Page 43 - Healthcare News SepOct 2021
P. 43

  Dedication is Strong Medicine
Alicia Ross, MD,
Medical Director of Hospice Life Care
Congratulations to the 2021 Healthcare Heroes!
We are especially proud to recognize
Dr. Alicia Ross
for over 30 years of dedication to the Holyoke VNA Hospice Life Care.
Holyoke Medical Center • Holyoke Medical Group Holyoke VNA Hospice Life Care • River Valley Counseling Center
      Alicia Ross says many people recoil at the idea of hospice without realizing what a benefit it can be.
Turning back the clock to the late ’80s, Ross said she traveled to England to study under Dr. Cicely Saunders, considered the founder of the modern hospice movement.
“Before we started
our hospice services in Holyoke, I went to England to better understand how they did it,” she recalled. While she worked primarily with the doctor’s staff, Ross also met with and learned from Saunders herself.
Ross turned her knowledge into action
in 1990, joining others
in creating Holyoke VNA Hospice Life Care. They did so, she said, with a simple philosophy: that “dying is a part of living.”
With hospice care, it’s possible to bring dignity and acceptance to patients and families when they are making difficult decisions about end-of-life care. But
 it is never an easy conversation.
“We still see patients who have a strong negative reaction to the word
‘hospice,’” Ross said, adding that this is unfortunate because people who could benefit from hospice care are not always referred early enough to enable them to gain some benefit from it.
“In addition to nurses who provide pain relief, hospice also offers other services to make a person’s last
 “It’s huge for the patient to be reassured they’ve done all they can do to fight their illness. It’s also just as important for family members because they will remember this fo”r the rest of their lives.
days more comfortable,” she noted. “Home health aides, chaplains, social workers, even volunteers can all bring comfort to the patient.”
No matter what faith a person follows, she added, the chaplain’s role is part
of providing comfort and pain relief. “During this time, many patients have emotional and spiritual pain. When
the chaplain can reduce some of that emotional pain, it also eases some of the physical pain.”
Volunteers also play an important role. While COVID restrictions have curtailed in-person visits to patients, volunteers also make an important contribution in providing comfort.
“We try to match volunteers to the patient,” Ross said. “For example, if the patient is a veteran, our volunteer is a veteran.” By aligning interests, the volunteer becomes a welcome face and often develops a friendship with the patient.
Administering medicine is an important part of hospice, but there are often non-medical ways to ease a patient’s pain. Ross gave an example of how a patient with lung disease will regularly experience shortness of breath.
“While morphine is a good treatment, oxygen is too, so a fan blowing in the room can be very effective,” she said, adding that anxiety also contributes to difficulty in breathing. “Many patients feel they are burdening their family, so we work on lessening their stress and anxiety to help them understand they are not a burden on their family.”
According to Groden, family members often struggle and wonder if they’ve done the right thing in referring a loved one to hospice. She said Ross approaches that conversation by reassuring the family that, at this point in time, additional treatments would actually cause more harm than good, and that
hospice is the most Ross
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