A Better Understanding of the Patients We Serve

We’ve been caring for patients and families for more than three decades. Yet, we find some people still thinking hospice care is only for cancer patients.  In 2013, 322 area physicians made 1,722 referrals to Center for Hospice Care (CHC). Nearly 1,000 referrals came from other sources including hospitals, extended care facilities, patients and families themselves, with a wide scope of diagnoses.  This was the ninth consecutive year that non-cancer diagnoses surpassed cancer diagnoses upon admission.  The percentage of cancer as a primary diagnosis for a terminal condition has been shrinking since 2004.  In 2013, 37% of the patients were diagnosed with cancer upon admission.  Of all patients admitted, 63% had non-cancer diagnoses in 2013.  Our agency cared for a significant number of cardiac, vascular, pulmonary, neurological and renal patients.  The top five non-cancer causes of illness for hospice admission included:  cardiovascular disease (21%), dementia or neurological (13%), lung disease (10%), end-stage liver, kidney and related diseases (4%), and failure to thrive and all other illnesses (15%).  CHC patients had 281 different diagnoses in 2013. The average age of a CHC patient at admission was 79. While CHC served 24 patients over 100-years-old in 2013, patient age at admission ranged from one-day old to 106-years-old.

Unlike some hospice programs, CHC routinely accepts patients with complex treatment issues, and works collaboratively with the physician, and when necessary, ancillary healthcare providers to serve the needs of patients.  CHC also works with patients regardless of where they call home.  CHC is contracted to provide hospice services to more than 80 nursing homes, group homes, assisted living centers, and other facilities, but we have also provided care to patients in jail, and at a homeless shelter.  The majority of care, however, continues to be in the residential home setting.

CHC continues to operate the only Medicare certified hospice inpatient units, commonly referred to as Hospice House, within our service area.  CHC owns two seven-bed inpatient units, one in South Bend and one in Elkhart.  They complement our original mission by allowing patients to receive short-term hospice inpatient care in a home-like setting.  Hospice House is intended primarily for management of pain and symptoms that cannot be controlled in the residential home or other settings.  When the reason for the admission to Hospice House is resolved, patients often return home or to an extended care facility.  About half of all Hospice House admissions come directly from area hospitals.   Both CHC Hospice Houses offer a comfortable, residential environment, 24-hour-a-day visitation with no age restrictions, a family room, a spiritual reflection room, a kitchen for family to cook for the patient if they desire, and pet visitation.  In 2013 our South Bend Hospice House celebrated its 17th year of operation and our Elkhart Hospice House saw its fifth full year of operation.

So far in 2014, we have received 1,505 referrals for hospice care. Unfortunately, nearly seven percent of those patients die before we can admit them. So no matter what the diagnosis is, or where home is, we encourage everyone to call us sooner. We will respond to your call within hours. No one should be denied comfort at end of life. All of us deserve to die comfortably and with dignity.