Hospice and Palliative Care of St. Lawrence Valley gets help from Corning
Friday, January 6, 2017 - 8:41 am

Hospice and Palliative Care of St. Lawrence Valley AIM Program Director Diane Pickering, left, and Executive Director of Ruth Fishbeck, right, accept a check from the Corning Incorporated Foundation from Cheryl Thisse, center, of the Corning plant in Canton.

POTSDAM -- Hospice and Palliative Care of St. Lawrence Valley recently received a grant from the Corning Incorporated Foundation in support of their palliative care program.

Recently re-named advanced illness management or AIM, the program focuses on providing patients with relief from the uncomfortable symptoms, pain, and stress of a serious illness, whatever the diagnosis, according to a press release from Hospice.

“Often patients think they have to sever the relationship with their primary care physician when we begin working with them. That is not the case,” said AIM Program Director Diane Pickering. “The program is intended to be an extra layer of support for the patient. We work very closely with the patient’s physician to develop a plan of care that meets their needs” she said.

AIM is the only in-home palliative care services program in St. Lawrence County. Similar to Hospice, the program uses a team approach and includes a registered nurse as program director. Nurse practitioner Missy Heylen provides a consultation to assess the physical condition of the patient and goals for the management of their illness. “The key is having the time available to sit down with the patient to explain their illness and then find out what is really important to them” said Pickering. “Getting symptoms like shortness of breath, uncontrolled pain or nausea due to cancer treatment under control while educating them on how best to care for themselves can make a world of difference.”

Case Manager Amy Peretta works to link the patient and family to resources available in the community that can provide assistance as they continue to live with an illness. “Patients may not realize they are eligible for programs such as Meals on Wheels, home health care agencies and programs through the Office of the Aging and many more,” Peretta said. “These services can help alleviate some of the issues that may be causing them to have difficulties with the management of their illness,” she said.

The case manager also helps the patient and family with some of the difficult paperwork that can accompany an advanced illness, she explained.

Once a patient is part of the AIM program, the team provides follow-up visits every four to six weeks, or sooner if there is an emergency.

Since expanding the program in 2014 to include patient consultations with the nurse practitioner and case management, the number of visits provided by AIM nearly tripled. In 2016, the number of visits provided to patients and families is expected to reach nearly 1,000 with approximately 250 new patients admitted. On average, the patient caseload is 125 with new referrals daily.

While the services provided by AIM help patients and families to make the best of life with an illness, reimbursement is very limited, the press release said.

“Support provided by the community and organizations such as the Corning Incorporated Foundation is absolutely essential to helping this program continue” said Pickering. “The need to assist patients who suffer with chronic illness is demonstrated by the growth of the program in just two short years. People need help learning about their illness and working to manage it at home. We’re here to help them live the best life possible- whatever that means for them, because its different for each patient,” she said.