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Hospice care offers Sturgeon man chance at continued life

Friday, June 26, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT
Julia Rodriguez, Joseph Snow's youngest daughter, touches her father's hand in the living room of his Sturgeon home on April 18.

STURGEON — Breathing heavily, Joseph Snow maneuvers his electric wheelchair through the garden of his rural home on Tucker School Road three miles south of Sturgeon.

The two rolls of garden hose that Snow recently bought online fall from one side to the other as he wheels through holes and over bumps in the lawn on his way to his asparagus and vegetable beds. Several times the heavy vehicle is just inches away from tipping over on the uneven ground. But Snow refuses help. “I’m hopeless, but not helpless,” he said and then laughed.

Hospice care

What is hospice care?

Hospice is a concept of care that emphasizes palliative rather than curative care. It gives comfort to the terminally ill and dying, while still providing needed medical care.

When should patients or doctors consider hospice care?

Generally, hospice is recommended when a patient has a life expectancy of six months or less. However, it can last longer with physician certification.

How many hospice programs are there? How do I find them?

There are more than 4,500 hospice programs in the U.S. Most are certified for Medicare coverage, but in some cases, Medicaid patients would also qualify for care.

How do I find a hospice service in Missouri?

The Missouri Hospice and Palliative Care Association can help.

 

Contact them at 606 E. Capitol Ave., Jefferson City, MO 65101; or call 573-634-5514.

Source: Hospice Foundation of America


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Snow, 78, has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension and diabetes. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is an incurable, progressive lung disease that causes severe breathing difficulties. Walking the few feet from his door to pick up the newspaper, or to the mailbox across the gravel road that leads past his house, is a venture that sends Snow to his armchair, gasping for breath for the next half hour.

After several trips to the emergency room and severe pneumonia that he only barely survived in the summer of 2008, Snow’s physician told him that it was time to consider hospice.

For most patients, this recommendation comes as a death sentence. A palliative approach, hospice is a special form of home care for patients in the end stage of a terminal disease. Medical treatment is focused on alleviating the symptoms in order to make the remaining time as bearable as possible for the patient. Since any attempt to cure the disease is abandoned during hospice, it requires a certain degree of acceptance on the side of the patient and his or her family.

“It was a reality check — and that was it,” said Patricia Snow, Joseph’s wife. “Accept what you have to accept, but it’s not always easy.

In Joseph Snow’s case, the professional care that he receives from nurses Donna Regan and Kerri Gander makes a big difference in how he can manage his health. Preferred Hospice staff helped to set up a special-needs hospital bed in the Snow’s bedroom, and they provided him a steady drug supply. The nurses also respond to nightly fever attacks at a few minutes’ notice and are there when the Snows need them.

This compassionate and around-the-clock care has helped to improve Snow’s condition considerably since he started hospice. “Joe wouldn’t be here if we hadn’t gone onto hospice,” Patricia Snow said.

His physician, Robert Bynum, agrees. “They were able to give Joe and his family … reassurance.”

Today, almost a year after starting hospice care, Joseph Snow is enjoying every minute of his life together with his wife and their family.

Whenever the weather allows it, he is outside in his garden or in his greenhouse, growing Arkansas Black Apples, asparagus, tomatoes or habanero peppers. Snow feels a deep connection to the world, and as a Jehovah’s Witness, he said he believes that after his death he is going to be resurrected into a cleansed earth.

“I have no desire to go to heaven. I don’t know what I would do if I went to heaven,” he says. “This is where I belong — on the earth. I don’t belong in heaven.”


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