BY LEANN DILBECK –
There are literally hundreds upon thousands of websites and books on how to strategically select a career, but in many cases, the most gratifying careers select us or even call us. And that is precisely the case with the caring professionals at Ouachita Regional Hospice, who walk their patients and their families through one of life’s most difficult transitions.
The group recently relocated from South Mena Street to a larger and more spacious office at 602 DeQueen Street to better accommodate their staffing needs. Ouachita Regional Hospice services a 50 mile radius around Mena but is part of a larger organization, LHC Group, that also cares for patients in Polk, Scott, Howard, Sevier, Logan, Pike, and parts of Sebastian counties in Arkansas with a staff of 25 full-time and part-time (PRN) nurses, CAN’s, chaplains, and social workers, who work in partnership with Mena Regional Health System, under the leadership of Dr. Patrick Fox as the medical director and Dr. Steve Forrest as the assistant medical director. In a career where care and experience can make all the difference, this group is particularly proud of their combined 155 years of experience. All of these professionals serve as an invaluable life-line as much to their patients’ families as they do the patients themselves during one of life’s most difficult and emotional transitions.
Hospice care focuses on the quality of life rather than its length. It provides kind and compassionate care for people in the last phases of incurable circumstances so that they may live as fully and comfortably as possible. “People’s natural perception of Hospice has always been that someone is going to pass in a short period of time,” said Ouachita Regional Hospice Administrator Tom Patterson, who also explained that wasn’t always the case. “A lot of times, with that continuity of care, they can get better. And, in many cases, they get discharged back to Home Health until a later time.” Jessica Woodall, who manages public relations for the group, added, “We’ve serviced some of our patients for up to three years.”
Ouachita Regional Hospice provides extensive support and resources for the families as well, including bereavement, chaplain, and aids that can assist not only in a clinical capacity but also with light housekeeping or cooking.
In hospice care, healing is no longer applicable, “It’s a different kind of healing,” explained Jessica. “We’re here to make them as comfortable as possible,” added Tom, “so that the transition is as comfortable… as easy as possible for them and to help the family be more prepared. Everyone’s role is incredibly unique. It actually provides a certain amount of relief for the family. The patient has the nurses, the aids, the chaplain, but a social worker (as well as the chaplain) is there to help the family. Often, the family is surprised to know that someone is there to take care of them and to keep them equally healthy.”
The group also has a Hospice Promise Foundation, that is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that they hold local fundraisers for. This allows them to assist qualified patients and their families in their service areas with crucial expenses that may not be Medicaid or Medicare eligible.
They are also a Level IV ‘We Honor Veterans’ Program participate and work closely with the Veterans Administration (VA) to assist the patient / families are receiving all of the aid they are eligible to receive.
The families’ satisfaction of the encompassing support received was reflected recently in a very prestigious award that Ouachita Regional Hospice received, the Best of the Best Award. Ouachita Regional Hospice scored in the top 5% of over 850 hospice providers across the country but they will all very quickly tell you, they don’t do it for awards, it’s all about helping someone during one of the most important times in life. The hope that hospice brings is to allow patients to live comfortably, with dignity, when a cure is no longer possible.