Thursday, January 12, 2017

NHPCO’s New President and CEO

NHPCO announced today that its board of directors has selected Edo Banach, JD, as the organization's next president and chief executive officer, effective February 22, 2017.  Banach will succeed J. Donald Schumacher, PsyD, who has led the organization since 2002.

Banach, currently, is a partner in the firm of Gallagher, Evelius & Jones in Baltimore, MD.  He previously was the Deputy Director of the Medicare-Medicaid Coordination Office at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and Associate General Counsel at the Visiting Nurse Service of New York.  Prior to that, Banach was the General Counsel at the Medicare Rights Center.

Banach holds a B.A. from Binghamton University and a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Prior to attending law school Banach worked for the New York City Department of Homeless Services and Mayor's Office of Operations.

Edo Banach
“With the aging of the Baby-Boomers, our nation is experiencing an increase in the need for hospice and palliative care services. What began fifty years ago as a grassroots movement to better care for the dying is now an integral part of the U.S. healthcare landscape and the expansion of community-based palliative care services provides further opportunities to ensure we are providing the best possible care for those facing serious and life-limiting illness,” said Banach.
“Hospice in the 21st Century must combine the core hospice philosophy with a laser-like focus on quality and access to care.  Hospice and palliative care must always be focused on patient and caregiver needs, and must be compliant with all federal and state laws and rules. I am honored to join NHPCO at this important time, and look forward to working with NHPCO and its partners on building a better, fairer and more accessible healthcare system,” Banach remarked.

The selection of Banach as NHPCO’s new president and CEO caps a thorough and year-long search process utilizing a nationally recognized recruitment firm. See the full NHPCO press release.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Week one of the 115th Congress

They're baaaaaack!  The 115th Congress was sworn in this past Tuesday (01/03/17) and immediately started causing trouble. The first thing the House of Representatives did was take up a rules package that included a provision to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics. Following a campaign season that promised to “Drain the Swamp,” this was an interesting choice for a first vote.

Needless to say, social media erupted on Tuesday, and thousands of Americans overloaded the Capitol switchboard and servers to complain about the proposed rule. President-elect Trump turned up the heat when he tweeted, “With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog, as unfair as it.” Facing the mounting pressure, House Republicans scuttled the proposed rule change, promising to revisit it later, possibly in cooperation with House Democrats.

So why is this important to the hospice community? Well, if nothing else, it demonstrates the importance of paying close attention to the legislative process, and the power that voters can have when they organize and mobilize. In the years before the interwebs, this type of change likely would have slid by, unnoticed by most Americans. You have a voice, you have a mouse, and you have a platform – you can use them to great effect, especially for the hospice community.

So what else have we been up to? Well, the HAN team put out our  What to Expect in 2017 Policy Points Video, prognosticating on what we think will happen over the next few months. A good amount of speculation, but hopefully some good information for you to tuck away. Take the 7 minutes to listen – we think it’ll be worth your time.

We also recently sent a letter to President-elect Trump, introducing him to our community and our key policy priorities. It is a broad-brush overview, but we plan to dive in to the details with his team as they settle into their new positions over the coming months. You can read it here.

So that’s about it for now. Check back regularly, as we will be posting more about the Trump Administration as we near Inauguration Day and as he assumes the Presidency.

By Sharon Pearce
NHPCO Vice President, Public Policy


Friday, January 6, 2017

Welcoming New Board Leadership

NHPCO is proud to welcome Jan Jones, RN, BSN, as chair of the organization’s board of directors. President and CEO of The Elizabeth Hospice in Escondido, CA, Jones has previously served as NHPCO vice-chair and as a member of the board’s executive committee.

Jones is an active participant at the state and national levels of hospice and palliative care and government arenas and brings to the board a depth of experience in hospice and healthcare industry trends and regulations.

Joining Jones on the board’s executive committee are Gregory Wood, serving as vice-chair, of Hospice of the Ozarks in Mountain Home, AR; Regina Bodnar, secretary, of Carroll Hospice in Westminster, MD; and Michael McHale, treasurer, of Rainbow Hospice and Palliative Care in Mount Prospect, IL. 

New members of the NHPCO board for 2017 are Sandra Huster of Covenant Care in Pensacola, FL; Norman McRae of Caris HealthCare in Knoxville, TN; and David Williams of VITAS Healthcare based in Cincinnati, OH.

 NHPCO extends special thanks to the board members who concluded service in 2016: Rex Allen of Providence Hospice in Seattle, WA; Sharon Baxter of the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association; Betsy Clark of Saugerties, NY; Ron Fried from Covenant Care in Pensacola; Sandy Kuhlman from Hospice Services of Northwest Kansas in Phillipsburg, KS: Mark Murray of the Center for Hospice Care in South Bend, IN; and Linda Rock who concluded two years of service as board chair.

A list of NHPCO’s full board of directors is available in the “About NHPCO” section of the organization’s website.

NHPCO Board Chair Jan Jones.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Grief During the Holidays

For those mourning a loved one – whether a recent death or one long ago – the holiday season which is customarily marked by celebrations and family gatherings can be full of painful reminders that heighten  the sense of loss. Often, friends and family members of those affected by a loss are unsure how to act or what to say to support someone struggling during the holidays.

Here are some tips: 

1.  Be understanding and supportive if someone wants to do things differently this holiday season.  Some people find strength in long established traditions while others may choose to avoid customs of the past and do something new. It’s okay to do things differently.

2.  Offer to help with decorating or holiday cooking. Both tasks can be overwhelming for someone who is grieving or overwhelmed by events going on in the world around us. Lending a hand can be a great way to let someone know you’re thinking about them and their wellbeing. 

3.  Invite someone to join you or your family during the holidays.  If someone you know seems down or depressed, consider inviting them to join you for a holiday concert, religious service or a holiday meal where they are a guest. You might even offer to accompany them on a holiday shopping trip where a friend and extra set of hands can be helpful.

4.  Ask the person if he or she is interested in volunteering with you during the holidays. Doing something for someone else, such as helping at a soup kitchen, staffing a coat drive, or working with children, may lift your spirits and help everyone feel better about the holidays. 

5.  Never tell someone that he or she should get ‘over it.’  It can be important to acknowledge that a friend or loved one is struggling. Don’t discount their emotions, but give the person hope that, eventually, he or she will enjoy the holidays again.

6.  Be willing to listen.  Don’t avoid someone because you don’t know what to say. Active listening from friends and family is an important step to helping someone coping with grief or overwhelming feelings of loss. Letting them share their feelings can help healing.

7.  Don’t be afraid to remember someone who has died.  When someone is grieving, it is okay to let them know that you are thinking of the loved one who died. Cards, phone calls and visits are great ways to stay in touch.

8.  Follow up after the holidays to check in.  Given the activity of the season, some people may make it through the holidays without any issues but they might find the post-holiday period to be more difficult. So circling back after the holidays to see how he or she is doing can help.

Hospice and palliative care professionals have always recognized the need to provide emotional and spiritual support to those who are dealing with loss. Hospices often offer support to community members struggling with grief or loss so those struggling should check with a community hospice to see if support is available.

To learn more about grief or coping with loss, or to find a hospice and palliative care provider in your area, visit NHPCO’s CaringInfo website at   

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Veterans Bond Over Coffee and Conversation

December 7, 2016 marked the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. As a day to honor and remember, many organizations and We Honor Veterans partners held events to pay tribute to all Veterans, particularly those who served in WWII. I was lucky enough to attend a special event held in Welcome, North Carolina by We Honor Veterans Level 3 partner Hospice & Palliative CareCenter.

Many partners hold coffee events in their community as a way to bring Veterans together to share stories, giving them an extremely rare outlet. As a special commemoration event, Hospice and Palliative CareCenter organized an event of epic proportions. It was held at the Richard Childress Racing Museum and over 700 people were in attendance, including about 500 Veterans. What made the biggest impression was not the turnout, community collaboration or volunteers running around ensuring everyone had a seat and was taken care of – it was the comradery and the friendships that have come out of something as simple as getting together for a cup of coffee. 

I met a gentleman who was held as a POW for over a year during WWII. It came as no surprise that he became humbled when I thanked him for his service, saying he was surprised that so many people were interested in his story while adjusting the Purple Heart hanging around his neck. He shared that while he still has flashbacks and may never be able to find forgiveness, this past year has been his hardest by far. He lost his wife of 74 years and said that living without her is the toughest thing he’s ever had to endure, adding that he didn’t know if he would make it past Christmas. As tears started falling a few of his buddies within earshot immediately joined our conversation, offering support that could only come from a fellow Veteran. They insisted that the “lonely boys” be with each other at Christmas, one (half-jokingly) adding that he had to be alive for the next Veterans Coffee in January as they would be riding together.

These community events and activities only happen because of the loving service and dedication of our We Honor Veterans partners. Ann Gauthreaux of Hospice & Palliative CareCenter and Rowan Hospice & Palliative Care is one of the forces behind this partner program and nicely summed up the importance of their program activities:

“To say our Veteran Coffees are well attended and heartwarming would be an understatement. They have become a part of life for our region’s veterans. A place to share stories, find common ground, and enjoy comradery. The expression; ‘If you build it – they will come’ has never seemed more appropriate. We make sure they know about our programs and services, yet it’s so much more. The coffees are a melting pot for all veterans and things related to veterans!”

To learn more about the We Honor Veterans program, visit  or contact us at

By Katherine Kemp
Access Manager, NHPCO

Monday, December 19, 2016

Palliative Care and Changing Policy Landscape

NHPCO was invited to submit an article to the American Journal of Managed Care about policy issues related to palliative care. The article is available online. "With the incoming Trump Administration and a new Congress about to begin, the future of palliative care policy is very uncertain," reports Sharon Pearce, NHPCO vice president for public policy.

In the article, “Palliative Care for Patients With Advanced Illness: A Changing Policy Landscape,” published this week by the American Journal of Managed Care, Pearce shares insight into possible policy implications for palliative care in the year ahead.

The article begins:  “Every day, 10,000 Americans join the Social Security and Medicare rolls. Moreover, individuals 80 and older are the fastest growing demographic among older adults, with their ranks forecast to grow from 5.6 million in 2010 to more than 19 million by 2050. The rising number of aging Americans creates a commensurate increase in the costs for healthcare.”

Pearce goes on to explain the value of the interdisciplinary team model of care provision and the importance of providing palliative care services to the seriously ill. Many barriers are challenging access to these services, however, progress is being made.

“In lieu of sweeping policy changes, palliative care advocates have adopted a more incremental approach. Recent policy changes, primarily in the ACA, are allowing small-scale testing of community-based palliative care delivery, and for some innovations in other delivery systems. Other administrative changes are slowly increasing access to Advance Care Planning. While many of these demonstrations are still playing out, some models, including the Medicare Care Choices Model (MCCM), accountable care organizations (ACOs), and the Independence at Home Demonstration, are showing early promise.”

Read the complete article on the AJMC website.


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Thank You from Don Schumacher

When I began my professional career, 44 years ago, I never would have guessed the unique, surprising, fulfilling and meaningful career that would unfold before me. I was going to be an English professor, but my contact with Elizabeth Kubler Ross in 1975 put my feet on an entirely different path. I have been able to work with the most extraordinary people to create a model of caregiving that had been missing in our healthcare system for a very long time. These people, of which you are one, have been my teachers, critics, friends, conspirators, pranksters, dining and drinking friends and most importantly, fellow advocates ensuring the permanence of hospice and palliative care in America.

As I prepare to retire from NHPCO, I want to thank you for all you have done for the millions of Americans who have received your loving care. There is no one who stands at the bedside of a dying patient and remains untouched. I remember the first patients I cared for and the hospice team members with whom I shared my fears, energy and skill at helping that patient move on. I thank them and their descendants, you, for all you have done and continue to do for the millions who benefit from our care.

I want to thank the many of you who I have been lucky to call friends. The path has not always been smooth, and all of us have tried to be as supportive of each other as we can. However, when you are creating a movement, a new care giving model and a team based model of care, things are bound to go wrong. Pay no mind, I ask you. For what we have created went more right.

I will continue to consult with programs and people in the field so I hope to continue to see you occasionally. But…… remember every day you work in hospice and palliative care, you are building the bed you will die in. Make sure it is the one you want. From the bottom of my heart, I honor you for what you do every day. Love---


J. Donald Schumacher, PsyD
President and CEO
National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization

P.S.  I have a link I would like to share with you, Judy Collins singing "In My Life," a song that has always held special meaning for me, particularly in recent weeks. Additionally, a special NHPCO Podcast has been posted where I share reflections from my career.  I invite you to listen to both of these.