William E. Finn: Hospice is an integral part of Ohio’s health care continuum

Northern Ohio is known the world over as a major hub for medical innovation. From the cutting-edge research, clinical trials and promising breakthrough treatments developed at our hospitals, to the new Global Center for Healthcare Innovation, our region continues to play an instrumental role in shaping the future of health care.

Lesser known, but just as important, is our region’s contribution to the development and advancement of end-of-life care.


Hospice movement sprouted here

Hospice and palliative care is a philosophy that includes pain management and symptom control for the patient and emotional and spiritual support for the patient and family. It has become an important part of the health care continuum — and the seeds of the hospice movement in the United States were sown and nurtured right here.

Hospice of the Western Reserve was founded in Lake County in 1978, known as Cancer Family Services at that time. Today, the community-based agency has grown into one of the nations largest and most respected nonprofit hospice providers, with 900 employees and 2,000 trained volunteers. The agency is headquartered in Cleveland, and serves a nine-county area. 

We care for people of all ages, with any serious illness, and we have extensive expertise in the areas of cancer, heart disease, COPD, HIV/AIDS, dementia, chronic kidney disease and pediatric end-of-life care. Hospice of the Western Reserve believes that quality will be the strategic differentiator between hospices, and the most important tool for patients and families to choose a hospice program. 

For this reason, Hospice of the Western Reserve strongly advocates for a single database of quality scores for hospices across the country, and we are committed to providing absolutely unsurpassed quality care at end of life in our community.


How can hospice care help you and your employees?

■  It can reduce the overall cost of health care.

  Many of your employees are caregivers for their own aging parents or grandparents, placing an added burden on their health and productivity. Hospice supports the caregivers as well as the patient, giving them peace of mind and respite.

  Hospice can provide bereavement and workplace grief support.

Myths persist, but hospice is not about giving up. In fact, it’s all about living life as fully as possible when time is measured in weeks or months, rather than days. Palliative care helps people who are in the midst of life-prolonging and curative treatments to manage the pain and symptoms of complex illnesses.

Hospice ensures life at the end of life. It recognizes death as a natural process and focuses on a holistic approach in providing care and services. The physical, emotional, spiritual and psychological aspects of each individual are addressed, placing a special emphasis on symptom control.

As a leading advocate for dignity and choice at the end-of-life, hospice and palliative care will continue to grow in importance as the population continues to age. More than 1.5 million patients are currently receiving hospice care in the U.S.

Sometimes, as a disease progresses, curative measures are no longer available or effective. Hospice care can change how a person approaches the rest of his or her life. The focus becomes different. Hospice is about giving individuals choices, comfort and dignity in the final stage of life. It needs to be considered an integral part of the health care continuum.

William E. Finn is CEO of Hospice of the Western Reserve and has served in that role since February 2011. He has been in the field of hospice and palliative care for 28 years. For information, visit www.hospicewr.org.

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