Infinity Hospice Care addresses changing industry in N. Nevada

Darren Bertram

Darren Bertram

It takes a special calling to go into hospice care.

Whereas most branches of healthcare focus on healing, hospice and palliative care focus on comfort care — usually for those with terminal illnesses.

Darren R. Bertram, CEO of Infinity Hospice Care, recalled when his mother, Mary L. Bertram, the president and founder of the company, made the move from operating a business selling durable medical equipment such as wheelchairs to hospice care.

“Mother has been in the hospice business for 30 years,” he said during an interview at the Reno office of Infinity. Bertram is based in Infinity’s Las Vegas office and the company also operates in Phoenix.

“In 1986 she had a calling into hospice. She sold the durable equipment business to work for Hospice Care Inc.”

Through the years, Mary Bertram worked for a couple hospice businesses, started her own company then sold it expecting to retire. It didn’t last.

She began Infinity Hospice Care 11 years ago, recruiting her sons Darren Bertram, and Brian Bertram to become part of the “calling.”

“It was an easy decision,” said Darren Bertram, who was practicing law in Chicago at the time. “I was a litigator, a very adversarial thing. At times I didn’t feel like I was helping people.”

Hospice care deals with individuals and families during a vulnerable time, he said. Hospice workers get into the industry to help others.

“If you’re looking for a job and want to feel a lot of gratitude, this is the place to work. It’s definitely a calling.”

Infinity began in Arizona and expanded to Las Vegas. When they opened a branch in northern Nevada in 2011, the area had poor grades for palliative care, Bertram said. That’s beginning to change. Both Renown Health and St. Mary’s Health have programs.

Infinity’s care providers include social workers, registered nurses, certified nursing assistants and chaplains. In northern Nevada, the company has a staff of 55-60 people plus about 50 active volunteers.

The Bertrams are active in the industry.

Brian Bertram co-founded Nevada Palliative Care (NEVPC), a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing education, leadership and consultation services to hospitals and healthcare providers throughout Nevada and Arizona.

In addition to overseeing the strategic planning and operations of Infinity, Mary Bertram “strives to ensure that her hospice programs educate physicians on palliative medicine, train healthcare professionals on pain and symptom management, and support families as their loved ones journey through end of life,” according to the Infinity website.

“When cure is no longer an option, hospice can be the best form of care available,” she says on the site.

Hospice and palliative care are similar in the healthcare industry but with important differences. The object of both is to provide pain and symptom relief — comfort care. Both improve the quality of life for the patient.

Palliative care is for the seriously ill and provides comfort care that can include curative treatments.

Hospice provides comfort care without seeking to cure the condition and cares primarily for those at the end of their life.

“End of life care is definitely a difficult kind of care. It’s not focusing on the cause (of illness), it’s focusing on symptoms; relieving symptoms. It’s a different kind of mindset (for providers),” Bertram said.

Pain management is a big aspect of comfort care but hospice workers also coordinate with a patient’s doctor to manage medication, therapies and procedures designed to relieve physical and emotional symptoms that cause pain, discomfort and distress. Normally, the care is in the patient’s home, which in itself is comforting.

“We focus on comfort. We go to people who aren’t comfortable,” Bertram said, noting that patients normally experience relief quickly.

Not all patients can be given hospice care in their home. Some require an inpatient setting for the best comfort care.

Infinity is in the very early states of planning to create a 12-bed inpatient hospice facility in Reno similar to its inpatient facility in Las Vegas. No site has been selected, and details are minimal, so it will be at least a couple years before it happens.

While hospice care has always focused on improving the quality of life for the seriously ill, like most industries, a lot has changed.

In the past, some doctors didn’t recommend hospice care. Medicare now requires it.

Increased regulations require increased reporting. Since records have become electronic, governmental oversight departments now ask for more information, Bertram said.

Nevertheless, healthcare is a good industry to be in, he said, and northern Nevada is a very good place to be in business, he said.

And hospice care is a rewarding career, Bertram said.

“It’s for people who want to make a difference.”


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