Over the past six years, Hospice Austin RN Shelly Robichaux has cared for close to 100 patients at Avalon Memory Care, an assisted living community in Cedar Park. Shelly is part of Hospice Austin’s Partners Team, who cares exclusively for patients in skilled nursing facilities and assisted living communities. The team includes Hospice Austin’s doctors, nurses, certified nurse aides, social workers, chaplains and volunteers. About one-third of Hospice Austin’s patients reside in long-term care and assisted living communities throughout our five-county region.
“I enjoy the challenges that come with working with patients in facilities,” Shelly said. “This is what I thought nursing would be – spending one-on-one time with patients, taking time with them. When you see patients several times a week or every day, you get to know their baseline, so even if patients can’t speak for themselves or make their needs known, you can still ensure they get what they need.”
The patient’s Hospice Austin team becomes a working partner with the facility to keep the patient comfortable, in familiar surroundings, and out of the hospital, if that is what the patient and family prefer. When the entire team is geared toward taking care of patients in facilities, Hospice Austin staff become familiar with the staff and protocols at each different community. Trust is built.
Avalon Memory Care husband and wife administrators Charlotte and Ray Atkinson work closely with Shelly and the Hospice Austin team.
“We work together as a team,” Ray said. “That’s not true of other hospice groups that have come in, that integration of the two teams.” Ray explained that he’s had trouble with other hospice companies’ communication styles and their reluctance to supply the more specialized (and expensive) medical equipment that patients often need. “Once I started using Hospice Austin, I stuck with them,” Ray said. “There’s trust there. Between us, I think we’re doing a pretty good job with the residents.”
When Hospice Austin has a lot of patients at one facility, our nurses and aides are there most every day. At Avalon, Chaplain Melissa Russell performs a weekly spiritual service and memorial services when a patient dies. Hospice Austin Social Worker Emily Dow is also a frequent visitor.
“Family members can be anxious in this setting because they’re not with their loved ones all day, every day,” Emily observed. “That’s why it’s good to know the facility so well – you can reassure them that their loved ones are in good hands.” Often, Charlotte, Emily and Shelly will hold joint conference calls with families to answer questions and update them on the plan of care.
When a patient’s wife mentioned to Shelly recently that she and her husband’s 61st wedding anniversary was approaching, the team got busy as they knew his health was declining rapidly. The patient had been a performer in the Metropolitan Opera as a child, and music remained a big part of his life. Emily contacted Swan Songs and arranged for a visit from a musician to perform a private concert. Ray and Charlotte provided cake and punch and Hospice Austin provided flowers. About 10 people from the family came to celebrate the anniversary and everyone had a wonderful time. The patient died two weeks later.
“There’s nothing like our relationship with Hospice Austin,” Ray said. “It’s a team, we work together hand in hand. As it should be.”