Visiting Nurse Association launches drive for hospice program

  1. Visiting Nurse Association launches drive for hospice program

    TIM JOHNSON , Staff Writer 05/31/2004

    "I feel it is definitely a calling, and I believe (Visiting Nurse Association of Pottawattamie County) is called to provide this care."

    Those words reflect Lillian Jeppesen's passion for providing hospice care to the community.

    The VNA has launched a fund drive to raise $250,000 to establish a hospice program, said Jeppesen, the nonprofit organization's executive director.

    So far, the effort has netted $16,500, including a $10,000 donation from retired ophthalmologist Ted Hoff, a $2,000 grant from the Vera B. Cox Foundation, $500 from the former Jennie Edmundson Memorial Hospital School of Nursing class of 1954 and $4,000 in miscellaneous donations.

    "I think there's a large enough need in the community to warrant another hospice," she said. "Also, we've had a lot of requests from the community to have hospice care."

    The VNA's board of directors has thrown its support behind the project, and the agency will move to a larger space in the Omni Centre Business Park this summer to accommodate the new program and other growth, she said.

    Many area residents are not able to get hospice care, because they are not insured and do not qualify for Medicare or Medicaid, Jeppesen said.

    "Quite frankly, a lot of those people fall through the cracks," she said.

    Hospice care is designed to enhance the quality of life for people with an advanced or chronic disease, life-limiting illness or disease that is not responding to curative treatment.

    Jeppesen, who worked at a hospice for six years, believes in the benefits of hospice care.

    "I've experienced it personally myself with my own family," she said.

    The VNA plans to offer hospice care to people of all ages, she said. Care will be provided in the person's home, whether it is a house, assisted living apartment or nursing home room.

    The agency will also offer support to family members, Jeppesen said.

    "You need to work with the whole, entire family," she said.

    The VNA will hire a medical director, nursing staff, chaplain, volunteer coordinator and home health aides to run the program, Jeppesen said.

    "These people have to be dedicated to just the hospice," she said.

    Care needs to be available on short notice, said Sarah Matlock, manager of operations and business relations.

    "When a family calls, you need to be able to go," she said.

    Adding the program will require an up-front investment, Matlock said. Care must be provided to at least three clients until inspectors clear the program for Medicare certification, which could take as long as a year. The VNA may not receive reimbursement for services provided before it becomes certified.

    "Even private insurance will not authorize until you become Medicare-certified," she said.

    Donations may be sent to Sarah Matlock or Cally Boatwright at 300 W. Broadway, Suite No. 10, Council Bluffs, IA 51503. Gifts can be made in memory of or in honor of a loved one or can be made anonymously. All donations are tax-deductible. For more information, call (712) 328-2636.
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