By Rich Livingston
COMPASSION. QUALITY. INTEGRITY.
Coming home from the hospital can be, for some people, as frightening as being admitted in the first place. The most important priority is to heal, recover, to simply feel better. But the realities of daily life can be complicated, and having accessible supportive care is crucial. That’s the role of Androscoggin Home Care and Hospice, Maine’s largest independent home care and hospice agency, now approaching a half century of commitment to its patients and communities.
Serving more than 10,000 patients in more than 122 communities in parts of seven counties, AHCH has a staff of more than 400 and more than 250 dedicated, well-trained and compassionate volunteers. The organization provides a continuum of home-centered health care services ranging from skilled nursing for patients recently discharged from a hospital, often post surgery; chronic disease management; supportive care for assistance with the activities of daily living; and palliative end of life support in patients’ own homes or in the Hospice House.
Helping people avoid re-admissions to hospitals, as well as recover from treatments, the AHCH Skilled Home Care Program offers a full range of high-quality nursing, therapy, social work, personal care, specialty and volunteer services, all tailored to meet the needs of patients as they recover from a short-term illness or injury.
The agency also helps patients manage lifetime conditions, such as diabetes, and provides essential respite services in support of family caregivers. More than 375 healthcare practitioners refer patients to AHCH, and homecare services are among the most cost-efficient means of ensuring consistent patient recovery and progress.
Completing the arc of compassionate care, AHCH added in-home hospice care to its range of services in 1982, and this year marks the 10th anniversary of the opening of the Hospice House, in Auburn, Maine’s first in-patient hospice care facility. The agency also offers supportive care services — quality home-based non-medical care — that are flexible, cost-effective alternatives to long-term residential care.
Julie Shackley, president and CEO, has said, “The core of our mission is to provide the most supportive, professional, complete home-based healthcare services possible, we are also proud of the fact that we’ve been able to stay in front of clinical advances that help enable folks to age more gracefully, stay in their own homes and communities as long as possible, with dignity and comfort.”
AHCH has formed partnerships with Togus Veterans’ Hospital and with the We Honor Veterans organization to provide veteran-to-veteran hospice counseling and support by a cadre of specially trained and equipped volunteers who are themselves veterans of the armed forces.
In order to provide these services, AHCH had to achieve “Level 1 Status” with the veterans’ groups, which required that education centered on veteran patients and end-of-life support be available for hospice staff and volunteers to review. Hospice staff and volunteers also had to review and familiarize themselves with the military history checklist, which is then introduced into the referral/intake process to better understand and care for the unique needs of military patients and their families.
A big part of the original mission of AHCH was, according to staffer Bobbi Kimball, to “meet them where they’re at,” to bring life-affirming care directly to patients, instead of the other way around. Among the most recent innovations in the ways the agency does that is to equip volunteers who visit Alzheimer patients with new “Forget Me Not” activity kits, filled with all sorts of activities, images, pre-school level games; vintage photos; sewing supplies and tasks.
The volunteer engagements are more supportive, nurturing and fun for all involved. One elderly patient observed recently, “I used to do that with my mother.”
From the perspective of the Androscoggin staff, it doesn’t get any better than that.
“We are,” said Shackley, “all about quality of life, and this is just one of the newest ways we can demonstrate that.”
Everything the agency does is designed to help patients and families derive the most that their lifestage will permit, to enhance the richness of everyday experiences, of family and other relationships, promote healing, comfort and serenity.
The agency’s mission is completely compatible with the desires of most of us to simply stay home, stay in our familiar surroundings, our community, among friends and family; to avoid hospitalizations, recover quickly and thoroughly from surgeries, injuries or illness; to be the best we can be. Androscoggin Home Care and Hospice will be here to help.