Healthcare Touched by the Heart

Updated on August 7, 2013

By Kathleen Ganster

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart,” Helen Keller.

It is a quote that Nainesh Desai often uses when he is describing what he believes is quality healthcare – healthcare that is provided by the heart.

“It is in a bit of a different context, but hospice care must be provided by the heart,” said the President and CEO of Anova Hospice & Palliative Care Services, LLC, one of the divisions of Anova Healthcare, “And that is what our team provides, healthcare touched by the heart.”

Hospice care begins with establishing a rapport with the patient and family, explained Desai.

“When people hear the word hospice, they run away from it. We don’t want people to feel that way,” he said.

According to Desai, caring for a patient in hospice isn’t just about medical care, but also spiritual and emotional healthcare as well. It takes a team of healthcare providers including the medical healthcare workers but also the social workers and chaplain.

With the Anova team, hospice chaplain, the Reverend Ron Schermerhorn, works closely with healthcare providers to meet the spiritual needs of hospice patients and their families. His work is part of the important services Anova provides to make their patients’ hospice experience as comforting as possible.

“We come along side of the other healthcare. I provide the spiritual support that is so important,” he said.

Schermerhorn has served in hospice ministry for eight years and has been with many patients and their families through their hospice experiences. It can obviously be a difficult process for those involved, but also a very healing spiritually experience, he said.

“I love working with hospice patients. Hospice care is pure ministry dealing with people who are terminally ill and have little to lose through being honest,” Schermerhorn said.

Spiritual care is an important aspect of hospice care said Jeff Irwin, a clinical supervisor and RN with Anova. Irwin and Schermerhorn often work hand-in-hand, visiting patients and families to see what their needs are.

“I ask them – what do you need, what are you afraid of? Everyone thinks it may be healthcare, but they need other care as well,” said Irwin, “They may be afraid of pain or it may be of dying.”

In his role, Irwin explains to the family the medical care that will be provided and what the patient’s medical care needs may be. Respecting the family as care providers is essential to the success of a quality hospice experience, explained Irwin, because they may already be feeling helpless because of the medical condition of their loved one.

“We don’t want them to feel displaced or like they don’t know what they are talking about. We may say, “Let’s try this, this way,’ instead of saying, ‘You are doing this all wrong,’” he said.

Irwin is honest with patients and their families, answering questions and providing information that helps them understand the medical aspects of their care. And that may involve making difficult decisions, another reason the partnering with Schermerhorn is so important.

“We may need to work together with the family if we need to assist the family through a medical or spiritual decision. The two often overlap,” Irwin said.

Another important aspect of care is understanding and knowing how the patient lived his life, said Irwin. Keeping patient care inline with the lifestyle of the patient is key.

“We have to respect their lives – the patient and the families are the ones steering the boat, not us,” he said.

Irwin said he believes one aspect of Anova that may set them apart is that they know how their patients feel – many of the staff have been there themselves. And that experience brings out what Desai referred to as “caring with the heart.”

“Many of our employees have had personal experiences with hospice for our own family, loved ones. Me for example, and many more. We understand what the families are going through,” Irwin said, “We have been there and we bring that vulnerability with us.”

The services provided by Anova don’t end with the end of the life of the patient. Schermerhorn emphasized the bereavement services for the family that they may utilize for 13 months after losing their loved ones. In addition to pastoral services and counseling, families are also invited to an annual memorial service honoring those who have passed in the last year. .

“We care about our patients. They become very important to us,” said Irwin.

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