“We Make Life Better”
The aging population is facing an urgent end of life care crisis that sooner or later will affect almost every family. Since 1998, the Jewish Hospice and Chaplaincy Network (JHCN) in Metropolitan Detroit has been providing hospice care for Jewish clients as they approach end of life by offering them and their families spiritual and emotional support.
The health care reality is particularly complex. Current health care regulations limit hospice care eligibility and force hospices to restrict admissions and limit treatments. Hospitals do not readily admit individuals already diagnosed with incurable illnesses in part, because they are not reimbursed by insurance companies. Primary care physicians are regularly finding that their waiting rooms are filled up with terminally ill individuals even though there is not much more they can do for them medically. Individuals given a terminal diagnosis are often too confused, uncertain and not able to recognize how much they could benefit from a holistic approach that is focused on maximizing the quality of their life.
In Southeastern Michigan, demographic considerations play an important role in understanding the larger need for proactive pre-hospice care. We are facing a rapidly aging cohort of Baby Boomers entering their 60s and 70s. Boomers are taking care of their elderly parents while many have deteriorating health themselves. Moreover, the transient nature of society in general leaves many seniors living far away geographically from the rest of their family. This trend is certain to continue.
To meet these increasing needs, in May 2015 JHCN evolved and enhanced our hospice care model to serve those individuals with an incurable illness but who are not hospice eligible, hospice appropriate or hospice ready.
Often, patients with illnesses such as cancer, congestive heart disease, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, COPD or chronic renal failure face progressive decline yet may not be ready for or eligible for hospice care. These patients often ensure uncontrolled pain, depression, confusion, frustration, loneliness as well as limited access to hospital care and limited access to the world outside their home.
Recognizing that countless Jews with incurable illness were being left behind or sent home to die without any resources to help them cope, LifeLinks, our home-based palliative care developed in in consultation with a team of doctors and medical professionals, was designed to meet and treat patients with a new kind of service delivery, enabling us to bring comprehensive and compassionate palliative care to the home of every client. LifeLinks allow us to preserve the dignity of our clients while fulfilling our mission/purpose that no patient or family face terminal illness alone.
By meeting each Jewish patient where they are physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually we seek to preserve the dignity of each person while devoting ourselves to getting them the best care possible. With just one phone call to our JHCN office, Jewish patients/families gain access to a team of rabbis, social workers, trained volunteers, nurse practitioners and specialized doctors who make house calls. We treat pain, manage symptoms and secure for our clients the most appropriate resources culled from the Jewish community. At JHCN, we fully understand that every individual client wants and needs to be free of pain, to feel loved, to not feel like a burden and to know that they are not alone. In developing LifeLinks, we conferred with a plethora of doctors who serve the Jewish community and asked them to help identify terminally ill patients who would benefit from home-based palliative care. We are currently serving and supporting 80 clients at a time and are proactively keeping preventing repeated, daunting trips to their doctor’s offices and emergency rooms. We are currently working with 175 primary care physicians and specialists who serve the Jewish community. Our clinical and community partners include hospital systems, hospice agencies, health care and social service agencies, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, older adult communities, Jewish social service agencies as well as clergy and local synagogues.
The Jewish Hospice and Chaplaincy Network is committed to ensuring clients or family members never receive a bill for the services of our rabbis, social workers and volunteers. The agency is founded on a “goodwill” model — services are provided without charge, and one hundred percent of our funding comes from donations and grants from individuals and foundations. Furthermore, we do not receive government or insurance reimbursements.