by Annette Pinder

Many people associate palliative care with hospice – a program primarily reserved for cancer patients during the last stage of life. However, palliative care has changed, as many hospitals and nursing homes have integrated programs dedicated to helping patients cope with a variety of serious diseases.

According to the Center for Advanced Palliative Care, in 2000, just 658 of 2,489 U.S. hospitals had palliative care programs. By 2011, the number had risen to more than 1,500. Previously, Medicare coverage for hospice care was limited to patients who stopped seeking a cure for their disease with six months or less to live. Now, palliative care is designed to help patients and families struggling with a serious incurable disease. Palliative care technicians, who are experts in controlling pain, can help patients think about how they want to live, and what treatments might help them achieve that.

The McGuire Group’s Living Legends palliative care program is called Journeys, and it is available at Autumn View Health Care in Hamburg, Garden Gate Health Care in Cheektowaga, Harris Hill Nursing Facility in Williamsville, and Seneca Health Care Center in West Seneca. Barbara Johnson, program director, explains, “Journeys is an in-house palliative care program designed to address the needs and priorities of our residents. This includes honoring patients’ wishes regarding comfort and treatment. Patients appreciate being able to remain at the facility that has become familiar to them, while receiving comprehensive services that address their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.”

McGuire Group Living Legends physicians, RNs, LPNs, social workers, and therapists trained in palliative care provide 24-hour skilled nursing care, pain and symptom management, oxygen therapy, pharmacy consultations, and other specialized services. Other program enhancements include symptom management through trained companion visitors, music therapy, spiritual care, daily activities, pet visits, physical, occupational, and speech therapies, bereavement services, and volunteer companionship.

Journeys’ goal is to view the specific needs and wishes of each patient regarding comfort, care, and treatments. One patient, who loves Frank Sinatra, enjoys listening to her favorite song collection. In addition to bright, park-like surroundings, comfort measures such as lounge chairs, and a refreshment cart add to a supportive atmosphere for family members.

“The philosophy behind the program stems from the belief that our lives are a series of journeys. Planning for end-of-life care should be given the same thoughtfulness and attention we give to all of the major events in our lives,” says Barbara. Many Journeys’ residents choose to complete a life journal, which is then given to their loved ones.

Barbara also wants people to know about flexible volunteer opportunities for those wishing to donate their time specifically to Journeys patients. Volunteers can visit with patients, read to them, sit with them quietly, spend time outdoors, or bring a pet to visit. To learn more, call 716-632-3700, extension 211.

In addition to palliative care, McGuire Group Living Legends offers 24-hour skilled nursing care, sub-acute rehabilitation, memory care, hospice care, and respite/short-term care. For more information, visit, or call 716-826-2010.