This year, Hospice of the Western Reserve is collaborating with the Northern Ohio Chapter of the ALS Association (ALSA) to bring an educational focus to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. As their illness progresses, people with ALS lose the ability to walk, speak, and eventually, breathe. 

Although the disease is fatal and there is currently no cure, significant advances in research and treatment have been made over the past few years through advocacy, funding and research efforts led by ALSA.
The year-long educational collaboration provides Hospice of the Western Reserve’s clinical teams with an opportunity to learn more about the latest developments, gain a better understanding of the disease progression, symptom management strategies, psychosocial needs, specialized medications and more from ALSA experts. 

“The knowledge and expertise provided by ALSA is invaluable and allows us to further enhance the tailored plans of care delivered by our transdisciplinary teams,” said Judy Bartel, Chief Clinical Officer. 

The continuing education curriculum was developed by the nonprofit agency’s Education team in conjunction with an internal Disease State Committee led by Bartel and co-chaired by Jennifer Stonebrook, Director of Access to Care, and Denise DiMare, Team Leader. The committee focuses on end-of-life care needs for non-cancer patients, which are becoming a larger part of the overall hospice population. 

“Each specialty plays an essential role in developing and delivering the individualized plan of care for each patient, so participants represent a broad cross-section of disciplines,” Bartel said. Clinical team members involved include physicians, nurses, hospice nursing assistants, social workers, spiritual care coordinators, a pharmacist, bereavement specialists and volunteers. Members of the Education, Provider Relations and Marketing/Communications teams also frequently participate. “The curriculum focuses not only on delivering ideal care for our patients but strategies for providing optimal support for family caregivers,” Bartel added.