Considered to be the model for quality, compassionate care at the end of life, Preferred Care Hospice provides a team approach to expert medical care, pain management, and emotional and spiritual support expressly tailored to the person and their family’s needs and wishes.
By HELEN SANDERS
Coping with a life-limiting illness can be a daunting experience — not only for the dying patient, but also for his or her family and friends. Experts agree that planning for end-of-life care before it is needed is vital to ensuring that one’s wishes are honored. SVM spoke with Preferred Care Hospice President Bob Tomkins, and Doctors Mallika Thiruppathi and Mike Rallo about the benefits, services and challenges in the hospice care business.
What drew you to Preferred Care Hospice? Bob Tompkins, President: I wanted to work for a hospice that was different and allowed me to focus on making a difference. So, when we created Preferred Care Hospice, we made it small by design and chose to serve Muscogee, Harris, and Chattahoochee counties. Being small allows everyone on our team to know every patient which helps develop relationships that are personal and not just volume driven. It also allows leadership to have real relationships with our team. That’s very important because they’re the ones who have the gift of providing hospice care and they need to be supported. Not everyone has that gift; it’s special. Working for a hospice that focuses on making a difference with our patients and our team drives us.
Dr. Mallika Thiruppathi: As a geriatrician, good quality end of life care is very important to me. When I was contacted about a new opportunity with Preferred Care Hospice, I was certainly thrilled. I am excited to be part of a team that is not only incredibly experienced but also has a lot of compassion and passion for what they do.
Dr. Mike Rallo: I retired from the full-time practice of palliative medicine in April 2015. I really wasn’t looking to go back to work, but when I was asked if I would help start a new hospice in the Columbus community, I couldn’t resist. Here was a chance for me to continue to do the work that I love with a group who I respect and who share my feelings about what hospice care should be.
What are the benefits of hospice? Mike Rallo, MD: When the option of hospice is presented to a patient it is usually because they have an illness that has progressed to a point where their life is now threatened. Their physicians have done all they can to extend their life but these treatments are no longer working. The main goal of hospice is to provide support and attention to the quality of life. That support is offered not only to the patient but to their loved ones and caregivers. Hospice focuses on relieving discomfort and continuing to respect their life, accepting that their lifetime is coming to a close. We want to make sure that we do all we can to make that limited time as meaningful as possible.
Dr. Mallika Thiruppathi: In my opinion it is a transitional journey, both physically and mentally. It is the time when the utmost care and comfort is needed for both the patient and their families.
Bob Tompkins, President: Good question. This comfort that Dr. Rallo and Dr. Thiruppathi mentioned often becomes a “peace”, and we’ve seen this peace become something more than we can explain. It’s really amazing.
What are some of the services that Preferred Care Hospice provides? Bob Tompkins, President: Our focus is to provide services that make our patients as comfortable as possible, whether it’s eliminating their pain, assisting with their bathing, or getting a hospital bed in their home to allow them to rest easier. We also offer a social worker who can help the family obtain their eligible benefits, facilitate dialogue with family members about what’s going on, or coordinate the last wishes of our patients. In addition, our chaplains are available for our patients of any faith or no faith at all. They’re probably our most laid back team members who I’ve never seen as judgmental. Really, our services are whatever the patient wants. They decide.
Dr. Mallika Thiruppathi: Hospice is a multi-focus care that takes into account all aspects of the terminal disease process including pain control, disease progression and its complications. It also includes emotional and mental help to patients and families either through medications or personal support groups.
How do you and your team comfort and support patients and families? Mike Rallo, MD: The first thing that we try to do is to get to know our patient as well as we can. We want to know how their disease has affected them not only physically but emotionally. What abilities and qualities of life has their disease taken from them? What distress and discomfort has their disease brought into their life? How can we help deal with the emotional distress that these changes have brought? The goal is to help the patient and their family work around the losses and deal with the pain and discomfort their disease has caused. Relieving pain and discomfort is always the primary objective.
What do you see as the main challenges and opportunities for Preferred Care Hospice and the hospice sector? Bob Tompkins, President: I believe our biggest challenge is to let people know what hospice, and specifically Preferred Care Hospice, is all about. We joke that hospice is the best kept secret in healthcare and Preferred Care Hospice is the best kept secret in our community. Every day we have an opportunity to provide exceptional care, to give our team the opportunity to use their gift, and the opportunity to make our community more caring. I really believe that with our Partners, Board of Directors, Leadership and Team Members, our opportunities are bigger than we can currently imagine.
Mike Rallo, MD: During the 35 years that I have been involved in hospice care, the challenge has always been to make sure that those patients who could benefit from hospice care are receiving it. Fortunately, this is not as much of an issue as it was in the past as the medical community is beginning to realize the benefits that hospice can provide to their patients. Although the medical community has come a long way in accepting hospice, there are still certain populations of our society who do not appreciate the value that hospice can offer them.
Dr. Mallika Thiruppathi: In the recent decade, hospice care has finally found its place in the medical community. Due to the growth in our aging population, it’s going to be a challenge to keep up with such demand, but Preferred Care Hospice, with its wonderful and dedicated team, is well equipped to serve this opportunity.
How do you relax/spend your time when not at work? Bob Tompkins, President: I relax by hanging out with the family, our dogs, and close friends. I have to admit, though, I also relax by thinking about Preferred Care Hospice when I’m not at work.
Dr. Mike Rallo: Making sawdust in my wood shop, riding my bicycle, and exploring Lake Martin on my pontoon boat.
Dr. Mallika Thiruppahi: Spending time with my wonderful husband of 20 years, three beautiful children, and our new puppy. I also love to travel.SVM