I can tell you from personal experience that hospice care is a blessing, and the professionals who administer that care are angels. Traditional hospice care is available to anyone who is diagnosed with a terminal illness and has six months or less to live. In that regard, end-of-life care typically seeks to keep the patient comfortable and pain-free after aggressive medical treatments have been suspended. Hospice care also helps to facilitate quality time that the patient can spend with loved ones. And while it’s true that a serious illness can lead to the need for hospice care, it’s also true that some such illnesses can be treated and managed for years before hospice care is indicated or appropriate. That’s why Mountain Valley Hospice & Palliative Care has just expanded its services and facilities to help patients who can benefit from longer-term comfort care. 

Mountain Valley has cared for over 20,000 hospice patients since opening its first office 37 years ago, and today their service area includes 18 counties in North Carolina and Virginia. Earlier this month, the agency opened an office in Winston-Salem dedicated to serving patients with a serious illness.

Over the years, we’ve witnessed a growing need to reach and serve a widening population of patients facing serious illnesses, such as heart disease, lung disease, dementia, and cancer,” said Mountain Valley President and CEO Tracey Dobson. “The opening of this office reflects the organization’s commitment to ensure that patients with serious illnesses have access to high-quality palliative care services, which can extend the life of the patient by months or even years.”

Serious illness services are for patients who have a very advanced illness that is upstream from hospice. They may be struggling with symptoms or with making decisions about what they want to have done for their healthcare,” said Kristie Szarpa, senior director of practice management for Mountain Valley. “It’s a complex process and, it can be a very long journey, sometimes over many years, and so to walk that journey alone is a heavy load to bear.” 

Mountain Valley’s serious illness team includes doctors, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, chaplains, and social workers. And, unlike end-of-life hospice care, palliative services for patients with a serious illness allow for traditional medical treatments to continue.

“All of your specialists, all of your interventions you might have such as chemotherapy or surgery, all that stays in place, and we are a supplement. We are another layer of the medical team to bring support, and our focus is a bit less on the disease and a bit more on the symptoms,” said Szarpa.

Mountain Valleys’ new office is located at 3069 Trenwest Drive in Winston-Salem, and anyone with a serious illness is invited to make an appointment to discuss a palliative care plan.

As with our hospice services, you don’t need a physician referral to set up a consultation to talk about serious illness services. The patient or their family members can call us directly,” said Dobson.   

Hospice and serious illness services are covered by most insurance, but, as a nonprofit agency, Mountain Valley will not turn anyone away who is in need of care and cannot pay. For more information, call (888) 789-2922 or visit www.mtnvalleyhospice.org

Jim Longworth is the host of Triad Today, airing on Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. on ABC45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 11 a.m. on WMYV (cable channel 15).

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