Unlike hospice care, the illness doesn’t have to be terminal. It can be chronic, and our Advanced Illness Management Program (AIM) is designed to improve patients’ quality of life by treating physical symptoms along with providing emotional and spiritual support, which not all programs do. The AIM program is rooted in community-based palliative care, which is an extra layer of support for patients living with serious illness and their caregivers. Serious illnesses we often come across include cancer, heart disease, lung diseases, kidney failure and dementia.
This additional support is what sets AIM apart. Here are four main points about what that means for patients and caregivers and why VNA’s AIM program might be a good choice for them.
Palliative care for the whole patient
Our AIM team takes extra time to listen to patients and do what we call “whole-patient care.” They don’t only look at the disease process but also how the disease is affecting the person and their family: How is this disease affecting a family’s ability to carry on regular existence? How is it affecting them financially? Are they able to get the transportation they need? Are they getting spiritual support? Palliative care providers will always look at symptom management, but the whole picture is much larger.
The importance of community-based palliative care
We are intentional about framing our palliative care as community-based. What this means is that we exist outside of hospital and office settings. We meet people where they are, whether it’s in their home, a loved one’s home or another facility. We go to see them where they live, which is extremely important when someone’s illness makes them homebound. It can be very difficult for people living with chronic illnesses to get to a doctor’s office depending on their condition.
Meeting people where they are also means that we are able to get a bigger picture of their conditions outside just the illness. Again, we believe in whole-patient care, and the setting a patient finds themself in is an important context.
There is also an element of trust in letting someone into your home, and we don’t take lightly the trust patients have for our AIM team. This creates an intimacy that is important when having conversations about life and death.
An easy transition into palliative care
It’s less a transition from the treatment a patient is currently receiving so much as an addition because nothing about a patient’s current care plan necessarily changes, apart from receiving additional support from AIM. In terms of onboarding, the process starts with a physician visit to the home for a comprehensive assessment of what a patients’ needs are, what their home situation is and anything else the physician deems is important. From there, the frequency of visits is decided based on the level of support a patient needs.
Following the patient’s care needs
Patients can move into any hospice program they want, but VNA does offer this service to make the transition a little easier through their continuum of care service approach. If someone transitions into hospice, they are no longer part of the AIM program. They have made the decision not to go to physicians’ offices or back to the hospital and just want someone to come into their home and ensure their comfort.
At this time, the hospice care provider will provide and pay for all medical equipment, supplies and medications that are necessary to maintain the comfort of the patient, which a patient won’t get through AIM. Services like physical and occupational therapy go away on hospice, but patients do get other comfort-based support.
For more information on our AIM program, visit https://www.vnastl.com/aim-information