Betty McLintock settles into a plush recliner in her quaint living room. Surrounding her are seasonal decor, memorabilia honoring her Scottish heritage, and framed photographs of an extended, blended family that has blessed her with 25 great-grandchildren.
Sitting across from Betty is Andy, the youngest of six adult children, who is also her caregiver. On this warm morning, Betty and Andy are visited by Dan Weiss, a clinical nurse and case manager for Sharp HealthCare’s Transitions Advanced Illness Management Program. The home-based palliative care program serves those with advanced chronic illnesses, such as congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), dementia, frailty, cancer and cirrhosis.
At this particular visit, Weiss reviews Betty’s pain medications with her and Andy, and shares how best to take them to help manage her chronic pain, which interferes with her sleep and daily life.
Betty entered the Transitions program in 2012 after suffering a heart attack. She was taken off the program after meeting some successful health milestones. However, a series of hospitalizations due to congestive heart failure prompted her to re-enter Transitions several months later.
Betty, now 86, has been cared for in her own home, where she has resided since the 1960s, and whom she shares with Andy and his wife.
“I quit my job and moved in shortly after my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and stayed on after his passing to take care of my mother when her health started to decline,” recalls Andy.
Since September 2013 — with the care, education and support provided by the Transitions team — Betty has been able to manage her congestive heart failure and COPD at home without any emergency room visits or hospitalizations. Andy credits the Transitions program, particularly the advice and guidance from the nursing and case management staff, for helping him ease into the role of a full-time caregiver.
“When my mom’s heart problems worsened and we began the Transitions program, it was great. It’s a proactive type of care,” says Andy. “I was able to call Dan and got helpful instructions on how to take care of my mom. This allowed us to care for her at home instead of making trip after trip to the hospital each time she had a health issue.”
Support for the patient and caregiver
The McLintocks are one of more than 2,200 families that the Transitions program has helped since its inception in 2007 in managing a loved one’s advanced illness.
For the McLintocks, the program also acts as a nexus.
“My mom sees a lot of doctors for her heart, pain and lung issues,” says Andy. “The Transitions program helps us coordinate and make sense of all these different specialists she sees by managing everything through her primary care doctor.”
When Betty became a Transitions patient, Weiss would often visit to help manage her condition. Now that her condition has stabilized, and the family has settled into the caregiving routine, Dan sees them every few months.
“For us, the Transitions program is essential for my mom’s health,” says Andy. “We are at the stage where she does not qualify for hospice, but still requires routine care for her heart issues and pain.”
Living life with confidence
The ability to manage her condition at home through the Transitions program, along with support from Andy and the rest of her family, has allowed Betty to maintain a life uninterrupted with visits to the emergency room or prolonged hospital stays each time a medical issue arises.
When she is not at home, she enjoys the occasional outing to the grocery store with her son, as well as gathering with friends to socialize and sew stuffed toys for local children’s hospitals.
“Having Dan here gives me more confidence,” says Betty. “Dan fills me in on what’s happening with my health, and it makes all the difference in the world. I can tell him everything. We would be lost without him. I have a lot a gratitude for this program.”
Learn more about the Sharp HealthCare Transitions Advanced Illness Management Program.
For the news media: To talk with a Sharp expert about the Transitions Advanced Illness Management Program for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.