BY JOE MARVILLI
When it comes to hospice services, a New Hyde Park facility offers top-of-the-line care while keeping its patients in their home environment.
The Parker Jewish Institute for Health Care and Rehabilitation started its community/inpatient hospice services in 1998. Since then, its staff has worked to make the last few months of their patients’ lives as comfortable and stress-free as possible.
Donna Brook, the hospice director at Parker Jewish, said the service is available for all of Queens and Nassau counties. The agency is separate from Parker Jewish in that it is Medicare-certified. Medicare defines those who are appropriate for hospice as someone with six months or less to live, if the disease follows its natural course.
Hospice operates in the building, though they do not have a separate unit. Rather, the hospice services go to the patient, keeping them in an accustomed setting.
“We bring the services to them. That’s really been a conscious decision,” she said. “Residents who have been here a long time have developed relationships with the staff. It is their home. To take them and plop them in a hospice unit, we found, was really not helpful for them.”
At the moment, there are about 40 patients being cared for by the staff. Generally, patients at Parker Jewish are there for a long time, particularly those in the nursing home. As such, the transition from regular health services to hospice is a smooth one, at least in terms of familiarity.
The hospice program has a large array of specialized care meant to support the patient and their families or friends. The nurses work with the staff to develop a pain management plan. The social workers are trained to assist dying patients and can help get their affairs in order. Home aides are available to help with feeding, bathing, safety and hygiene for the patient.
The spiritual health of the patient is equally important, according to Brook. There is a rabbi on staff who will meet with patients and families. The hospice will also reach out to other religious leaders who practice a different faith or who have a connection with the patient.
One of the most important parts of Parker Jewish’s hospice program is its bereavement services. The eight-week group course is free to either families and friends of a patient who died in hospice or a community member who needs bereavement help.
“When we have families who lost loved ones, we educate them that this is a program available to them,” Brook said. “It is available 13 months after patients die. We have lots of people from Bayside and Douglaston and the surrounding areas who travel here.”
While the first priority is the patient’s well-being once they are declared as terminal, Brook said that hospice services find that caring for the patient’s family and friends is an equally important part of the process. The hospice offers them emotional support as well as planning assistance for once the patient passes.
“Once they go into the dying process, the emphasis is not only on the patient but on the family,” she said. “There’s a lot of education involved with families. Also, to help them with concrete issues like planning funerals.”
The hospice has a small staff, but they are very personalized and are familiar with all the patients under their care. While hospice has trained the general staff on what to do when a patient becomes terminal, Brook said that the hospice staff’s attention to each individual helps Parker Jewish in its mission.
“It gives it a personal touch. When [family members] call, they know everyone in the office who answers the phone,” she said. “It just allows for a better continuity of care. Sometimes we call ourselves a boutique hospice.”
Parker Jewish is located at 271-11 76th Ave., New Hyde Park. For more information, call (718) 289-2100.
Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, email@example.com, or @Joey788.