I hope your new year is off to a wonderful start. For many of us, January is a time to reflect on the previous year and make resolutions for the coming one. Gilchrist is no different. Here are just a few highlights of how Gilchrist has changed over the past year to more fully meet the needs of those we serve, and our plans for 2019.
Broadening Our Reach
For Gilchrist, 2018 was a year of continued growth. As we adjusted to our rebranded service lines of Counseling & Support, Elder Medical Care and Hospice Care, we continued to educate the community that Gilchrist is more than hospice. Our messaging is working. More of you are reaching out to Gilchrist for care of a loved one earlier in their illness, leading to a better care experience. In the coming year, we will continue expanding our programs serving patients well in advance of hospice.
Creating and Expanding Innovative Programs
In 2018, we introduced new programs and expanded existing ones. Our new Integrative Medicine program offers a wide variety of treatments—from medications to massage to relaxation strategies—to help people with cancer gain control over unpleasant symptoms and thrive.
Through our Geriatric Consultation program, a geriatrician provides a comprehensive health assessment and personalized care plan based on the patient’s needs and goals of care. This is a much-needed service, as general practitioners may not have expertise in disease progression in older adults or the time to address multiple medical problems.
Elder Medical Care
Our Elder Medical Care program continues to grow, meeting the needs of seriously ill seniors who are no longer able to make trips to the doctor. Through the program, these individuals—who often lack caregiver support and have challenges with activities of daily living—can receive the care they need in the comfort of their own homes.
Starting as a small pilot program with one nurse practitioner in 2014, Elder Medical Care has rapidly grown to an interdisciplinary model that now delivers in-home medical care and psycho-social support to hundreds of patients and families each year throughout the region. These individuals would otherwise have few options for care other than the emergency room.
Our Care Counseling program staffs highly trained, knowledgeable care navigators to answer your calls and connect you to services and resources within Gilchrist and in the community. Navigators are available to answer calls around the clock. In its first year of operation, our care navigators answered more than 16,500 phone calls from people in the community.
Inpatient Pediatric Hospice Unit
At Gilchrist Center Baltimore, we opened an inpatient pediatric hospice unit. The unit provides supportive, compassionate care in a small, home-like setting, using pediatric-trained staff who recognize and support each child’s unique needs. Ours is the only dedicated inpatient pediatric hospice unit in Maryland.
Avila Home Care
Gilchrist has partnered with the private nursing agency Avila to offer home care services such as personal care and companionship. Patients may benefit from Avila services if they need assistance with bathing and dressing, show signs of forgetfulness that make it difficult for loved ones to leave them alone, or need extra care and support.
One of our goals at Gilchrist is to help people with serious illness think about what kind of care they want to receive and the care they don’t want to receive. For example, do they want to continue aggressive treatment if it means more hospitalizations and perhaps a decreased quality of life? Or would they choose comfort care, which provides treatment to alleviate pain and uncomfortable symptoms and allows them to stay at home until death occurs naturally?
These are important decisions, and our Palliative Care clinicians reach out to patients in hospitals and nursing homes to facilitate these discussions and help them complete advance directives. Our Palliative Care consults provide relief from the symptoms and stress of illness, improve quality of life and reduce unnecessary hospital stays. The success of this program is evident from its doubled growth from 2017 to 2018.
In the year ahead, we will continue to focus on helping people make informed choices for better care. People with serious illness deserve to know their options for treatment and the implications of each choice.
Often, people believe their choices are limited to either curative treatment or hospice. But with Gilchrist’s Care Choices & Hospice program, they can have both. For example, a recent patient was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer at GBMC, and doctors immediately referred him to our Care Choices program. Now, he is able to receive chemotherapy while receiving all the benefits of hospice, including care and support in the home from a nurse, social worker and chaplain. Palliative Care was also put in place to help manage his symptoms.
Because he came to Gilchrist so early, he will have time to establish relationships with his care team and receive all the care and support needed throughout his illness. When this patient is ready to discontinue chemotherapy, his Gilchrist hospice team will continue to be there. But in the meantime, he is taking advantage of every opportunity—even enjoying weekend getaways with his wife.
We are helping him live life to the fullest for as long as possible, and that is our goal for every patient we serve.