Innovative Care: Medicare Extends HOV’s MediCaring program

by Lin Sue Cooney

Ted Gushee and his wife, Kitty, lead a full and active life. When the 92-year-old was diagnosed with lymphoma and bladder cancer, he vowed to fight back. Ted and his physician created a treatment plan that included infusion and radiation, along with an innovative program called MediCaring that provides 24/7 support from a specialized care team.

“It’s like an angel on our shoulder,” Kitty exclaims. “I don’t know what we’d do without it.”

MediCaring is a model of care that allows those with life-limiting illnesses to receive hospice care while also seeking curative care. Current Medicare rules require patients seeking hospice to give up treatment for their terminal condition. This unique program is designed to evaluate the benefits of receiving both kinds of care simultaneously.

Hospice of the Valley is the only provider in Arizona chosen to participate in the MediCaring pilot program. It was slated to end in December 2020, but Medicare just announced an extension through December 2021.

Since the program began over two years ago, Hospice of the Valley has admitted more than 800 patients, who say quality of life—for them and their families—has been vastly improved.

Kitty has called her MediCaring team five times in the last year, including a middle-of-the-night plea for help during the coronavirus pandemic, when Ted was in pain and unable to sleep.

“The nurse came out and worked her magic. An hour later, Ted was emptying the dishwasher!” she laughs. “It’s a wonderful bridge of support for us. With this terrible virus out there, taking Ted to the ER is just not an option.”

Kitty also appreciates how the MediCaring team takes care of her and makes sure she feels supported. “They always ask how I am doing. That means a lot. I’m not a nurse, so I don’t always know what to do. MediCaring is very reassuring. It’s wonderful!”

Ted agrees. He is back to living life to the fullest—playing bridge online and directing mini melodramas for his friends at Vi at Silverstone.