Inside AccentCare’s New, Centralized Approach to Bereavement Care
By: Jim Parker, Hospice News
After five years of planning, the post-acute services provider AccentCare recently re-organized its bereavement care services, which are now coordinated from a national center.
This centralization was designed to ensure consistency in its grief care operations and to ensure comparable quality across the company’s national footprint, Yelena Zatulovsky, vice-president of patient experience for AccentCare, said at the Home Care 100 Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona.
The organization’s bereavement services involve interdisciplinary professionals that range from specialized grief and licensed mental health counselors to licensed clincial social workers and music therapists, among others.
“We have 50 hospice agencies, give or take, strewn around the country, and we had 50 people providing post-mortem bereavement care strewn around the country,” Zatulovsky said. “It’s hard to ensure protocol, process, community needs and so forth when most hospice providers focus on the patient experience from the beginning of admission to their death, to get a group of people doing the same thing that looks like one unit that is really evidence-based and really community-focused.”
AccentCare is a portfolio company of the private equity firm Advent International, offering hospice, palliative care, personal care, non-medical services, home health, care management and high-acuity home care. The company operates more than 250 locations in 31 states and the District of Columbia, caring for roughly 200,000 patients and families annually.
The company offers grief care services to families who received care through most of its business lines, including hospice, home health, palliative care and personal care. Among AccentCare’s services, bereavement care is its most widely used, about 65,000 people per day. Of those, about 12,000 are families of patients who had not recieved clinical care from the organization.
Establishing the center required a wide-ranging assessment of the company’s existing bereavement care programs, as well as the needs of the communities they serve, Zatulovsky indicated.
This process included an internal examination of AccentCare’s company-wide protocols and methodologies, regulatory and accreditation requirements and expectations, financial and operational considerations, a family needs assessment and best practices for marketing their grief care services, among other factors.
One key finding was that families receiving bereavement care from hospice providers often prefer a hybrid approach to those services that includes counseling and electronic communication. About 60% of 500 respondents to a survey by AccentCare indicated that they preferred some integration of technological communication in addition to counseling.
“They want a hybrid approach,” Zatulovsky said. “And while they appreciate telephone and in-person, one-to-one counseling, and that is still the single most predictor of how they feel supported, they want to dictate when that happens and how it happens.”
In particular, surveyed families said that they appreciate contact via phone or text messages on milestone days that can heighten their grief, such as a deceased loved one’s birthday, anniversaries or holidays.
This can be especially true several months after a death when support from a family member’s friends, personal acquaintances or extended relatives tends to dissipate, according to Zatulovsky.
“They said that, number one, they want to know that somebody cares about them, because their family or social circle, after a few months defaults to this, ‘Aren’t you over it already?’, which is really painful for them,” Zatulovsky told Hospice News. “They just want to know that somebody cares and knows that this is a milestone or just gives them support.”