, crafts, gardening, going to zoos or anything with animals, and going places I haven’t been to and seeing new things.
When we lose a loved one each of us embarks on our own personal journey through grief. Although we never stop missing the person we have lost, over time we learn how to live without our loved one physically in our life. Certain days, however, can elicit stronger emotions than others. Special days like birthdays, anniversaries, and of course holidays can make us feel our grief more acutely.
Making it through the holidays without a loved one can be difficult, but there are some things you can do to manage your grief more effectively.
Accept the holidays will be painful. Just acknowledging it is going to be difficult can provide you with the strength to cope.
Prepare and plan ahead. Think about what you are and are not capable of this year. It is okay to lower your expectations and skip certain activities or traditions that are too painful. Consider starting a new tradition, perhaps something to honor your loved one. Whatever you decide, do what feels best for you.
Ask for support. While family and friends can be a great resource, there is value in talking to others who have experienced a loss similar to yours. Grief support groups offer you the opportunity to connect with people who are standing in your shoes, talk about your feelings, and hear stories about how others are handling their grief.
Because SSM Health at Home recognizes the holidays can be difficult for those who are grieving, we hold “Grief Through the Holidays” support groups in many of the communities we serve. These groups are offered at no cost and are open to adults.
Grief Through the Holidays Single session group focused on dealing with grief through the holiday season. Group is intended for adults. No registration required.
Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospitalization in people 65+. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control more than a quarter of older adults fall each year. Of those falls, one in five causes a serious injury. While many falls don’t cause injuries, falling once doubles your chances of falling again, and fear of falling may lead people to cut down on everyday activities. However, a decrease in activity can mean an increase in weakness which actually increases future risk.
The best thing you can do to prevent injury is to avoid falling in the first place. There are many steps you can take to help prevent falls.
Talk to your doctor. Less than half of people who fall every year tell their doctor. Being open about falls or the fear of falling with your health care team gives them the opportunity to evaluate your risk and recommend specific things you can do to decrease it.
Mind your medications. Some medications, or combinations of medications, can have side effects such as dizziness or drowsiness making falls more likely. Make sure each of your providers know about all the medicines you take including prescriptions, over-the-counter, vitamins and supplements. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review your medications for side effects or possible interactions.
Get some exercise. Lower body weakness and balance problems both contribute to falls. Work on increasing your strength through activities like walking and water aerobics. In addition, choose activities that can help improve your balance such as tai chi, chair yoga, ballroom dancing and exercise classes that include balance specific exercises.
Keep your vision sharp. Have yearly eye exams and wear glasses or contact lenses with your most up-to-date prescription. Being able to see clearly will help you get around much more safely.
Eliminate hazards at home. Because half of all falls happen at home, a home safety check can go a long way in reducing falls. Fixing potential issues such as tripping hazards, clutter and poor lighting can all help lower the chance of falling. Installing grab bars in the bathroom or railings on stairs is also a great way to decrease your risk.
Don’t be that one out of four who falls this year. Take steps today to reduce your fall risk so you can stay safe, secure and independent tomorrow.
Because preventing falls is much more effective than treating the results of them, SSM Health at Home, in partnership with United Way of Dane County, developed the SAFE at Home program. SAFE at Home provides home safety assessments and medication reviews for Dane County residents ages 60+.
SAFE at Home participants receive:
Basic in-home safety assessment
Medication review by a pharmacist
Safety aids including a pill box and nightlight
Home safety recommendations
Information about community resources
Six months of follow-up by a medical social worker
The program is designed to help participants identify risk factors and advise them on ways to change or modify their environment to decrease fall risk. Our goal is to reduce falls, helping people live safely and independently in their own homes for as long as possible.
Kari is the Branch Assistant for the Columbus office and has worked for SSM Health at Home for 13 years. Kari is always willing to help out and is incredibly reliable and dependable. She provides amazing customer service to patients, families and staff. She is always a pleasant and positive person. When challenges arise during the day Kari steps up to the task at hand whether its meeting staff in the field to exchange equipment, delivering products in an emergency, or other duties that come up.
Gina has been with SSM Health At Home for almost four years and now serves as the Meals On Wheel Volunteer Coordinator. Gina is incredibly reliable, dependable, caring and thoughtful. Gina’s role has been one of the most challenging jobs in the program because she has to recruit and constantly maintain a daily schedule of volunteers. She is always willing to bring a meal out to a recipient or deliver more than one route. Gina takes the initiative to learn everyone’s duties in the department in order to help when someone is out of the office. The Meals On Wheels program has many moving parts, and Gina has learned to be incredibly flexible and ready to help whenever needed. Gina has been described as a great representation of our Meals On Wheels program and keeps our volunteers and clients happy.
Early admission to hospice can improve quality of life
Hospice care provides people at the end-of-life with symptom and pain management, emotional and spiritual support, and the ability to remain at home if that is their goal. Not only does the hospice team work to make the patient comfortable, they also support caregivers and family members throughout the process as well as after the death.
However, many people never have the opportunity to experience this type of care and support, either because they do not elect hospice or because they only elect hospice in the last days and weeks of life.
Hospice isn’t just for the actively dying. Anyone with a life expectancy of six months or less may be eligible, and patients who exceed the six months can be recertified and continue to receive care as long as they continue to meet eligibility criteria. Patients who choose hospice choose to forgo further curative treatment for their terminal illness and focus on comfort instead.
A report from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization shows that in 2016, the median length of hospice care for Medicare patients was only 24 days. In fact, over 40% of Medicare hospice beneficiaries received less than two weeks of care, and 27% received service for a week or less.
Why does this matter?
The sooner patients are admitted the sooner the care team can begin to control pain and symptoms. Researchers from the School of Medicine at Yale University found patients they were studying only experienced substantial relief of their most distressing symptoms (including nausea, depression, pain, shortness of breath) after hospice began.
Managing symptoms can go a long way in ensuring patients can remain at home. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that 71% of Americans prefer to die at home, yet the Centers for Disease Control found that only 33.5% of Medicare patients died at home in 2009.
Not only does hospice improve patient quality of life, it can also improve length of life. A Journal of Pain and Symptom Management study showed hospice patients lived an average of 29 days longer than those who were not receiving hospice services. And a study in the New England Journal of Medicine reported hospice patients were happier, more mobile, in less pain and lived nearly three months longer.
We understand that talking about end-of-life is difficult, but with hospice services patients have a team of people working with them and their families to identify goals, set priorities and help achieve the best quality of life possible.
Who is on the hospice team?
The team is led by a hospice RN case manager and may also include:
Hospice medical director
Hospice nurse practitioner
Home health aides
Medical social worker
Grief and spiritual counselor
Physical, occupational or speech therapists
The patient’s primary care physician is also involved and kept informed about the patient’s condition and plan of care.
Where do patients receive care?
Hospice is a service, not a place. Most patients prefer to remain at home and the team will do everything they can to make that happen. Care can be provided in the patient’s home, the home of a family member, nursing home, senior apartments, assisted living facilities or residential hospice facilities.
Who pays for hospice?
The Medicare Hospice Benefit covers the services provided by the hospice team as well as many types of medical equipment and approved medications related to the terminal illness. Most HMO’s and private insurance companies also provide coverage for hospice services.
What if a caregiver needs a break?
Hospice can provide temporary, short-term assistance in caring for a hospice patient allowing caregivers time to recharge. Respite care comes in many forms and can be provided at a variety of locations.
What if symptoms cannot be managed at home?
In rare instances, patients who require skilled care around the clock in order to maintain comfort may be eligible for short-term general inpatient care. For qualifying patients, this type of care can be provided in a Medicare-certified facility that meets the conditions of providing inpatient care.
I’m not ready for hospice but have a chronic or life-limiting illness that is affecting my quality of life. Is care available to help manage my symptoms?
Yes. Palliative care is a type of home health care focused on helping people facing chronic or life-limiting conditions manage symptoms, pain and stress. Eligibility for palliative care is not dependent on life expectancy and can be provided at the same time as curative or life-prolonging treatment.
How can I learn more?
SSM Health at Home can provide informational visits to anyone interested in learning more about how our services can help. We are able to meet with you and your family to discuss how our team of hospice professionals can help identify goals, set priorities and help achieve the best quality of life possible. We can also discuss other services available to improve quality of life for those who do not qualify for or are not ready for hospice.
About SSM Health at Home
SSM Health at Home is a nonprofit organization providing a variety of comprehensive home care services, including home health, hospice, medical equipment, infusion pharmacy and community health. We offer informational visits to anyone interested in learning about how our services can help today or in the future. Please visit ssmhealthathomeWI.com or call 800-924-2273 to schedule an informational visit today.
Care need indicators and where to find assistance
Could you or a loved one benefit from additional care or supportive services? There are underlying issues that may indicate the need for more care. Some things to look for include:
Acute, chronic or terminal health condition
Frequent hospitalizations or ER/urgent care visits
Home safety concerns
Pain control management
Changes in mobility
Limited social network
Lack of family support
Activities of Daily Living
Personal care needs
Range of motion changes
Lack of food preparation
Change in appetite
Worry/concern about loved ones
Sense of abandonment
For a more extensive checklist, please visit our website at ssmhealthathomeWI.com and click Resources.
Once you have identified a need, the next step is to determine the level of care that can best meet your needs. While the goal of each type of home health care is the same – to help keep people at home – the level of care provided depends on the unique needs of each individual.
Non-medical home care provides assistance with personal care like dressing, grooming, bathing and other activities of daily living. This type of care can also assist clients with meal preparation, transportation or medication management. Non-medical home care can benefit people who do not qualify for skilled home care services, but who require increased day-to-day support due to their physical or cognitive needs.
Coverage for non-medical home care services depends on each individual’s specific circumstances and coverage. You can contact your local Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) for assistance and additional information.
Skilled home care provides patients with medical care in their home. It is provided by a licensed home health agency and must be “prescribed” by a physician. Most skilled services are covered by Medicare. There are a number of types of skilled care available and which type of care a patient receives is dependent on their individual condition(s) and needs.
Skilled home health care helps patients remain at home by providing medical care such as nursing, physical, occupational or other therapies, and medical social work. This type of care can benefit those who are recovering from an illness or injury, people who have recently had surgery, or those who are dealing with a chronic health condition. The goal of skilled home health care is to help the patient recover or manage their chronic condition(s) at home.
Palliative care is available for people who are having difficulty dealing with the symptoms of their chronic and/or terminal condition(s). Patients receiving this type of care are still able to receive curative treatment and do not have to have a limited life expectancy. The goal of palliative care is to manage symptoms in order for patient’s to live the best quality of life possible, all while remaining at home.
Hospice is a special type of care for those dealing with a terminal illness and whose physician estimates they have a life expectancy of six months or less. Care is focused on managing symptoms, keeping the patient comfortable, and providing emotional and spiritual support to both the patient and their family. Hospice is a type of care, not a place. In fact, the vast majority of hospice patients remain at home.
Many people know they need help but don’t know where to start. Navigating the maze of care options available can be stressful. While many people know that they or a loved one needs additional help, they may not know where to find it.
Your local Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) is a great place to start. You can find the ADRC nearest you at dhs.wisconsin.gov/adrc or by doing an online search for ADRC Wisconsin. You can also visit Medicare’s website at medicare.gov to search for services from doctors, to home health care, to nursing homes. Talk to your doctor and ask for recommendations from people you trust. Learn more about agencies that provide additional care and support. Medical social workers are a great resource. Schedule informational visits with care providers to see what is available.
SSM Health at Home is a nonprofit organization providing a variety of comprehensive home care services, including: home health, hospice, medical equipment, infusion pharmacy and community health. We offer informational visits to anyone interested in learning about how our services can help today or in the future. Please visit ssmhealthathomeWI.com or call 800-924-2273 to schedule an informational visit today.