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VNA Phoenix Center in Valpo Hosts Networking Program for Continuity of Care Association


The healthcare world can be difficult to navigate, however with the Continuity of Care Association’s (COCA) monthly networking meetings, healthcare workers can rest easy knowing they are connected and updated with the latest in the field.

On Thursday, the Visiting Nurse Association of NWI (VNA of NWI) hosted the November COCA meeting at its children's bereavement center, the VNA Phoenix Center. The meeting provided healthcare workers the scoop on some of the biggest changes since 1991 concerning federal regulations for caregivers of patients with dementia. Laura DeGraff, Director of Business Development at the VNA NWI, said COCA travels to hold their meetings at a range of area facilities, and the VNA was more than happy to host.

"They provide very timely, education material that affects all in the healthcare arena, especially those providing continuity of care for the elderly," DeGraff said.

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“The presentation is going to be really prevalent for the audience today, these changes will affect a lot of skilled nurses and caregivers,” DeGraff said. “We are very privileged to host the meeting at our VNA Phoenix Center, especially since this is the only youth bereavement program in Northwest Indiana. We help any child who has lost someone they love, and it’s free. You could say it’s one of Northwest Indiana’s best kept secret.”

The VNA Phoenix Center is a patient-focused not for profit organization that offers care and supportive services for those who are aging, or who are in need of hospice, palliative, or grief support. Programs provided include both home and inpatient Hospice Care, Palliative Care, Transitions, Meals on Wheels, Lifeline and Companion Homemaker services, in addition to the grief support provided for children through the VNA’s Phoenix Center.

From hospice caregivers to assisted living communities to nurses, the program presented Thursday was crucial for all who care for the aging population.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services revised and added several guidelines and facets for those giving long-term care for patients with dementia. Debbie Carriveau, Director of Alzheimer and Dementia Services in Northern Indiana, gave a detailed report on this major transition. Carriveau has worked in the geriatrics field since 1979 and is nationally recognized for her expertise in memory care education.

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“There’s currently a huge shift in focus on how we provide care for people living with dementia,” Carriveau said. “They’re focusing on person-centered care, trying to reconnect with the important things in life and how to provide quality of life with these new requirements. It will make a change in culture of how care is given to those with dementia in moving away from traditional healthcare to a ‘My day, my way’ care facility.”

Some of the requirements seem small, but important, such as controlling a care facility’s sound levels to reduce the amount of anxiety for those with dementia. Another main change is the personalization of services, in which staff must find out and document important key notes on the patient, such as their lifestyle and preferences to help improve their quality of life. One example Carriveau gave was a patient who could be calmed down by his favorite hobby: bird watching.

The reason for the new guidelines is primarily to cut down on unnecessary medications according to Carriveau. In short, redirecting a distressed patient with dementia to a beloved activity is more appropriate than simply giving them a psychotropic medication.

“In training like this we are able to disperse information to multiple disciplines at one time,” she said. “Traditionally in the health care system we tend to function in silos, not crossing paths. Getting together to be on the same page is important. We are all individuals who control the quality of life care for many of the ageing population.”

For Sarah Milligan, a social worker by degree who does consulting and support work for the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Indiana Chapter, this information is vital in passing on to families of those affected by dementia.

“I can give families a lot of information surrounding what level of care to expect and what their loved one’s caregiving is going to look like,” Milligan said.

Those who attended from the healthcare industry, including nurses, hospice caregivers, and nursing home staff, benefitted from the program and networking opportunity at the center.

“The mission of the VNA of NWI is aligned with our mission of dignity, quality of life and honoring an individual all the way to the end,” Carriveau said. “We are privileged to be present here today.”

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