Lexington, Ky.-based hospice provider Bluegrass Care Navigators has developed an integrative medicine program to help manage patients’ symptoms, such as pain and anxiety.
Integrative medicine combines conventional medical care with complementary treatments such as bodywork or art and music therapy. The organization’s board of directors recommended the new service offerings at their recent meeting.
“We know that more and more patients are seeking complementary medicine as a part of their own care,” Whitney Clay, art therapist and coordinator of the program for Bluegrass Care Navigators, told Hospice News. “This is a great way to enhance the care we provide to patients and families as well as offering them a wider range of services.”
Integrative medicine practices such as music therapy have been shown to reduce pain, agitation, depression and improve other quality of life measures, according to a 2015 study. Art therapy has yielded similar results. Likewise, massage has been shown to improve psychological and physical well being among cancer patients.
Bluegrass Care Navigators’ program will include animal therapy, beginning with three therapy dogs soon to begin training.
“These therapies are of great benefit to patients in terms of their overall well being but also in terms of symptom management,” Clay said “We are looking at using these practices to help alleviate patients’ anxiety and help develop tools for managing pain.”
Integrative medicine is not covered by the Medicare Hospice Benefit’s per diem payments. Currently the hospice is financing the program through philanthropy. In addition to hospice patients, the program is available to the organization’s palliative care, pediatric palliative care and home-based primary care patients.
The program will be staffed through a combination of contracted services, volunteers and full-time employees. Bluegrass is in the process of hiring a massage therapist and a music therapist and is contracting with an acupuncturist among other practitioners.
In addition to direct patient care, the program’s staff will provide education related to their areas of expertise to the hospice provider’s volunteers.
“We are really just in the beginning stages of developing something that will become more widespread,” Clay told Hospice News. “We may also see other small pilot integrative medicine projects come about in some of our locations, where there might be pockets of interest or champions for certain areas.”