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Patient Story

Pilot Program Helps Ed with Everyday Life in his Own Home When he Needs It Most

“I am grateful for the care and services I am provided, in my own home, with the support of a great team." - Ed

Three years ago, Ed, who is now 82, found out he had an incurable lung disease. After having a plan and finding a program that helped him manage his condition, that program closed leaving Ed with no one to turn to for support.

His primary care physician at Saint Luke’s referred him to Saint Luke’s Home Care & Hospice to see if he might be eligible for the Care Choices program.

The Care Choices Program is a pilot Medicare program offered through a limited number of hospice agencies across the country. Saint Luke’s Home Care & Hospice is the only hospice group in Kansas City that offers this program to Missouri patients.

“It allows eligible patients to receive Hospice support services without electing Hospice,” said Joan Bird, RN, MBA, CHPN, the RN Care Coordinator for the Care Choices Program at Saint Luke’s Home Care & Hospice. “They can continue with their treatments and curative care while receiving a higher level of support, 24 hours a day.”

Eligibility for the Care Choices Program is defined by Medicare. Only patients with end-stage chronic heart failure; COPD; cancer; or HIV who are also on Medicare can be considered for enrollment.

Ed fit the program’s criteria and he started using the services immediately.

The goal of the program is “Providing help, maintaining hope,” which is exactly what it is accomplishing for Ed and his wife.

As his condition has worsened, Ed’s lung function has continued to decline. Ed says this program has not only been a blessing to him but, even more importantly, to his wife by taking the burden of his everyday care off her.

Patients receive visits in their home from a Palliative Certified Registered Nurse and Social Worker.

“Nursing staff are on call 24 hours a day to answer questions or to make visits as needed,” Joan said. “For many, it may prevent an unnecessary trip to the Emergency Department or hospitalization.”

Patients also receive visits from support staff, including bath aide, chaplain, volunteer, dietician, and bereavement support.

“A nurse comes to our home and helps with everyday things I am unable to do myself,” Ed said. “Sometimes things are as simple as clipping my toenails or taking a bath. All things I need assistance with and couldn’t do on my own. They help me live more comfortably with my condition.”

This program is a great option for patients because unlike the Medicare Hospice benefit where a patient must waive treatment of the terminal condition, Care Choices Program enrollees may continue treatment while receiving the support services usually provided only to hospice patients. And, although Hospice services include durable medical equipment and cover some medication costs, they are not included in the Choices program.

“I find it an honor to assist patients and their families as they deal with the struggles of their treatment(s), multiple office visits, and lab draws, and by providing continued education and support for them,” Joan said.

“I am grateful for the care and services I am provided, in my own home, with the support of a great team,” Ed said. “I am especially grateful for the way this program helps lighten the burden on my wife in caring for me.”

The Care Choices program is a pilot program and Saint Luke’s is currently able to offer it to patients through 2020. Referrals should be made to the Saint Luke’s Home Care & Hospice Intake Team at (816) 756-1160.