Program helps hospice patients avoid hospital

February 13, 2011 7:49:16 AM PST
Judy Peraino devoted so much time to taking good care of her mother Victoria, and focusing on her career, that she never thought she'd get married.

"I just didn't think I had the time to devote to a relationship," said Peraino, 52, of Hamilton, N.J.

But then she met John.

"On our first date I went home and I told my mother 'I just met the man I am going to marry,'" Judy said.

But with her mom's condition worsening, she feared her mother wouldn't make it to see her walk down the aisle.

That's when Dr. Donald Haas and Tony Bolden stepped in.

They had developed a special hospice program for patients like Victoria with end-stage heart failure. Typically these patients are in and out of the hospital.

"They're referred to as frequent fliers," Tony Bolden of Compassionate Care Hospice said.

Dr. Haas explains, "Anytime there is a heart failure hospitalization it is a big stressor not only for the patient but also for the family."

So the program called 'Cardiac Connections' was developed to alleviate that stress and, in this case, to help Victoria stay healthy until the wedding. Patients are visited by trained nurses and a nurse practitioner. If they get worse, Dr. Haas says, problems are treated right away at home.

"When she sees problems arise, she'll call me and we head a lot of things off at the pass," he said.

Bolden says keeping patients out of the hospital not only improves quality of life, it also saves about $22,000 per patient. "So if we are able to keep patients at home without sacrificing care then it's beneficial to everybody," he said.

In Judy's case, to have her mother there to celebrate the happiest day of her life was priceless. "My mother will always be with me in heart, no doubt, but having her there, her presence was a gift. I actually feel the last year with her has been a gift."

"Cardiac Connections" is run by Compassionate Care Hospice. Patients have to qualify for the end stage heart failure program. It started in South Jersey, but it is now being expanded to more areas nationwide.

For more information, call 1-800-844-4774.