Seniors may be especially at risk for suicide right now

Capital Caring Health Grief Support experts offer advice on risk, warning signs and where to go for help.

Take isolation and loneliness, add illness or chronic disease, anxiety over COVID-19 and restrictions, plus the holidays, and the risk of suicide, including among seniors, is at an all-time high.

  • Everyday 123 Americans die of suicide (2018)
  • The pandemic has heightened pre-existing physical and mental health issues that have increased depression and suicide rates; the biggest risk factors are related to social isolation
  • Highest rates of suicide are among those age 75 and older; especially males and those divorced or widowed; and among women aged 45-54

What can you do? Capital Caring Health Director of Grief Support Marcie Fairbanks (available for interview) advises what to watch for and the help available.

Capital Caring Health, a nonprofit elder health and advanced illness/hospice provider understands being alone—especially at the holidays—or coping with illness are already a challenge. Adding the emotional stress and anxiety from worrying about ourselves or loved ones during the pandemic and social isolation makes it especially important to stay socially connected, and pay attention to our own feelings as well as what we see and hear from loved ones, friends, and neighbors.

Among the risk factors that may be especially prevalent among seniors:

  • Mental health conditions (affects 1 in 5 adults and often goes undiagnosed among seniors)
  • Major physical and/or chronic illnesses
  • Lack of social support and a sense of isolation
  • Stigma associated with asking others for help, especially for emotional or psychological issues

Among the suicide warning signs to watch for:

  • Talking about:
    • Being a “burden” to others
    • Feeling hopeless or having no purpose
    • Feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain.
    • Wanting to die or kill oneself and looking for a way to kill oneself
  • Increasing use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious, agitated, or reckless
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Displaying extreme mood swings

To help, CCH offers free counseling and support groups to anyone dealing with depression, trauma, or loss within the communities we serve throughout Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia. CCH also has written guides on dealing with loss related to COVID-19 for adults and families with children as well as the newly bereaved.

For anyone in need of immediate help for themselves or someone else, call or text (for live chat) the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:1-800-273-TALK (8255) 24/7. Help is also available Spanish.

Contact: Nancy Cook, VP Marketing, Communications & Public Relations
ncook@capitalcaring.org


Capital Caring Health Works to Reduce Number of Heart Patients Dying Alone in DMV in Hospitals

New Clinical Guidelines and Medical Staff Expertise Make Care at Home the Better Option

Falls Church, VA (Dec 14, 2020) - Each year, more Americans die from heart disease than any other condition, including cancer. Heart disease is also a leading cause for hospitalization: Patients with congestive heart failure (CHF) alone account for more than 1 million inpatient admissions annually.

Yet many of those hospital stays could have been prevented—and many of those patients could have lived longer and better lives—through palliative/advanced illness and hospice care delivered directly in the home. 

Unfortunately, only 5 percent of CHF patients are currently referred to palliative or hospice care following hospital discharge, despite the quality of life difference from the physical comfort and emotional solace such care can provide.

Now, Capital Caring Health (CCH), one of country’s oldest and largest nonprofit providers of advanced illness, home and hospice care, and a founding member of the National Partnership for Healthcare and Hospice Innovation (NPHI)—an association of 70 leading not-for-profit hospice and palliative care providers nationwide—are working to change those statistics. Through a new national initiative, CCH and other NPHI members dedicated to improving cardiac care will develop clinical protocols and patient and family education resources to help professionals and consumers alike make informed decisions about advanced and end-of-life care.

The initiative couldn’t be more timely.

“The guidelines are a priority given the impact of COVID-19 on advanced cardiac care patients,” says Cameron Muir, M.D., FAAHPM, Chief Innovation Officer for both CCH and NPHI. “While a vaccine will help, heart disease is expected to remain the #1 cause of death in the United States and to continue to have a disproportionate toll on many racial and ethnic groups that have higher rates of heart disease and associated risk factors.”

Statistics bear him out:

  • Prevalence: More Americans die each year from heart disease than any other condition, including cancer—it is responsible for one out of every four deaths. Due to increases in obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol—and growing numbers of older adults—the incidence of cardiovascular disease continues to rise.
  • Health disparities: Although heart disease affects all Americans across the board, African Americans and other ethnic groups may be diagnosed at a later stage, often the result of poor or delayed access to care. As a result, they suffer from more advanced and complicated conditions, leading to much worse outcomes. Complicating matters, COVID-19 is disproportionately leading to higher mortality rates among these populations in general.
  • COVID-19 risk: Heart disease places patients at greater risk of dying from COVID-19. In fact, cardiovascular complications contribute to roughly 40 percent of all coronavirus-related deaths. Conversely, many people with advanced heart disease are delaying hospital care out of fear of catching the virus, leading to later interventions when conditions have deteriorated.

“Preventing cardiac events and the related intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, mechanical ventilation, and mortality has clinical, emotional, and financial implications for patients and our healthcare system—particularly as hospitals face resource shortages due to COVID-19,” said Tom Koutsoumpas, president and CEO of Capital Caring Health (CCH) and the National Partnership of Healthcare and Hospice Innovation (NPHI). “Improved awareness of community resources and clinical best practices is critical to improving care quality and cost efficiencies.”

Hospice and advanced illness providers offer quality primary care at home, even for those who are not terminal, helping to avert the multiple emergency room visits and hospital stays often associated with advanced heart disease over months or years.

The large majority of patients and caregivers generally prefer to receive care in the comforts of their home environment. The effect of the pandemic on hospital visitor policies, fears of about the spread of the virus, and wanting to avoid overtaxing hospitals, has only intensified such preferences. Patients with cardiovascular disease are substantially more likely than those with other diseases, such as cancer, to die in the hospital or nursing facility than at home. Research suggests that lack of awareness of hospice and palliative care offerings in the community is one of the primary barriers to improved quality and access.

“Far too many Americans die in hospitals—these days, alone—from heart failure because too often, clinicians and patients—particularly minority patients—are not made aware of how not-for-profit hospice and advanced illness care organizations can provide affordable quality care at home,” said  Dr. Muir. “By collaborating with the nation’s leading experts in cardiac care, palliative care, and advanced illness, the guidelines we are developing will provide clarity and access to critical insights, clinical protocols, and resources that are urgently needed to address devastating gaps in care.”

Together with national and community partners, CCH will be working to better understand the needs of patients, family members, and clinicians and develop evidence-based tools that improve care quality, communication and costs. The initial set of resources is expected to roll out in the first quarter of 2021.

About Capital Caring Health
Capital Caring Health is one of the leading nonprofit providers of elder health, hospice, and advanced illness care for persons of all ages in the mid-Atlantic region. A member of a national network of 70 nonprofit hospice providers, our mission is to provide patients and their families with advanced illness care that is second to none. We also have special hospice teams serving children and veterans. On an annual basis, we serve over 7,000 hospice patients and provide more than $3 million in charity care to those who are uninsured and have nowhere else to turn. Almost 90 cents out of every dollar goes to caring for patients and their families.

The website, capitalcaring.org, is available in English, Spanish, and Korean plus offers 24/7 Live Chat. Since the beginning of hospice care over 40 years ago, we have served 120,000 patients and their families in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.
24 Hour Care Line: 800-869-2136

Media Contact: Nancy Cook, VP Marketing, Communications & Public Relations
ncook@capitalcaring.org


Precision Pain Relief Gives Patient Back An Active Life

Advanced Pain Clinic Targets Acute and Chronic Pain at its Source

Charles, age 77 was referred to Dr. Byas-Smith by his doctor when the pain from his myeloma became unmanageable. A golf-enthusiast, Charles was struggling to maintain a normal lifestyle that involved his favorite activities.  “I met with Dr. Byas-Smith and his team, and after a couple of treatments, I felt much better and am now able to go for long walks and play golf.”

Advanced Pain Clinic

Capital Caring Health’s Advanced Pain Clinic, located at the Adler Center on the Van Meter Campus in Aldie, VA, with a satellite office at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, DC, offers patients the most advanced diagnostic technology for pain management. Minimally invasive treatments that target the source of pain, provide relief to patients with cancer, neurological diseases (Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, ALS), and co-occurring conditions including congestive heart failure, neuropathy, osteoarthritis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

According to the National Cancer Institute, nearly 80 percent of patients with advanced-stage cancer have moderate to severe pain that negatively affects their functional status and quality of life. Compounding the problem are the side effects of drugs and treatments, which can produce new issues including swelling, nausea, shortness of breath, even depression.

Interventional Instead of Pharmacological Pain Relief

Dr.  Michael Byas-Smith, medical director of Capital Caring Health’s Advanced Pain Clinic is uniquely qualified for perform targeted interventional (minimally invasive) therapies that treat pain at its source, rather than through oral medications including opioids.

Learn more about our Advanced Pain Clinic

Taking Heart Disease to Heart

Capital Caring Health Plays Key Role in National Initiative

Each year, more Americans die from heart disease than any other condition, including cancer. Heart disease is also a leading cause for hospitalization: Patients with congestive heart failure (CHF) alone account for more than 1 million inpatient admissions annually.

Yet many of those hospital stays could have been prevented—and many of those patients could have lived longer and better lives—through palliative/advanced illness and hospice care delivered directly in the home.  

With hospice’s focus on symptom and pain management, supportive and spiritual care, the specialty can reduce 911 calls, emergency room visits, and inpatient stays, even as it improves the quality of life for end-stage heart failure patients. In fact, one study shows that CHF patients under hospice care have a mean survival of 402 days versus 321 for non-hospice patients.*

But the sad fact is that few CHF patients ever receive the benefit of hospice care. Research reveals that only 5 percent of end-stage CHF patients covered by Medicare are referred to hospice or palliative care after hospitalization. As a result, thousands of end-stage cardiovascular patients nationwide are missing out on the physical comfort and emotional solace palliative/hospice care can provide.

National Partnership for Healthcare and Hospice Innovation (NPHI)—an association of non-profit hospices dedicated to helping people live fully through the end of life—along with other partners are tackling the issue. And Capital Caring Health, a founding member of NPHI, is playing a leading role based upon its expertise, experience and stature in the field.

The Need is Now

While the issue of advanced cardiac disease deserves attention at any time, the initiative could not be more timely, given the triple threat posed by:

  • COVID-19: One of the most serious underlying conditions affecting the outcome for hospitalized coronavirus patients is heart disease, including Congestive Heart Failure. In fact, hospitalized COVID-19 patients with cardiovascular disease are twice as likely to die as those without the complication.
  • Growing Prevalence: Already the leading cause of mortality in the US, heart disease is responsible for one out of every four deaths, with more than 655,000 Americans lost every year. Due to increases in obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol—and growing numbers of older adults—the incidence of cardiovascular disease continues to rise.
  • Disparities in Care: Although heart disease affects all Americans across the board, it can hit African Americans especially hard. As a group, African Americans are often diagnosed at a later stage, with more advanced and complicated conditions, often the result of poor or delayed access to the care they need.

There’s another, even broader, issue that impacts these patients and others that the Initiative hopes to resolve: low overall awareness, understanding, and use of both hospice and advanced illness/palliative care for all diseases. As an example, hospice admissions are particularly low among certain underserved, minority populations such as African Americans, Latino, and the LGBTQ community, for reasons that include historical and cultural factors. And much of the population isn’t aware that advanced illness/palliative care can manage symptoms even while curative care continues.

Yet, despite an initial lack of understanding, once a family member experiences palliative or hospice care, their perception changes dramatically with most saying they wish they had known about the service sooner.

The challenge is to raise community awareness of all that advanced illness, palliative, and hospice care offers, and of the critical difference it can make to patients with end-stage cardiac disease and their families.

Changing Attitudes, Actions

Through a new national initiative, CCH and other NPHI members dedicated to improving cardiac care will develop protocols and patient and family education resources to help professionals and consumers alike make informed decisions about advanced and end-of-life care.

Physician-directed guidelines will include evidenced-based information on when cardiologists, primary care providers, and others should consider palliative and/or hospice care. Studies show the greatest benefit comes when patients spend at least two to three months in hospice care; the initial Medicare coverage period is for six months.

In addition to physician-directed guidelines, the Initiative will also issue a companion guide for those living with CHF or newly diagnosed, featuring practical information and tools to safely manage symptoms at home. The latter is often a challenging and burdensome task, as advanced cardiac disease is usually accompanied by a number of serious symptoms including shortness of breath, major fatigue, persistent cough, edema (swelling, usually in the legs and ankles), chest pain, loss of appetite/nausea, and depression and anxiety…all issues that palliative and advanced care is uniquely qualified to address.

The initial set of resources is expected to roll out in the first quarter of 2021.

Lastly, a media campaign will help raise public awareness nationwide of the scope and quality of care that hospice provides for advanced cardiac care patients. Capital Caring Health currently provides care and support to many CHF patients and their families, witnessing firsthand the tremendous difference it makes. So we’ll be working with the media in the areas we serve to spread the word, too.

Heart to Heart

This Initiative is tackling a growing problem: Improving the care of end-stage advanced cardiac patients. By increasing awareness of palliative/hospice’s care, support, and symptom management provided safely at home, the focus can return to what matters most to patients and families: spending quality, meaningful time with loved ones at the end of life. That’s what all of us—Capital Caring Health and NPHI —want for everyone.


Holiday Healing With Horses Camp Provides A Spark of Joy

Falls Church, Virginia (December 10, 2020) – Capital Caring Health recently hosted a free holiday event for seriously ill and grieving children and their families to introduce them to the therapeutic power and the special connection between humans and horses.

Held at the 80-acre Ohana Equestrian Preserve, a full-service equine facility in Loudoun County, Virginia, 34 children and their families attended the event which was staffed with 15 Capital Caring Health volunteers who baked special treats, created signage and greeted the children and families with warmth and encouragement. The children also participated in a special holiday-themed art therapy craft and posed with Santa and their new four-legged friends.

For the past four decades, CCH has embraced children dealing with a serious illness as well as grieving children who have suffered the loss of a loved one.   The Capital Caring Health children’s program, Capital Caring Kids, provides pediatric hospice care, palliative and advanced illness care to seriously ill children and grief support to children who have lost a loved one.

“Our events and workshops provide the opportunity for children and families to connect in a safe, therapeutic environment,” said Tara Hoit, Director of Capital Caring Kids.  “All activities children engage in are designed to be fun and meaningful helping children develop tools to cope with illness or recent loss.

Capital Caring Kids focuses on delivering holistic palliative and hospice care that focuses on improving the quality of life for the child and the family through expert management of pain and other physical symptoms as well as emotional, spiritual and other support services, to help the children and families cope with the complex issues resulting from a serious illness.

During the event, a child visiting Santa asked, “When you are hurt, is it okay to cry?”

And to that Santa replied, “Yes, I do it all the time and it really helps.”

The event was sponsored by Ohana Equestrian Preserve, Apple FCU, NOVEC, Freddy Donuts, Butler's Pantry NC, Dropping the Reigns and Good Shepherd United Methodist Church.

The community is invited to become a part of the Capital Caring Kids story of hope this holiday season by supporting our program, by visiting capitalcaring.org or  capitalcaring.org/giftforchildren.

Contact Tara Hoit, Director of Capital Caring Kids for ways to become involved as a volunteer at thoit@capitalcaring.org or call 540-295-7223.

About Capital Caring Health
Capital Caring Health is one of the leading nonprofit providers of elder health, hospice, and advanced illness care for persons of all ages in the mid-Atlantic region. A member of a national network of 70 nonprofit hospice providers, our mission is to provide patients and their families with advanced illness care that is second to none. We also have special hospice teams serving children and veterans. On an annual basis, we serve over 7,000 hospice patients and provide more than $3 million in charity care to those who are uninsured and have nowhere else to turn. Almost 90 cents out of every dollar goes to caring for patients and their families.

The website, capitalcaring.org, is available in English, Spanish, and Korean plus offers 24/7 Live Chat. Since the beginning of hospice care over 40 years ago, we have served 120,000 patients and their families in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.
24 Hour Care Line: 800-869-2136


Capital Caring Health Partners with Six Leading Non-Profit Providers

New Medicare Program Aligns Incentives to Provide Comprehensive Care to High-Needs Patients

Falls Church, Virginia, Dec. 7, 2020 –  Capital Caring Health has joined forces with six of the nation’s largest and well-known non-profit advanced illness providers to form Advanced Illness Partners (AIP) and participate in a new model of care from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI). One of CMMI’s most prominent new models, Direct Contracting allows organizations to accept financial risk and make use of new flexibilities and quality improvement incentives to better serve Medicare beneficiaries with complex and chronic illness.

Advanced Illness Partners is among 51 entities nationwide designated by CMMI to participate in this new program. Organizations participating in the Model are committed to providing high-value, comprehensive care to high-need Medicare beneficiaries— and are willing to accept risk for the most complex patients in the U.S. healthcare system.

AIP is comprised of seven organizations from six states—Arizona, Florida, Washington D.C., Virginia, Ohio, Nevada and Oregon—which have a combined nearly 250 years of experience in caring for those with advanced chronic illness through largely home-based, community-oriented care. The partners currently serve over 60,000 Medicare beneficiaries annually and have prior success in value-based models such as Independence at Home (IAH), Program for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), and the Medicare Care Choices Model (MCCM).

AIP organizations have provided home-based care in a cost-efficient manner for many years. Now, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the consistently stated preferences of many seniors to “age in place,” AIP is excited to show just how effective this model of care can be in meeting patients’ needs.

Eric De Jonge M.D., Nationally Recognized Geriatrician, Serves as CMO for AIP

Eric De Jonge, Director of Geriatrics at Capital Caring Health and Chief Medical Officer for Advanced Illness Partners shared, “We’re excited to participate in CMMI’s innovative program to bring advanced illness care upstream and serve patients with complex, chronic disease in the home setting for the long-term. As non-profit providers, our network allows us to remain community-based while also sharing best practices and economies to scale to invest in tools that help us improve care and lower costs of care for high-needs patients.”

The Advanced Illness Partners include Pure Healthcare, a program from Ohio’s Hospice; Geriatric Solutions, a program of the Hospice of the Valley in Arizona; Hope Healthcare in Fort Myers, Florida; Housecall Providers, a part of the CareOregon family; Cornerstone Hospice in Central Florida; Nathan Adelson Hospice in Las Vegas, Nevada and Capital Caring Health in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. All seven organizations are excited to learn from each other and share best practices in treating patients.

Medicare beneficiaries looking for coordinated and comprehensive care may seek to enroll in the new program by visiting AdvancedIllnessPartners.org.

For more information on Advanced Illness Partners or the collaboration please contact Capital Caring Health’s Director of Population Health, Jacqueline Kimmell, at jkimmell@capitalcaring.org.

The statements contained in this document are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of CMS. The authors assume responsibility for the accuracy and completeness of the information contained in this document.

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About Capital Caring Health
Capital Caring Health is one of the leading nonprofit providers of elder health, hospice, and advanced illness care for persons of all ages in the mid-Atlantic region. A member of a national network of 70 nonprofit hospice providers, our mission is to provide patients and their families with advanced illness care that is second to none. We also have special hospice teams serving children and veterans. On an annual basis, we serve over 7,000 hospice patients and provide more than $3 million in charity care to those who are uninsured and have nowhere else to turn. Almost 90 cents out of every dollar goes to caring for patients and their families.

The website, capitalcaring.org, is available in English, Spanish, and Korean plus offers 24/7 Live Chat. Since the beginning of hospice care over 40 years ago, we have served 120,000 patients and their families in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.
24 Hour Care Line: 800-869-2136

Media Contact: Nancy Cook, VP Marketing, Communications & Public Relations
ncook@capitalcaring.org 


Capital Caring Health Earns Three Prestigious Awards

Best Healthcare Website; Gold Awards for Website and Innovative Marketing Campaign

Capital Caring Health is the recipient of three prestigious awards for its website and innovative There’s No Place Like Home marketing campaign which included 30-second TV spots, digital media, radio, print, metro transit and rail advertising collectively reaching millions of residents throughout the Washington, DC Metro.

The company received national recognition as the recipient of the Web Marketing Association's 2020 Best Healthcare Provider Website Award and two Gold MarCom Awards for its website and 2019 marketing and rebranding campaign.

“Our No Place Like Home campaign reinforces our focus on personalized, high-quality care delivered in the comfort of an individual’s home,” said Steve Cone, Chief of Communications, Marketing and Philanthropy at Capital Caring Health.

Cone added about the company’s award-winning website, “In 2019, we did a complete overhaul and redesign of our website with a dynamic new navigation structure and enhanced menu highlighting our existing and new, expanded service offerings. We also added a special Live Chat function to enhance communications among visitors to the site, making Capital Caring Health the first hospice in the county to offer such access.”

Other new features include a multilingual tab which will translate the website content in Spanish and Korean. Additionally, news features and blogs are updated frequently as are resources designed to educate and inform caregivers and patients.

“Since our rebranding campaign, we still receive on a monthly basis three times the visitor traffic that we had prior to the campaign,” said Nancy Cook, Vice President, Marketing, Communications and Public Relations.

Ashley Even, Director of Digital Marketing, provides oversight for the organization’s website. Even added, “Our primary focus it to ensure that we provide our patients and their families and members of the community with resources and support, as well as an opportunity to connect with us by learning about our  employment and volunteer opportunities and ways to give and support CCH through philanthropy.”

The WebAward Competition is the premier award recognition program for industry-specific web sites. Since 1997, the Web Marketing Association's annual WebAward Competition has been setting the standard of excellence for Website development. Independent expert judges from around the world review sites in 96 industries, and the best are recognized with a WebAward.

MarCom Awards is an international creative competition which recognizes outstanding achievement by marketing and communication professionals. Each year about 6,000 print and digital entries are submitted from dozens of countries.


Grieving During the Holidays - You Are Not Alone

Even in the best of times, the holidays can be tough. From Thanksgiving through the New Year, all we see are messages to feel “happy,” “merry,” “thankful,” and “joyous.” Yet reality often collides with warm memories of celebrations past, leaving many people sad or depressed.

This year, those feelings of anxiety and missing out started long before the season even began, as the pandemic spread loneliness and isolation along with the virus. Many people are longing  for their previous lives, when jobs, income, and health were not on the line. COVID-related restrictions are sharply altering long-held traditions, reducing or eliminating typical gatherings with family and friends.

And if you are also grieving the loss of a loved one, the pain and loneliness can be overwhelming—especially at the holiday.

Know that you are not alone.

With Capital Caring Health (CCH), there is always someone to listen, to connect to, and to help guide a path forward at whatever pace works for you. Every day of the year—even during the holidays—our grief support services are available, free of charge. And that goes for everyone, whether you were a patient or not. We view helping others as part our community-based, non-profit mission. Our grief support services are available to anyone who lives within the communities we serve in Washington, D.C., Virginia, and Maryland.

CCH offers a variety of options tailored to meet your special needs, ranging from support groups and workshops to short-term individual or family counseling, telephone support, and resources for families with children. Regardless of the format, our specially-trained bereavement counselors listen to your unique experiences of grief, loss, and uncertainty, and assist as you find ways to cope and build hope for the days ahead.

Continuing Pandemic Deepens Grief

Just about everything is more complicated during the pandemic, and that includes the ability to  grieve the loss of a loved one. Gone are the rituals that normally bring comfort, consolation, and closure. Add the typical holiday expectations on top of bereavement, and you may feel as if you are facing a mountain of grief alone.

CCH has many tools and techniques to help you get through mourning and the holidays. Our Adult Grief Guide During COVID-19 offers practical advice that can make a difference. Available in both English and Spanish, the guide covers how to stay connected, managing anxiety, grief and sleep, wellness and self-care, and more. Recommended books and Ten Things Grief Counselors Want You to Know are among the additional resources included.

CCH also developed a Child & Family Grief Guide In the midst of COVID-19 as children are especially likely to need help managing anxiety due to their grief and dealing with the pandemic. The guide features information including how to talk to kids about COVID-19, how to control anxiety with mindfulness apps and websites for children, plus at-home activities, and books for children dealing with the loss of a loved one.

A special COVID-19 support group is also open to anyone in the DC/VA/MD region who has lost someone—anywhere in the world—due to the coronavirus.

Whatever the source, grief affects energy, focus, patience, and sense of time. You need not have experienced the loss of a loved one to benefit from advice about taking care of yourself from the CCH Adult Guide to Grief During COVID-19. The guide is appropriate for anyone— including caregivers—dealing with grief, anxiety and depression, and feelings of loss.

Special Holiday Support Available Now

Even under “normal” circumstances, holidays are often especially difficult for those dealing with a  loss, recent or long ago. So every year CCH offers special grief support groups and workshops—in addition to regular, ongoing groups. These special sessions provide extra help through the holidays whether you’ve lost a partner, a parent, or a child. Currently, all groups are virtual, led by trained counselors with participation by peers coping with a similar experience.

Grief support groups during the holidays include:

  • Missing a Child at the Holiday Workshop (Dec. 9)
  • Walking Mindfully through the Holiday (Dec. 4, 11, 18)
  • Self-Care During the Holidays (Dec. 11)

Advance registration is required for all groups and workshops. You can also view our entire calendar of grief support groups and workshops here.

Plan for Hope

The grieving process is unique to each person. At some point, there will be a time when you’ll think about the days ahead and a different life for yourself. CCH can serve as a guide on this journey, with groups and workshops designed to help you be forward-looking in the New Year, including:

  • Soul Food Festival—Sharing and preparing favorite recipes (Jan. 9, 16)
  • New Year/New Self—Vision Collage for 2021 (Jan. 22)

Holidays or not, there’s no need to suffer alone with your grief. CCH offers diverse support programs year-round for adults, children, and teens. Caregivers and those who have lost their companion pet within the past six months will also find support group options. And, additional online resources such as our Healing From the Loss of a Loved One: Newly Bereaved Survivors Guide are available to anyone in need. The guide is also available in Spanish.

Please call 833-671-4465 during normal business hours in order to speak with Grief Support staff. You may also reach CCH 24/7 by calling 800-869-2136 or using the live chat feature on our website capitalcaring.org to schedule an appointment or learn more about grief support options.


Hospice and Palliative Care: "It's About How You Live"

It's About How You Live

That's the theme for this year’s National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, observed every November. But it’s so much more than that. Indeed, “how you live” lies at the very core of the hospice and palliative philosophy of care.

Both specialties are dedicated to supporting quality of life for patients and families facing serious, long-term illness. Palliative care is available at any stage of disease to help relieve pain, discomfort, and other symptoms while curative care continues. Hospice care can also include palliative care, but with more extensive services and support.

But there’s one choice that remains firmly in the hands of just about everyone: The decision to get palliative or hospice care when you need it, at low or no cost.

Unfortunately, not enough people take advantage of this valuable option.

Raising Awareness, Understanding

Hospice care is a type of specialized medical care that provides compassionate physical, emotional, spiritual and practical support to people in the advanced stage of illness. About 1.4 million patients receive hospice care each year, but so many more are eligible. In fact, out of all hospice patients nationwide, only 8.2 percent are African American, 6.4 percent are Hispanic, and just 2 percent are Asian. Native Americans account for less than 1 percent.

Many factors influence this low rate of participation, including:

  • Lack of awareness;
  • Less access to healthcare services;
  • Cultural and religious attitudes towards death and dying;
  • Assumptions about cost.

National Hospice and Palliative Care Month and the accompanying outreach helps address these concerns. And nonprofit Capital Caring Health (CCH)—one of the largest providers of hospice, advanced illness care, elder health, and at-home care services in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. —is doing its part. We’ve launched a community-wide awareness campaign that includes informative interviews with WTOP radio about hospice, palliative care, disparities in care, and how to stay well as you age in place.

Getting the Facts Right

While hospice’s benefits are greatly appreciated by those who have used it, time and again families tell us—and hospices across the country—they wish they’d known about the option earlier.

What kept them, and others, from selecting the hospice care benefit?

Most likely, the answer lies in myths, misunderstanding, and misinformation. Here are the facts:

  1. Hospice is a philosophy, with a person-centered approach to care.

Hospice is high-quality, holistic care that enables patients and families to focus on living as fully as possible despite a life-limiting illness. Care focuses on managing pain and other symptoms; emotional and spiritual support helps patients and families face the most challenging of times. When a loved one is at the end of life and a cure is no longer possible, hospice care may be the right option.

  1. With hospice care, you stay at home, not in the hospital.

In short, we go where you are, not the other way around. At CCH, 95 percent of hospice patients receive care at home. Most often, “home” is a private residence, although long-term care facilities, assisted living centers, and other settings are also included.

Of course, when needs are more intensive, inpatient care is also available in a free-standing hospice center or a special, hospital-based unit. CCH has 57 in-patient beds throughout our service area for such special circumstances.

  1. Hospice offers meaningful support to family caregivers; it doesn’t replace them.

“Taking care of our own,” particularly elders, is central to many cultures. With hospice or palliative care, family members continue their key caregiving and decision-making role, while CCH manages clinical care. We also make sure patients and families have everything they need including prescription drugs, medical equipment—such as oxygen or a hospital bed—and all other supplies, right there in the home.

Hospice also directly helps caregivers through pastoral care, counseling, support groups and more. For example, additional training and advice can give caregivers more confidence as they provide daily care, reducing stress, depression, and a sense of being overwhelmed.

Lastly, hospice assures that neither patients nor caregivers are ever alone. Help is available 24/7, and grief support is provided for a full year following a loss.

  1. Hospice is fully covered by Medicare, health plans and most Medicaid programs.

Many people wrongly assume that hospice care is expensive, and that they’ll have to pay for it out of their own pockets. As a result, they don’t explore hospice as an option.

But in most cases, coverage pays for everything (or just about), so you can take advantage of this extra level of care.

In fact, hospice coverage is the most generous of all Medicare benefits. With Medicare Part A and selection of a Medicare-certified hospice like CCH, care is covered 100 percent. Private health plans also offer hospice coverage as do many Medicaid programs. Check with your individual carrier for details.

  1. Hospice is about living as well as possible, as long as possible; it is not “giving up.”

Hospice brings dignity, comfort, and respect at the end of life. Not a last resort, choosing to enter hospice means a patient and family have made a deliberate decision to focus on quality of life and what matters most. By working with each patient and family, CCH develops a care plan for their unique situation, including offering activities such as art, music, and in some cases pet therapy for relaxation and enjoyment.

Hospice allows families to spend time together, at home, rather than rushing to the hospital where in-person visits and good-byes are no longer possible due to COVID-19.

  1. Hospice is for everyone!

Capital Caring Health offers unconditional care to everyone regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, culture, mental health status, disability, age, sexual orientation, or gender expression. While most hospice patients are seniors, CCH also provides care to children from infants to young adults.

As a non-profit, CCH also does not deny care to anyone who lacks coverage or the financial means to pay for services. In fact, we spend more than $3 million each year to care for patients in need, assuring that everyone can get the compassionate, end-of-life care they deserve.

Hospice care is open to anyone with an advanced illness and certification from a physician that he or she has a life expectancy of six months or less. However, with physician recertification, many patients have remained in hospice much longer.

In the end, hospice is about how you live, all the more important when time to spend with loved ones is limited.

To learn more about CCH hospice care and other services, please call our 24-hour helpline (800) 869-2136, visit capitalcaring.org and use our live chat feature or explore our many online resources here.


Saluting Those Who Served

Faced with a Formidable Foe, Capital Caring Health Still Celebrates Veterans

No doubt about it, this period of pandemic has been a long, hard slog for everyone. But for those with advanced, life-limiting illness, COVID-19 has posed special hardships. And it’s particularly challenging for the veterans in our care, who often face the added burden of service-related illnesses and disabilities, severe chronic conditions, and depression.

With strategic foresight, Capital Caring Health (CCH) has risen to meet the new demands imposed by this powerful new foe. While our efforts extend across the board, CCH’s re-imagined initiatives to care for our veterans—physically, emotionally, and spiritually—are a prime example of our focus on “doing the right thing,” COVID or not.

Where Every Day is A Veteran’s Day    

For more than 40 years, the care, support, and recognition of veterans has been part of Capital Caring Health’s mission. From help and assistance securing the benefits they have earned to matching patients with “battle buddies”—current and former members of the military who volunteer their time to support and encourage colleagues in our care—we’ve taken that pledge to heart.

Perhaps the most visible indication of that commitment lies in our comprehensive, branch-specific ceremonies to honor those who served.

Unmatched by any other organization we know of, our celebrations typically last an hour and involve from two to 10 or more active or retired, uniformed, military members from the patient’s service branch. Ceremonies include the National Anthem, the song associated with the patient’s service— “Anchors Aweigh” for Navy, “The Caisson Song” for Army, and so on—along with a tribute featuring highlights of his or her life, drawn from personal interviews conducted by specially-trained CCH volunteers. Formalities conclude with a presentation of gifts emblazoned with branch insignia, challenge coins, pins, and other tokens of appreciation as the patient, family members, and volunteers mingle and enjoy refreshments.

Of course, that was all pre-coronavirus. And while COVID-19 has definitely rained on our parade, it hasn’t dampened our enthusiasm or ability to maintain tradition.

“When the pandemic first hit, we made a conscious decision to continue honoring the former military members in our care,” says Lt. Col. David Benhoff (retired, USMC) and CCH’s Veterans Health and Support Services Liaison. “So many are Vietnam Veterans who never received any welcome or the recognition they deserved when they returned home, unlike vets from most of America’s other conflicts. We figured we owed it to them. The military doesn’t quit when times get tough, so neither will we.”

So Benhoff and Katherine Knoble, CCH’s Manager, Community and Volunteer Engagement, regrouped.

Changing Approaches for Changing Times

“For safety’s sake, we knew we couldn’t conduct the ceremonies in person anymore,” says Knoble. “So we had to get creative.”

Beginning in June 2020, recognition ceremonies went virtual, with pre-recorded anthems. Tribute speeches and ceremonial spotlights, formerly done in person, were also online, although patients still receive their ceremonial keepsakes and other military-themed gifts.  The virtual ceremonies were created by Capital Caring Health’s Military Volunteer Team and can be found on the CCH YouTube channel.

But Knoble, who is actively involved in military-affiliated social media sites, worried it wasn’t enough and lacked the human touch so essential to hospice and palliative care. So she sent out an SOS.

“I asked for help with service-related goods and items that would be comforting to former military members nearing the end of their lives,” she says. “And I was overwhelmed by the response.”

From Colorado to California, New York to Alaska, gifts started pouring in. Handmade lap-robes embroidered with service insignia, knitted prayer shawls, crocheted tissue-box covers, coasters and more—all packed up and mailed at the volunteer’s own expense—honor and recognize those who sacrificed so much for the nation.

“Our vets gave a lot and missed out on a lot just to keep us all safe,” says Tracy, a volunteer from Missouri, who crochets and recruited fellow crafters to help. “Doing this warms my heart. I am more than happy to try and brighten someone else’s day—especially now—by giving back.”

And it’s not just individuals who are pitching in. Trader Joe’s contributes free bouquets to present at each recognition ceremony.

Celebrating Individuals, Celebrating Communities

Despite the coronavirus, Knoble estimates that the CCH volunteer engagement team coordinates approximately 20 individual ceremonies each month, about the same as before. Ceremonies are conducted throughout CCH’s service area, which extends from the Maryland suburbs of Montgomery and Prince George’s counties through the District of Columbia and as far south as Richmond, Virginia. Altogether, she has an army of about 100 military members who volunteer their time to help.

“Before COVID, CCH conducted group ceremonies on Veterans Day at long-term care facilities, independent/assisted living centers, adult daycare centers, and other locales where veterans were present, whether or not they had an affiliation with CCH,” Knoble explains.  “We viewed it as a community service, and typically reached between 600 to 900 individuals through these events each year.”

This Veterans Day, like just about everything else in 2020, is different. Undeterred, Benhoff, Knoble, and the Military Volunteer Team outdid themselves.

“Viewing the restraints imposed by COVID, we contacted the VA and Pentagon, where we already have established connections, and asked for their help,” says Benhoff.

The result is a 19-minute virtual Veterans Day Video Presentation created by CCH Military Volunteer Team, with a message from Maj. Gen. Peter Aylward, US Army (ret.), director of the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration. CCH has made the video available to anyone who wants it, nationwide, here.


Beyond Veterans Day

Pomp and circumstance, while stirring to the soul, only go so far. As COVID-19 continues to rage, CCH has made other adjustments in how we care for and comfort our patients, veterans and non-veterans alike.

For those with newly limited income and supports, we now regularly provide nutritionist-planned meals to nurture frail and ailing bodies. We’ve increased telehealth and video visits to minimize contact and reduce coronavirus exposure, potentially deadly to patients with life-limiting conditions. And true to our non-profit mission, we’ve welcomed into our care those who could not pay because of insurance coverage issues or other financial reasons.

But that’s only part of the story. As the veteran’s recognition ceremonies demonstrate, CCH’s holistic approach extends to caring for a person’s mental and emotional needs, as well as the physical. From virtual pet and art/music therapy, to personal cards, calls, and Zoom visits from volunteers, we work to uplift sagging spirits, on Veterans Day and every day.

To view some of the recognition ceremonies, and the many items contributed, click here. To find out how you can help, visit capitalcaring.org,  or contact Katherine Knoble directly at kknoble@capitalcaring.org.