Each year, hospice provides personalized palliative care to approximately 1.5 million patients nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This care is offered to those with terminal illnesses who are no longer seeking a cure, and support services may extend to family members as well.
While there are a number of hospice providers in West Michigan, area residents now have a local choice. Lowell-based West Michigan Hospice recently finished its accreditation process and is now fully licensed and ready to serve to community.
“It’s really impactful to be able to help families,” says founder and CEO Aaron Leestma. The Alto resident spent two decades as a home health care administrator and looks forward to putting his experience to work assisting patients and their families as they grapple with end-of-life issues.
Hospice Services: For More than the Final Days
Medicaid, Medicare and many private health insurance plans cover hospice services without any out-of-pocket costs although there may be expenses associated with prescriptions and inpatient care. While some insurers require patients have a certain life expectancy, such as six months, in order to begin receiving benefits, there is no cap on how long someone can be in the program.
“People can be on hospice for years,” Leestma says. In fact, to get the maximum benefit from the program, it’s best to transition to hospice as soon as someone is eligible. However, many people are hesitant because they don’t understand what the service entails. “Hospice is just so misunderstood,” Leestma explains.
At its core, hospice is about providing services that will allow people to remain comfortable and safe while facing a life-ending illness. Medical care to manage symptoms and control pain is a significant part of hospice, but that is only one aspect of what is offered. Social workers are available through hospice as is spiritual care. Those can both be vital supports to families searching for answers.
West Michigan Hospice works to customize its services based on patient and family needs. That means access to options such as aromatherapy, music therapy or alternative forms of care. Services are provided in a person’s home or place of residence.
“People often call hospice when they are in crisis and then they don’t get the full benefit,” Leestma says. Some families may worry suggesting hospice looks like they are giving up on a loved one, but the service can result in an improved quality of life that lets someone make the most of the time they have left.
Providing Local, Personalized Care
While families having many hospice choices, “Having a local provider for these services is a great boon to the community,” Leestma asserts. He anticipates West Michigan Hospice will serve mainly those in Kent, Ionia and Montcalm Counties.
“Because of our size, we can be adaptable,” Leestma explains. He notes that some existing hospice providers are quite large which can mean less personalized care. Others may not have experience in rural areas. However, West Michigan Hospice seeks to provide custom care that is delivered efficiently.
With the company’s establishment, Leestma says area families now have access to local end-of-life care that is delivered quickly and compassionately from health care workers who live in and around Lowell.
To learn more, visit the West Michigan Hospice website.
Note: This article has been updated to reflect that West Michigan Hospice provides its services in a person’s home or residence.