Hospice Provides Comfort

December 02, 2016

“I’d go back again.” After nearly 30 years of service to his country in the Army, Joe Zuba of Clearfield wishes he could still go back.

He and his wife, Caroline, lived all over the U.S. and around the globe while serving. Zuba started during World War II, where he was stationed in Hawaii. He lived in Germany and France before returning to the states and meeting his future bride. Then, the two lived in New Mexico, Texas, in Cuba during the Missile Crisis, California, Alaska, Kentucky and Virginia. Zuba also did a tour of duty in the Vietnam War, where the soldiers called him “Dad,” since he was so much older than they.

Zuba worked his way up through the ranks and finally retired in 1973 as an E7 Platoon Sergeant. Caroline Zuba, who had volunteered in the Army alongside her husband, received a citation from five-star General Creighton Abrams Jr. for her service to the young families at the many bases where they lived.

Now at age 88, Zuba’s health is failing. First, it was his heart. He had three stents and, later, four bypasses. But now he suffers from cancer. He was diagnosed with cancer of the kidneys earlier this year, and Zuba has chosen to decline treatment. “I’m not going to have surgery. Not going to have dialysis. No transplant. I’m listening to my doctor, and I’m just going to enjoy my time while I’m here,” he said.

That is where the hospice nurses of Penn Highlands Clearfield help. They visit Zuba twice a week in his assisted living home in Clearfield. They track his vital statistics and do everything possible to keep Zuba comfortable, manage his pain and support his wife.

The support these nurses provide is especially important since the Zubas have no children or close family to help. Their closest relative is a nephew who lives in a nearby nursing facility in Clearfield.

But they are not alone. “Hospice is made up of an interdisciplinary team including, nurses, physicians, medical social workers, spiritual counselors, home health aides and volunteers. The team provides symptom management, emotional and spiritual for both the patient and the family,” Amber Franco, RN, BSN, hospice supervisor and education coordinator with Community Nurses Home Health and Hospice, Penn Highlands Elk, said.

“Hospice is appropriate when a patient has a terminal diagnosis and the physician feels the patient has a prognosis of six months or less,” Franco said. “People with a life-limiting illness can be admitted to a hospice program when their illness is no longer responding to treatment and symptom control is needed to improve the quality of life,” said Karen Warfield, home care director at Penn Highlands Clearfield Home Health and Hospice.

“In the delivery of hospice care, not only the patient, but the patient’s family is considered part of our ‘unit of care,’” Nancy Rosman, RN, hospice supervisor at Penn Highlands DuBois Home Health and Hospice, said. “The hospice team is there to support and educate the family through the process. Hospice is not in the home 24/7 so the family members are the primary caregivers when the patient is residing in their own home.”

“The hospice team gives ongoing instruction and education on what to expect as the patient’s condition declines, comfort measures, medication management and symptom control. Hospice social workers and pastors are also there to support not only the patient but the family,” Rosman said.

It differs from home health services as “home health is for patients who need periodic skilled-nursing services, physical therapy services, speech-language services or continued occupational services while at home,” Franco said. “Homebound status is not a requirement of hospice.”

There are other differences, too, in what is paid for and offered through hospice versus home health. “Medicare, Medicaid and most other insurances have what is called a ‘hospice benefit’ - a benefit that pays for hospice services 100 percent,” Rosman said.

Hospice has always been associated with special care, and it is a service that allows patients to remain in a familiar, loving environment in comfort with dignity and peace.

During November - National Home Care and Hospice Month – it is a good time to learn what role hospice plays in healthcare. More information is available at or by calling any Penn Highlands Healthcare home health and hospice office: Community Nurses Inc. at 1-800-841-9397; Penn Highlands Clearfield at 1-800-281-8000 or Penn Highlands DuBois at 814-375-3300.