Bethany Hospice: Offering a Comprehensive Approach to Comfort Care

Updated on November 7, 2013

By Henry Lipput

According to Diane Mead, R.N., B.S.N, and President and CEO of Bethany Hospice in Pittsburgh, “Hospice is a philosophy of care, not a place.”

Bethany provides hospice care to patients with life-limiting illnesses that doctors have decided are critical, have less than six months to live, and have agreed to palliative care rather than undergoing further treatment, such as chemotherapy, for their conditions. Patients can be also be accepted for hospice care when they and their family decide that this move is best for a loved one. Except for children, the company does not discriminate according to age, providing care to a wide range of patients, from young adults to those in end-of-life situations.

The Bethany Hospice team includes nurses, home health aides, social workers, volunteers, chaplains, and bereavement councilors to provide care in private homes, personal care homes, hospitals, and assisted living facilities. These hospice services are covered by Medicare and Medical Assistance, and some commercial insurance policies offer a hospice care benefit. If this coverage is not available, hospice services are provided by Bethany regardless of a patient’s ability to pay; in these cases the company subsidizes the care.

CEO/President Diane Mead and the staff of Bethany Hospice
CEO/President Diane Mead and the staff of Bethany Hospice

Ten years ago Mead worked as a Vice President for one of the largest hospice providers in the country. “It was a great company but it didn’t fit where I was,” she commented. Traveling kept her away from her family and her hometown of Pittsburgh.

So nine years ago Mead decided to start her own company which now provides hospice care to every county that touches Allegheny county. “I wanted to be local,” she said.

Bethany Hospice has 40 employees who are passionate about providing great care. “When a patient has a need,” Mead said, “they stay until the need is met.” She explained that meeting the need for an individual patient could take one hour or it could take eight hours.

The flexibility offered by Bethany’s employees is an important element in their work. They might bring a special milkshake to a patient or take a dog for a walk if a family member is getting home late from work. “They become part of the family we care for,” said Mead, but always observe professional boundaries. And although family members are occasionally hesitant to call an employee late in the day for assistance with a loved one, according to Mead it doesn’t matter whether it is day or night; care is provided when it is needed.

Caring for terminally ill patients — and making a human connection with them as they face their last days — can take a toll on the employees of Bethany Hospice. As a result, the company offers a benefits package to their employees that helps them to deal with these circumstances. “Time off is generous,” said Mead, and employees are encouraged to take it. In addition, the chaplains and bereavement councilors on the Bethany team that work with the loved ones of patients are also available to employees who have lost a patient that they have cared for.

Bethany Hospice also conducts annual memorial services for patients that have passed and Mead said about 80% of employees attend these services. For those providing hospice care, she said, “it’s a calling. They’re not here for the paycheck.”

This year, Bethany Hospice was named by Pittsburgh Business Times as one of the best places to work in Western Pennsylvania — the fifth year in a row that the company has been awarded that honor. And in October of this year it was announced that the company was a winner in the Bronze category in Westmoreland County’s Quest for the Best contest run by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “This was all done with write-in ballots,” said Mead proudly.

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