In August, Sara sat down with Jane James, Director of Admissions at Pathways Palliative Care, to talk about the services Pathways provides in Niagara County. Jane worked as an RN in different settings across Western New York for about 18 years before going back to school for Family Nurse Practitioner. She then started at Hospice and Pathways, where she has now been for 3 years.
Jane is one of the first friendly faces you’d see at the facility. She looks at how an individual meets the criteria and answers questions for families to make sure that Pathways is the best option for their care. Most people in the area are familiar with Niagara Hospice, but in recent years they have combined with Pathways Palliative Care. Pathways is more geared towards individuals with chronic illnesses, with the goal of improving their overall quality of life and decreasing their symptoms and the burdens they cause to the individual and their families.
The main difference between the two programs is the treatment status. Those involved with Pathways are still seeking out and getting treatment, while Hospice provides comfort care for those who have stopped receiving treatment. Those enrolled with Pathways need monitoring and nursing care, but still live in their homes.
The past year has been tough to navigate for a lot of healthcare facilities, and working in people’s homes added another layer they had to work through. Some families didn’t want people in their homes while COVID-19 was spreading across the county, but the staff took all necessary precautions for those that still had them come. As with many places, Telehealth proved to help immensely. Pathways uses a remote patient monitoring system through Phillips, where patients are given a tablet, a blood pressure cuff, and pulse oximeter, letting the staff monitor vitals from the office. This gives the opportunity to catch a problem early on, before it becomes a bigger issue.
Thankfully, they are able to be back in the homes with the patients, while continuing to take safety precautions.
Anyone can call and make a referral for Pathways! As long as a patient is dealing with the symptoms of a chronic illness, we can provide treatment. Many patients are referred by their general physician or their insurance company. The care is covered by BlueCross BlueShield, Univera, Independent Health and also a private pay option.
Pathways focuses on wholistic care, which means they also help the families. Respite is important for caregivers, so that they have the time to process the situation and to decompress. The care provided doesn’t just focus on the medical aspect, but rather the individual as a whole, including their support system.
For those that need care but want to stay in their homes, Pathways is an amazing option in Niagara County. With the ability to contact the staff through Telehealth, if they feel symptoms coming on, they don’t have to wait to get into their primary care physician to get help. For many, transportation and getting out of the house can be difficult, on top of hoping their doctor can fit them in on short notice. With Pathways, the individual can set up a video conference with a Nurse Practitioner to explain what is going on and get recommendations on what their next step should be. This quick service can help prevent further hospitalizations for the patients.
While Pathways treats those with chronic conditions, that does not mean they need to be in the program for life. Some receive treatment and then are discharged from the program.
Patients are usually scheduled for a visit once a month, but there is 24/7 support that they can call. A patient can call in the middle of the night and received guidance and help over the phone and then a nurse can visit the next day to check in. They have also implemented a post-acute care model for patients that are in and out of the hospital and are trying to avoid re-hospitalization. Pathways will meet with them within 48 hours of discharge to make sure that they understand their discharge instructions, that they’ll follow up with their primary care physician, and that they receive the medications prescribed after their discharge.
Another benefit of the program is education. Case managers explain the illness to a patient and how to navigate their symptoms and avoid hospitalizations. This is so important because for some people, all they are missing is that information.
Some may be worried to leave their primary care physician, but that isn’t necessary! Pathways works WITH your physician, so you can continue to go to appointments and Pathways staff notices a significant change, they communicate that with your primary.
Our goal is to improve quality of life, but that does not just mean treating symptoms. The team works with not just the physical issues, but sometimes patients have financial or emotional issues that they need help with. The team is made up of RNs, case managers, and social workers. For example, a patient recently lost a loved one and while their symptoms were fine, they were still able to reach out to Pathways and receive some emotional and spiritual support from the team.
If you have an illness or any symptoms, give Pathways a call at (716) 304-1214 and they can set up an evaluation to help you stay independent in your home.
Website: niagarahospice.org for information about Pathways Palliative Care.
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