Colleen O’Connell, RN, is the Palliative Bridge Coordinator for All Care VNA & Hospice. Native to Lynn, Colleen graduated Lynn Classical High School and received a degree in Management from Regis College in 2002 before choosing to return to receive her nursing degree from Lawrence Memorial Regis College Nursing program in 2010. Colleen worked as a fulltime nurse at New England Rehabilitation Hospital in Woburn before joining All Care VNA as a fulltime case manager, eventually moving on to run the Palliative Bridge Program for All Care VNA & Hospice.
Palliative Care Improves Quality of Life for Those with Chronic Illness
The All Care Bridge is a Palliative Support Program designed to provide education and resources to patients dealing with chronic illness. As the Bridge nurse, one of the most common questions I am asked is “how do you know when it’s time for a program like yours?” It can be confusing and frightening for families to approach the subject of advancing illness. The All Care Bridge team is uniquely positioned to assist patients, families, and providers with addressing disease progression and which services provide the most benefit.
Real life examples where the All Care Bridge, a collaboration between All Care’s VNA and Hospice programs, can be helpful and serve as guidance. One particular case that comes to mind is the case of Margie, a 78 year old woman who was living with her son but spent the majority of her day home alone; Margie was living with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) however, after a number of hospitalizations which required rehabilitation stays, she was discharged home with All Care VNA services.
Though Margie had been living with COPD for many years, she reported shortness of breath, even when she was sitting and resting. Needing to use oxygen more and more often, she was no longer comfortable in her own bed. Some nights her discomfort grew so much that she needed more than 2 pillows or she slept sitting upright in her recliner chair. Equally frustrating was that Margie was losing weight without trying, even though she felt like she was eating enough, she lost more than 10 pounds in just a few months.
Margie wanted to remain home and did not want to keep going back and forth to the hospital. Though she realized that her disease was advancing, she didn’t know what options were available to her. Margie’s Visiting Nurse recognized that Margie was struggling with what to do next and suggested meeting with a member of the All Care Bridge team to discuss her goals of care and how transitioning from VNA services to Hospice might help.
Margie’s story isn’t about choosing hospice, it is about choosing the impact her advanced illness had on her quality of life. Hospice meant hope for Margie. When she thought there was nothing left to do but continue the roller coaster of hospital to nursing home to home and back again; the interdisciplinary team provided by hospice kept Margie comfortable. With her symptoms managed, Margie stayed right where she wanted to be, home.
The complexities of advancing illness are many. With many chronic illnesses there are times that the illness feels manageable and then there are times when it worsens. If you or your loved one are experiencing a change in condition, talk with your health care provider. There are services available to help.