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Life Touch Hospice, a service of the SHARE Foundation, recently went from a 16-bed facility to an eight-bed facility at their inpatient facility in El Dorado.

Life Touch Hospice is the only nonprofit hospice in the area. The John R. Williamson Hospice House in El Dorado is the inpatient facility that provides hospice and palliative care, as well as limited, short-term stays for residential patients.

Executive Director at Life Touch Hospice Jenifer McLelland said the hospice house went from a 16-bed unit to an eight-bed unit about six weeks ago. She said the hospice house was never at full capacity with 16 inpatients, but typically serves an average of four to five at a time.

According to a press release, hospice care is specialized care for those with a prognosis of six months or less and can be extended beyond that time provided the patient remains eligible. The focus of hospice care is on quality of life and therefore shifts from curative treatment to pain and symptom management, spiritual care, emotional and mental care and end-of-life preparation.

“Following nationwide trends where Medicare has emphasized that patients pass away at home, more and more hospice programs have decided to either close or reduce the size of their hospice homes,” the release stated. “Less than 5 percent of hospice programs have a hospice house, which makes Life Touch Hospice quite unique. We have seen on a local and community level the trend of more people passing away at home.”

Life Touch provides hospice and palliative care in five counties in Arkansas, with offices in El Dorado, Magnolia and Warren. They care for patients in individual homes, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, the John R. Williamson Hospice House and at Magnolia Regional Medical Center and Bradley County Medical Center.

The release stated that inpatient facilities are designed primarily for inpatient care which encompasses respite care (up to five days for caregiver break at a given time) and hospice general inpatient care (GIC) for patients who have acute pain and symptoms management issues (defined by Medicare as short-term).

The release said Medicare and Medicaid do not cover the cost of residential care, although some long-term care policies do.

Since the John R. Williamson Hospice House opened in 2007, they have charged a sliding scale fee for residential patients only based on their ability to pay, “and we continue to do that,” the release stated.

“For patients who need longer term stays, Medicaid pays nursing homes for rooms and board,” the release stated. “Hospice home care can then provide services to these patients while residing in the nursing homes.”

According to the release, more and more hospice programs have decided to either close or reduce the size of their hospice homes, following the nationwide trend where Medicare has emphasized the patients pass away at home.

“Nationally, less than 2 percent of hospice patients require inpatient care,” McLelland said in the release. “The vast majority of hospice patients will pass away peacefully at home. However, if a patient needs arise for respite, inpatient care or short-term residential care, we are fortunate to have this facility in our community.”

The release stated that the Life Touch Hospice’s mission, goals, experience and quality of care have all remained unchanged.

“While our bed count may have changed our commitment to provide care to those who may need inpatient or home hospice remains the same,” said Brian Jones, president and CEO of the SHARE Foundation. “Last year alone, we provided well over half a million dollars in charity and uncompensated care. This is what truly makes us unique as a nonprofit provider of hospice services.

“All of this is made possible through the generous support of our volunteers, the continued generosity of our donors, the ongoing stewardship by the SHARE Foundation board of directors and over 170 employees who all commit to making our region a better place to live,” Jones added.

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