Fancy hats and good times are planned for this Saturday's Run for Roses gala in support of Putnam County's Homecare & Hospice.
Fancy hats and good times are planned for this Saturday's Run for Roses gala in support of Putnam County's Homecare & Hospice. (file photo)

PUTNAM COUNTY — This Saturday, Feb. 16, Putnam County HomeCare & Hospice will again host its annual gala fundraiser. Doors open at 5 p.m., dinner begins at 6 p.m., and tickets are still available by calling: 419-523-4449. As with recent years, the gala’s theme remains the popular ‘Run for the Roses,’ with horse racing, a live auction and a whole evening of games based around the Kentucky Derby for attendees to enjoy.

While looking forward to the event, The Sentinel sat down with PC HomeCare & Hospice’s Executive Director Pam Sager to learn more about the agency behind it.

“I’ve been with the agency now about a year and a half,” begins Sager, “My background is, I’m a Nurse Practitioner. So, as the Executive Director, I oversee the agency and all of its different areas, and then I also see patients. I see some of our Hospice patients, as needed, and then I do Palliative Care.”

Both of those areas of care will be discussed. To begin, though, Sager focuses on an aspect of Putnam County’s agency that makes it unique and somewhat special - HomeCare.

“We do HomeCare,” she says. “And, now with the way medicine is changing, the way cost-savings for hospitals [are changing patient care], people are discharged from the hospital a lot sicker than they were before.”

As Sager relates, HomeCare used to be standard across Ohio. Now there are only two or three agencies that provide it, including Putnam’s.

“So, [hospitals] rely on HomeCare to try and keep [patients] out of the hospital. That’s the goal, to keep them out of the hospital. So, we’re also seeing sicker patients.”

“With our HomeCare now we have our therapy department. We have nurses and we have aides, and they help to keep those patients at home. They take care of them in the recovery period, however long that may take.”

Depending on the patient and their medical needs, nurses may visit four to seven HomeCare clients per day. “Some of our staff will have added 100 miles to their car in just a day,” Sager says of the commitment.

“What’s really nice about the agency is the longevity,” Sager adds, speaking of the nurses, aides, social workers, and other employees. “When people come here, they stay here.”

“This staff is amazing, and they provide phenomenal care for these patients. Which is what we want. I like to say, ‘The first thing we do, is take care of the patient.’ Bottom line, we take care of the patient. Somehow, someway, we’ll take care of them as though they were one of our own.”

In addition to the dedication of its long-serving employees and commitment to patient care, Sager was asked what service often surprises clients who may not know it is something the agency does.

“I think Palliative Care,” Sager answers, “Which is a growing segment of medicine. [Putnam County’s] HomeCare & Hospice has been around for well over half a century. But, Palliative Care is a new form of medicine. It is people with life altering illnesses, and we help to manage their symptoms.”

Sager handles some Palliative Care patients herself. The agency also employs another Nurse Practitioner, and just hired a third who starts this week.

“As a Nurse Practitioner, we can write prescriptions, we can diagnose. We take care of those patients, but we don’t do that on our own. We work in conjunction with whatever other doctors they already have. Whether it be the cardiologist, the pulmonologist, the oncologist, their family practice doctor, the primary care provider - we work them to provide the best care possible.”

Palliative Care, generally speaking, does include patients with terminal illnesses, but sometimes it does. HomeCare patients are not always enrolled in Palliative Care, though some are. Palliative Care also occurs in the hospital as well. The agency is used to program overlap, and the focus never changes - treating the whole patient. One understanding that people often have, however, is not correct. Palliative Care is not Hospice Care.

“Hospice is for when you have terminal illness,” Sager explains. “It’s not just cancer. It can be congestive heart failure. It can be chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Lung problems.”

“Hospice takes care of the person at the end of their life. Typically, that’s within the last six months of their life, but sometimes we have patients that are part of Hospice for one or two years…I think one of the biggest myths about Hospice is that they’re going to die in a week or two, and they don’t. That’s not what our goal is.”

“Our goal is to give them a high quality of life for their end of life. Here, we work for a good death, a comfortable death. And, we’re not just there for that patient, we’re there for the family also. And then, we have a bereavement program that family members can be on for as long as they need…We keep contact with them for 13 months, and then we have a grief support group that meets monthly. People can come to that for as long as they need.”

With running three major programs - HomeCare, Palliative Care, and Hospice Care - that involves numerous doctors, nurses, in-house therapists and specialists, along with coordinating wrap around services, the question is raised, how is the agency and its services funded?

“Our agency is funded by our own billing of our patients,” answers Sager. This can include private insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, or a combination.

Sager also points out, “We get no government money.” The agency is entirely self-supported through its billing for services. In addition to its roughly 75 employees, it also relies on 54 regular volunteers who, depending on their training, may regularly visit HomeCare patients, or become intensively involved.

So why, then, is the agency’s annual gala this Saturday so important?

“We put the patient first and foremost,” says Sager. “We live in Putnam County. We treat in Putnam County. And, we take care of the people of Putnam County.”

“Most of Hospice is funding by Medicare, but Medicare doesn’t pay for all of their needs. And typically, once they go on Hospice, they get no bills. Even though not all of the costs are covered, those patients and those families don’t get those bills.”

“[The gala] helps cover all of those extra costs. That’s huge. That’s why we fundraise.”