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Although partnering with a nonmedical caregiving agency does give a hospice an additional way to help families meet their caregiver needs that are not covered by the Medicare hospice benefit, it is important that proper training be provided to the nonmedical caregivers.
"We provide a six-session training program that gives our nonmedical partner's staff information on what to expect when caring for a hospice patient, what symptoms will be seen, and what issues signal a crisis that requires a call to the hospice nurse," says Deborah Eby, executive director of VistaCare in Reno, NV. "We also talk about the limits of practice so that nonmedical caregivers know what they can and cannot do based on state regulations," she says. Eby also makes sure that her hospice staff members understand practice parameters so that they do not expect nonmedical caregivers to perform tasks they are not allowed to perform, she adds.
In addition to staff training, Eby shares the plan of care with the nonmedical provider after the family has given her permission to do so. "The caregiver needs to understand the plan of care so that they can act as part of the caregiving team," she adds.
Asking for volunteers
Because hospice care is quite different from most care provided by the agency, Laurie Hamilton, franchise owner of Home Instead Senior Care in Harrisburg, PA, asked for volunteers who wanted to undergo the additional training. "I have eight staff members who are currently trained to work with hospice patients, but I mention the different types of patients we serve to all potential new hires," she says. "If someone indicates an interest in working with hospice patients, I arrange for the additional training."
In addition to having the hospice partner agency provide training for day-to-day care, nonmedical caregivers need to be prepared for the death of their patient, suggests Hamilton. "Our staff members learn the steps of dying, so they are prepared for what will happen, and all of our hospice agency partners offer grief counseling to any member of our staff who dealt with the patient or family," she says.