Submitted by Bill Wertman, MSW
CEO and Administrator

To kick off its 40th Anniversary celebration, this Fall Big Bend Hospice (BBH) will launch its new palliative care program, Transitions Supportive Care (TSC).  Since 1983, BBH has positively impacted the way our community experiences serious illness or grief – one family at a time. TSC will be an extension of that holistic approach to providing quality healthcare to the whole person, including their physical, spiritual, and emotional needs as patients and families work through difficult medical decisions.

“Five years ago, our leadership began a strategic look at how we could diversify to better serve our community,” says Bill Wertman, CEO. “We knew serving more people with expanded services would be a big part of our future, and to do that, we needed to begin creating a clinically integrated network.”   

While hospice and palliative care focus on pain management, the differences between the two are based on a patient’s prognosis, goals, and the decision to continue to treat a serious or life-limiting illness. Hospice is for people facing a terminal illness with a prognosis of six months or less who have chosen not to seek curative treatment. Palliative care does not have a prognosis timeline restriction and can be pursued at any stage of the illness, including seeking curative treatment.

Palliative care is a good option for people not yet ready or who don’t qualify for hospice but need some of the same emotional support, pain management, and education as hospice patients. Like hospice, palliative care is available to people of all ages with any serious or life-limiting illness. Palliative care is often covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and most private insurance. Every financial situation is different, so it is recommended you contact your insurance company to find out about any copays or deductibles.

Transitions Supportive Care will be available to the community in the Fall of 2022. Just as BBH helps each person define “quality of life”, a Transitions Supportive Care Nurse Practitioner (NP) assists patients and families create individualized care plans honoring their goals and wishes. Collaborating with the patient’s primary care provider and other specialists, the NP also helps manage challenging symptoms associated with serious illness(s) whether they be physical, psychosocial, or socioeconomic.

A Licensed Clinical Social Worker is available to provide specialized support, including education and counseling, to help patients and families cope with the challenges associated while living with a serious illness. The point of community-based palliative care is to maintain a person’s life at home or place of residence, as studies show people facing serious illness prefer to be in their own environment. The Social Worker can assist in maximizing a patient’s quality of life, optimizing function, and providing attention beyond medical care that supports their goals and preferences.

What differentiates Transitions Supportive Care from most palliative care programs is the Community Navigation component.  Just as important as the clinical services, Navigators can help facilitate and connect patients and families with community resources, which can help to address nutrition deficiencies, caregiver burnout, housing, or facility coordination, and assist with the challenges often encountered when applying for community services.

One of the most important patient benefits offered through Transitions Supportive Care is assistance in navigating the healthcare system in our community. This includes patients moving between hospitals, homes, and other facilities. TSC staff can coordinate efforts of all the providers to ensure a patient’s personal plan of care is met.

According to a recent article in the Annual Review of Public Health (Hughes & Smith), over the past decade, palliative care has been one of the most rapidly growing fields of healthcare in the US. The benefits from palliative care shown in multiple clinical trials include: an increase in patient and provider satisfaction, equal or better symptom control, more discernment of and honoring choices about place of death, fewer and less intensive hospital admissions in the last months of life, less anxiety and depression, less caregiver distress, and cost savings. 

“Transitions Supportive Care will give those in our community seeking care access to a higher quality of life while pursuing curative treatment,” says Wertman.  “It’s important for us to continue our 40-year legacy and soon we will be known for providing more than hospice care – we will be providing excellent care regionally in a post-acute model of healthcare.”