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Better quality of life for terminal heart disease patients through hospice


In partnership with Fox45

December 1, 2021
There is one illness that causes more deaths in the United States each year than any other.

“Cardiovascular [heart] disease doesn’t discriminate in regard to gender, race, or age,” says Leana Hoover, MSN, NHA, Chief Integration Officer at Gilchrist.

One in every four deaths can be attributed to heart disease. Hoover, along with Jessica Gabbard, MSN, MBA-MHA, CHPN, Chief Clinical Officer at Gilchrist, and others on their team, are working to provide better quality care for patients with a terminal diagnosis. The Advanced Cardiac Care (ACC) Program, a collaboration with the National Partnership for Healthcare & Hospice Innovation and the American Heart Association is helping them to do just that.

“We’re trying to address and interact with patients that have advanced cardiac disease much sooner than we would have in the past and provide care tailored to their needs much earlier in that trajectory,” Hoover says.

Hospice care is often associated with the final days of a person’s life, but Gabbard says utilizing hospice and Palliative Care services earlier in a diagnosis can improve the quality of life for a patient.

“Hospice is an opportunity to aggressively treat symptoms instead of aggressively treating to cure disease,” says Gabbard. “Gilchrist can provide 24-hour nursing support for care and symptom management, deliver supplies and medications to the home, and provide spiritual and emotional support through our interdisciplinary care model. We’re here to support families and patients so they can stay at home, or wherever they want to be, and spend less time in the ER or hospital.”

One of the difficulties with terminal cardiac diagnoses is the sudden nature of cardiac events.

“Because cardiac events can come on so suddenly, oftentimes patients die in the Emergency Room (ER) or on their way to the ER,” Gabbard says.

The Advanced Cardiac Care Program utilizes algorithms to help providers treat common symptoms and bring a standardized approach to a serious and unpredictable illness.

“We want patients to know they have options beyond just seeking treatment at the hospital,” Hoover says. “We work with both the patient and their family or caregiver to guide them on what to look for, how to address the symptoms they’re having, and hopefully improve each day they have left.”

With just 5% of patients with heart failure receiving hospice care, Hoover and Gabbard hope to increase awareness about the benefits of hospice throughout the community.

“Patients living with end-stage heart disease go through a lot of suffering,” Gabbard says. “This program allows them to remain in their homes and really improve their quality of life.”

Both women say they want the ACC program at Gilchrist to be seen as a resource for the community and an opportunity for those living with terminal heart disease to live out their final days without stress and frustration.

“At some point, each of us is going to have to say goodbye to this world,” Gabbard says. “Gilchrist can help patients and their families add quality to their lives and reduce symptom burden, this allows patients to focus on what really matters most to them.”
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