Children's Choices Fills Need in Care for Children with Life-limiting Illness
Children facing a life-limiting illness and their families often have difficulty piecing together the patchwork of services needed to
continue living as fully as possible, resulting in unnecessary physical and emotional pain. VNA Care Hospice, an affiliate of VNA
Care Network, is about to change that with the launch of Children's Choices, a pediatric palliative care program.
"Children with complex medical needs and their families need a total approach to care — physical,
emotional, social, and spiritual — while being able to continue curative treatment and hope that the child will recover," said Mary
Whalen, vice president of hospice.
This "total approach to care" has traditionally only been offered through hospice programs, which are geared more to providing comfort
care for the terminally ill than incorporating aggressive, curative treatment strategies. Children and families who will be cared for
by the Children's Choices Program will be able to tap into the expertise of hospice staff who are skilled in addressing complex
medical needs while continuing to receive services from other providers. Hospice staff will collaborate with home health agencies caring
for pediatric patients, pediatric medical practices, and community referral sources to
provide this holistic approach to care.
An interdisciplinary team of physicians (including a pediatrician), family nurse practitioners, registered nurses, licensed
practical nurses, social workers, chaplains, and trained volunteers will care for children and their loved ones in the comfort of
their home. Services will include pain and symptom management for the child, social service or chaplain involvement as desired, as well as respite for family caregivers. Children will be
included as much as possible in making decisions about their care. Additionally, children and families will be given the ability to
choose the services that are right for them and that provide optimal support for the treatment plan they wish to pursue.
"Our goal is to help children and their families focus on living life to the fullest. This is the intent of the Children's Choices
Program," added Whalen.
Children's Choices is open to children under the age of 19 who have a life-limiting condition and their families living in one of the
following 86 communities in Central Massachusetts or MetroWest: Acton, Ashburnham, Ashby, Ashland, Auburn, Ayer, Barre, Bellingham,
Berlin, Blackstone, Bolton, Boxborough, Boylston, Brookfield, Charlton, Chelmsford, Clinton, Douglas, Dudley, Dunstable, East
Brookfield, Fitchburg, Framingham, Gardner, Grafton, Groton, Hardwick, Harvard, Holden, Holliston, Hopedale, Hopkinton, Hubbardston,
Hudson, Lancaster, Leicester, Leominster, Littleton, Lunenburg, Marlborough, Maynard, Medway, Mendon, Millbury, Milford, Millis,
Millville, Natick, New Braintree, North Brookfield, Northborough, Northbridge, Oakham, Oxford, Paxton, Pepperell, Petersham,
Philipston, Princeton, Rutland, Sherborn, Shirley, Shrewsbury, Southborough, Southbridge, Spencer, Sterling, Stow, Sturbridge,
Sudbury, Sutton, Templeton, Townsend, Tyngsborough, Upton, Uxbridge, Ware, Warren, Webster, West Boylston, West Brookfield,
Westborough, Westford, Westminster, Winchendon, and Worcester.
Services are provided at no cost to families through a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health as part of a
statewide pediatric palliative care initiative under the Health Care Reform Law.
For more information, call VNA Care Network & Hospice at 800-728-1862.
Posted: Feb. 1, 2007