Oncology nurse and nurse practitioner Lisa Guzman established and opened Blue Skies Hospice in Hammond, Ind., in 2002. Her mission was to provide palliative care and hospice treatment to Northwest Indiana and Chicago suburban patients at their most vulnerable time—after being recently diagnosed with a terminal illness.
Guzman was inspired into action through her experiences with dying patients she treated as an oncology nurse—patients who did not have the comfort, care, and compassion that hospice readily offers the actively dying. “Those patients held a special place in my heart,” she said. “Yet there were so many of them who would have been better treated within a hospice.”
Blue Skies Hospice provides personalized services to improve the quality of life for patients and their families. A qualified and committed staff of nurses, social workers, clergy, and volunteers gives 24-hour care with an emphasis on the patients’ and families’ physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
Rapid and tumultuous changes in American health care policy and governmental regulations have affected, but not ended, the mission of service that guides Lisa Guzman and the entire staff of Blue Skies Hospice.
In 2013, federal government regulations forced the closure of the Blue Skies Hospice House, a high-quality, inpatient facility that often provided care at no cost to local patients.
Medicare regulations state only 20 percent of a hospice’s total patient hours can be for inpatients. When a hospice exceeds that limit, it is required to reimburse Medicare at high cost for the payment the hospice receives. Because of this additional financial burden, Blue Skies was forced to close its doors on Feb 1, 2014. Patients no longer have access to its peaceful facilities.
A new beginning
However, Blue Skies Hospice is moving forward, adjusting to current health care laws so it can continue to serve Northwest Indiana and the Chicago suburbs. On Feb 1, 2014, Blue Skies Hospice relocated to its new office at 649 Mulberry St. in Hammond, providing palliative care and symptom management for terminally ill patients. Blue Skies will still be able provide short-term, inpatient care at contracted facilities. Patients are receiving comfort in a way that protects patients’ dignity and enhances their families’ peace of mind.
Guzman has also recently opened the doors of Blue Skies Medical, a new family practice office specializing in palliative care in Lansing, Ill.
Guzman received the AMVETS National Ladies Auxiliary Humanitarian Award in 2007, for outstanding dedication and years of service to those with terminal illnesses and little or no insurance. She and Blue Skies demonstrate that even when changes in health care law, policy, and cost confuse and frustrate many Americans, qualified and caring people can continue to make a beneficial difference for the lives of many patients and their families.