Dec 16

Why We Give: Kirk & Stephanie’s Story

Stephanie DeanDear friends,

When Kirk, my husband of almost 43 years, was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in January 2012, we were stunned. Kirk hadn’t been in the hospital since he was a teenager and when we met the surgeon that evening in the emergency room, he told us he was afraid, since Kirk had been so healthy and had annual physicals, he was going to find cancer. For 15 months, we rode a mixture of tidal waves and calm waters—but nothing was more comforting than the compassionate care we experienced, at home, with Hospice of the Red River Valley.

Because of hospice care, Kirk spent nine weeks at home—where he desperately wanted to be—until he passed. Hospice provided everything we needed for his medical needs, physical equipment and anticipated his needs of care.

There’s something therapeutic about being at home. Kirk felt comfortable in his familiar surroundings. His diagnosis didn’t stop him from living strong, just like the LIVESTRONG yellow bracelets each member of our family wore and still wear.

Although he was bedridden in the hospital and too weak to walk, Kirk rebounded at home. He regained some strength and advanced from riding in the wheelchair provided by hospice, to shuffling around with a walker to and from our sunroom to read the paper every morning. We watched him show interest in daily happenings, watch some of his favorite TV shows and visit with family and friends. At times we could ride a wave of calm.

Dean FamilyOur family time had always been important in Kirk’s life, and it became even more special in those weeks. Kirk was able to laugh and cry with us, reminisce through conversations and old photos, smile and say his goodbyes, and others could say their goodbyes to him.

Kirk passed away peacefully in our home on May 4, 2013. Even now, I ask “why” but also know even though we did not get the hoped for miracle of remission or a cure, we did get the gift of life. We took short trips by car, plane and even on his Harley motorcycle, and we celebrated Kirk’s 65th birthday. But most of all, we were able to share our love and make more memories of our time with Kirk.

Looking back, I can’t imagine not having the support of Hospice, and Kirk DeanI wouldn’t ever change our decision to have them in our lives during those nine weeks. In addition to the medical, emotional and spiritual care Kirk received, Hospice of the Red River Valley helped prepare me and my family. I didn’t know the stages of end-of-life and didn’t realize everything Hospice could do for our family. Hospice of the Red River Valley made the journey more gentle.

Kirk always had a spirit of giving back, and he led a rich life filled with volunteerism and generosity. He had decided which charities would receive our financial gifts, and now it’s my turn. Hospice gave Kirk and our family nine weeks of time and comfort. Please join me and my family in giving a gift to Hospice of the Red River Valley.

Sincerely,

Stephanie Dean

Please support Hospice of the Red River Valley with a gift that will provide comfort, dignity and respect to our patients and their families. Learn more about ways to support our care or donate online today.

Gratefully,

Kevin Provost, executive director, Hospice of the Red River Valley
kevin.provost@hrrv.org | (701) 356-1515

About Hospice of the Red River Valley
Hospice of the Red River Valley is an independent, not-for-profit hospice serving all, or portions of, 29 counties in North Dakota and Minnesota. Hospice care is intensive comfort care that alleviates pain and suffering, enhancing the quality of life for patients with life-limiting illnesses and their loved ones by addressing their medical, emotional, spiritual and grief needs. For more information, call toll free 800-237-4629, email questions@hrrv.org or visit www.hrrv.org.

Permanent link to this article: http://hospicerrvblog.areavoices.com/2014/12/16/why-we-give-kirk-stephanies-story/

Dec 02

Honoring Our Relationships: The Simplicity of Legacy

Connie DeKreyBy Connie DeKrey, Bereavement Specialist

“He served on the honor guard…”
“Would you do me the honor of…”
“Honor thy father and mother…”

We hear the word “honor” used from time to time, and it usually pertains to something significant—an event or emotion. It can also be used to show high regard for a relationship. In this article, I have offered some thoughts on honoring relationships with loved ones who are no longer with us.

Through my work at Hospice of the Red River Valley, I connect with people every day who are dealing with the loss of a loved one. According to William Worden, grief expert and author, one of the key tasks of grieving is to find an enduring connection with the deceased while embarking on life as it moves forward. As individuals move through grief in their own unique ways, they eventually may discover new ways of experiencing and expressing their relationships to loved ones who are no longer living. A healthy way to approach this is to explore how one might honor the memory, and carry forward the legacy, left by the loved one.

Honoring the legacy of loved ones is often done formally, in very visible and public ways, such as scholarship funds or memorial events. In contrast, there are some informal approaches to honoring the memory of those who are no longer in our physical presence, yet held close to our hearts.

Consider the idea of approaching activities with a mindfulness that invites memories. The holidays are an especially good time to put this into practice. Some personal examples include:

This time of year, I can be found clomping through the snow in my yard, pruners in hand, harvesting cuttings from my evergreen trees to decorate the entry in my home. This little tradition brings me back in time to another tradition, that of trudging through our woods as a child with my father to select and cut a Christmas tree. The crunch of snow, combined with the scent and stickiness of pine pitch, always causes me to feel once again close to my dad.

As the wind howls and the outdoor temperature drops with no promise of real warmth for months, I find myself reaching for two treasured items in my home—my wedding afghan (a gift knitted by my now-97-year-old cousin) and my plaid quilt (hand-stitched nearly 40 years ago by a favorite aunt). Each of these heirlooms, remarkable testaments to the skill and care of its respective artisan, offers physical comfort. But more importantly, every time I wrap up in one of them, I feel enveloped in the love and legacy of two wonderful women who have gone before me in my family.

Whether observing the holidays in my own home or that of a relative, I am usually the designated “pie maker.” Growing up, I learned to make pies in my mother’s kitchen, mastering the technique of “fluting” a crust under her informal, but careful tutelage. Before rolling my dough, I select a tool-of-choice from my rolling pin rack, which proudly holds heirlooms from my mother, two grandmothers, a dear neighbor lady and an especially prized rolling pin handmade by my father as a gift to me when I was a bride-to-be. While these precious people from my life are no longer with me this side of heaven, I treasure the memories of them, their character and their skills, as I perpetuate this simple legacy.

Honoring relationships does not need to involve elaborate plans or expense. It can be just as easily (and beautifully) accomplished by mindfully exercising the legacy of simple actions and observations, passed on to us by beloved others, and entrusted to our memory-keeping.

Connie DeKrey is a bereavement specialist at Hospice of the Red River Valley. She joined the organization in 1993, working in patient care as a medical social worker for 10 years and now as a bereavement specialist in the bereavement department. She particularly enjoys the opportunity to provide education to individuals and groups about living, dying and grief.

About Hospice of the Red River Valley
Hospice of the Red River Valley is an independent, not-for-profit hospice serving all, or portions of, 29 counties in North Dakota and Minnesota. Hospice care is intensive comfort care that alleviates pain and suffering, enhancing the quality of life for patients with life-limiting illnesses and their loved ones by addressing their medical, emotional, spiritual and grief needs. For more information, call toll free 800-237-4629, email questions@hrrv.org or visit www.hrrv.org.

Permanent link to this article: http://hospicerrvblog.areavoices.com/2014/12/02/honoring-our-relationships-the-simplicity-of-legacy/

Nov 18

Passion for Learning Bonds Hospice Patient and Chaplain

Hospice care may not readily come to mind as an intersection for science and spirituality, but for one patient and his chaplain, the connection they’ve forged was built from discussions about these very topics.

Dr. Watson, a retired internist and a current patient receiving care from Hospice of the Red River Valley, approaches the world from a clinical, scientific perspective.

During a hospital visit in 2013, Dr. Watson’s doctors took a chest x-ray and found a mass in his right lung. They encouraged him to look into hospice care. “I said, ‘I don’t really know what that is,’” Dr. Watson said, “so my doctor explained it to me, and that’s how I got started.”

Dr. Watson is acutely aware of how important face-to-face visits are for establishing rapport with patients, and he says the visits from Hospice staff have been very helpful. “I’m glad to see them,” he shared. “They answer my questions. They check my vitals, too. It’s interesting to talk to different people.”

According to Karin, Hospice of the Red River Valley chaplain, Dr. Watson has taken great care to interview the Hospice team members. “He learns something about each one and shows interest in us not only as skilled clinicians but as people with lives outside of our professions,” she said.

Dr. Watson has been married to his wife Delores for 65 years, and they have four children. He’s always been a social person and active in his community. He is a member of the American Legion, The United Methodist Church of Detroit Lakes and was a long-time volunteer with the local Boys and Girls Club. As a band leader and trumpet player, Dr. Watson started the big band group Doc and the Scrubs and established Tuesdays in the Park, a popular music series in Detroit Lakes that continues to this day.

Not only does Dr. Watson enjoy big band and classical music, he is also an avid reader. He reads material related to his medical profession and has an equal interest in theology, church history and biblical literature. Being a critical thinker and scientist led Dr. Watson to question some of the literal understandings of scripture and the God that he grew up with, and his spirit is energized by discussions around these topics.

His first question during each visit with the chaplain is, “What are you reading?” Karin was inspired to read several books that Dr. Watson suggested, which enhanced their visits and conversation. “He doesn’t need answers to all the big questions,” Karin shared, “but he loves the pursuit of knowledge and understanding in and of itself. In fact, when Dr. Watson is asked about what is to follow this life, he says with a twinkle in his eye, ‘I am excited to find out.’”

Every person who receives Hospice support utilizes the skilled staff in varied ways. Dr. Watson said his visits with the chaplain are what he’s appreciated the most about Hospice. And for Dr. Watson and Karin, the relationship they’ve built has been an education in friendship.

About Hospice of the Red River Valley
Hospice of the Red River Valley is an independent, not-for-profit hospice serving all, or portions of, 29 counties in North Dakota and Minnesota. Hospice care is intensive comfort care that alleviates pain and suffering, enhancing the quality of life for patients with life-limiting illnesses and their loved ones by addressing their medical, emotional, spiritual and grief needs. For more information, call toll free 800-237-4629, email questions@hrrv.org or visit www.hrrv.org.

Permanent link to this article: http://hospicerrvblog.areavoices.com/2014/11/18/passion-for-learning-bonds-hospice-patient-and-chaplain/

Nov 11

Salute to Service: Hospice Cares for Veteran

Bob E._1For Bob, Hospice of the Red River Valley patient, the Pledge of Allegiance is etched in the fabric of his life and memories past, as he gazed contentedly out the window at his picturesque farmstead. He sat upright in a hospital bed in his bedroom, watching the comings and goings of life on the farm where he shared his military stories and photo albums with visitors.

After serving in three branches of the military, raising a family with his wife of 54 years, and traveling extensively for his career, Bob now enjoys quiet days on his beloved farm while receiving care from Hospice of the Red River Valley. “Hospice is number one in my book,” Bob said. “You [Hospice staff] get gold stars for the care you provide. Everyone at Hospice is so concerned with my care and superlatively friendly.”

Always a man of honor and determination, Bob possessed a remarkable work ethic, even in his youth. “After I graduated grade school, I paid my own way for high school because I wanted to go to a Catholic military academy with my friends,” Bob recalled. “So I took a paper route six days a week and Sunday— mornings and evenings—for four years. My education was important to me.”

At a young age, he also demonstrated a serious commitment to serving his country. In his junior year of high school, Bob enlisted in the newly formed U.S. Army Air Corps. After graduation in 1945, he took a discharge from the Corps as they no longer needed his services. Almost immediately he enlisted in the U.S. Navy Reserve. Following boot camp that fall, Bob was transferred to the Naval Air Station in Norman, Okla., a place with “with no water to be seen!” Bob said. His job was training pilots and gunners to safely escape downed aircrafts in water. He assisted in closing the base, including discharging himself, in the fall of 1946.

Bob enjoyed a short break from military life and enrolled at the University of Minnesota in 1946. There, he met his wife, Joan, on a blind date. “It was all over once we met,” Bob recalled. “She was it. Why she picked me, I’ll never know. She was a honey.”

Bob and Joan decided to marry, and while planning their wedding in early 1949, Bob enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve. “Our wedding was planned for early September, but we never got to that. The Korean War began, and my entire unit was activated,” Bob explained. “We decided we would get married anyway—despite the aggravation of both sets of our parents!” On Aug. 21, Bob left for Korea. He and Joan had been married for just two weeks.

Bob E._2He fought in the Korean War with the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. Despite having never undergone Marine basic training and having received minimal field preparation, Bob faced several battles, including the Battle of Seoul and the Battle of Uijeongbu.

“One evening in November 1950, we were attacked by three divisions of Chinese. Both my buddy and I got hit,” Bob remembered. “I had shrapnel up one side—I still have it in my hip. Once we got back to the aid station, I was shipped down to the Yokosuka Naval Hospital in Japan, where I stayed ‘til March of ’51, when I was sent home. He received a Purple Heart for being wounded in battle—a medal he displayed proudly on his bedroom wall.

“After I was finally discharge from the Marines in November 1951 and went home, that’s when Joan and I really started our life,” Bob said. He began what was to become a successful career in sales and marketing that took him all over the country, and the couple raised four children—three boys and a girl. Eventually, Bob took a job in Moorhead, Minn., and received explicit instructions from his wife. “Joan said, ‘Buy me a farm.’ So I said ‘Yes, ma’am!’” Bob shared with a smile and salute. “We could raise anything on this farm, and we did.”

Bob and Joan founded Green Hill Farms, an operation that produces and sells a wide variety of jellies and jams. Bob’s youngest son Rick and his wife Kim continue to operate the business from the farmstead.

In 1996, Bob and Joan retired and moved to Detroit Lakes, Minn. They traveled together and with friends, and enjoyed retirement. After Joan passed away in 2004, Bob admitted, “I guess I didn’t do so well living alone.”

Bob E._3In 2013, after several years of reporting a hoarse voice to several doctors, Bob was diagnosed with cancer of the vocal cord. He underwent radiation and surgery, and in February 2014 was deemed clear of cancer. Despite being cancer-free, Bob’s health continued to decline. In May 2014, he returned to his farm and began receiving care from Hospice of the Red River Valley.

“Honest to Pete, you guys are great,” Bob emphasized. “Everyone is so concerned and has a friendly attitude.”

“Bob welcomed all of the hospice staff into his home. He was direct and knew what he wanted—he set the framework for the care he wanted to receive,” shared Karin, chaplain with Hospice of the Red River Valley.

Bob passed away on October 15, 2014. His remaining time on the farm was peaceful and comfortable—just as it should be for a man who freely sacrificed to protect his country in three branches of the military and worked tirelessly to provide for his family. Karin affirmed, “It was both our honor and duty to care for him.”

About Hospice of the Red River Valley
Hospice of the Red River Valley is an independent, not-for-profit hospice serving all, or portions of, 29 counties in North Dakota and Minnesota. Hospice care is intensive comfort care that alleviates pain and suffering, enhancing the quality of life for patients with life-limiting illnesses and their loved ones by addressing their medical, emotional, spiritual and grief needs. For more information, call toll free 800-237-4629, email questions@hrrv.org or visit www.hrrv.org.

Permanent link to this article: http://hospicerrvblog.areavoices.com/2014/11/11/salute-to-service-hospice-cares-for-veteran/

Nov 04

November is National Hospice Month: Letter to the Editor

National Hospice Month_2014A common misconception of hospice care is people on hospice are lying in a bed, waiting to die. Even 40 years after the hospice movement began in the United States, many still equate hospice with “giving up.” Hospice care serves as a valid health care option for end-of-life. By learning more about the true benefits of hospice, families can make better informed decisions for themselves and their loved ones—before a health care emergency.

Recently one of our patients shared, “I still have a lot of living to do. My terminal diagnosis won’t stop me from enjoying the life I have left.” Imagine if more people had his incredible mindset.

November is National Hospice Month—a time to learn about hospice care, and celebrate this end-of-life care option.

When patients are admitted into hospice care at an appropriate time, their quality of life can actually improve. Hospice is team-oriented, specialized care for people facing life-limiting illnesses. It includes expert medical care, pain management, spiritual and emotional support for patients and their families. More simply, hospice care supports living one’s life to the fullest and with dignity, regardless of how much time remains. Choosing hospice can give patients the care they need, while also providing them with moments of joy, peace and comfort.

We continuously hear from our patients and their loved ones, “I had no idea hospice did so much … I wish we would have known about hospice sooner … We couldn’t do this without hospice.”

If you’re unfamiliar with the benefits of hospice care, please contact us. Don’t wait until you’re faced with a medical crisis.

Our website and blog feature stories from our patients and their families who have experienced hospice care. These represent only a fraction of the work and moments made possible by choosing hospice care.

A terminal diagnosis can still include a lot of living. Visit our website or call (800) 237-4629 to learn more.

Kevin Provost, Executive Director
Hospice of the Red River Valley

About Hospice of the Red River Valley
Hospice of the Red River Valley is an independent, not-for-profit hospice serving all, or portions of, 29 counties in North Dakota and Minnesota. Hospice care is intensive comfort care that alleviates pain and suffering, enhancing the quality of life for patients with life-limiting illnesses and their loved ones by addressing their medical, emotional, spiritual and grief needs. For more information, call toll free 800-237-4629, email questions@hrrv.org or visit www.hrrv.org.

Permanent link to this article: http://hospicerrvblog.areavoices.com/2014/11/04/november-is-national-hospice-month-letter-to-the-editor/

Oct 20

Dying In America Is Harder Than It Has To Be, IOM Says

stethoscopeBy Jenny Gold, Kaiser Health News Staff Writer

It is time for conversations about death to become a part of life.

That is one of the themes of a 500-page report, titled “Dying In America,” released by the Institute of Medicine.

The report suggests that the first end-of-life conversation could coincide with a cherished American milestone: getting a driver’s license at 16, the first time a person weighs what it means to be an organ donor. Follow-up conversations with a counselor, nurse or social worker should come at other points early in life, such as turning 18 or getting married. The idea, according to the IOM, is to “help normalize the advance care planning process by starting it early, to identify a health care agent, and to obtain guidance in the event of a rare catastrophic event.”

The IOM plans to spend the next year holding meetings around the country to spark conversations about the report’s findings and recommendations. ”The time is now for our nation to develop a modernized end-of-life care system,” said Dr. Victor Dzau, president of the IOM.

The 21-member IOM committee that authored the report grappled with the fact that most Americans have not documented their wishes for end-of-life care. A national survey in 2013 found that 90 percent of Americans believed it was important to have end-of-life care discussions with their families, yet less than 30 percent had done so. Those who have had the discussions tend to be white, higher-income, over 65, and have one or more chronic condition.

In response to these statistics, the IOM offers a new “life-cycle model of advance care planning” that envisions people having regular planning conversations as part of their primary care, and at the diagnosis of any chronic illnesses or genetic conditions. The conversation would continue at various turning points of a disease, when spiritual counseling might be offered, and then again in the final year of expected life.

The report also found that the American health care system is poorly equipped to care for patients at the end of life.  Despite efforts to improve access to hospice and palliative care over the past decade, the committee identified major gaps, including a shortage of doctors proficient in palliative care, reluctance among providers to have direct and honest conversations about end-of-life issues, and inadequate financial and organizational support for the needs of ailing and dying patients.

“We all share in common one reality: We’re all going to die,” said Dr. Philip Pizzo, co-chair of the committee, at the public release of the report Wednesday. “We have the ability to accomplish [a strong end-of-life care system], but we have a long way to go.”

Just talking about death and dying can ignite fear and controversy: Five years ago, the health law’s proposal for Medicare to reimburse doctors for counseling patients about living wills and advance directives became a rallying cry for Republican opponents of the law who warned about so-called “death panels.” The reimbursement provision was removed from the Affordable Care Act before it passed.

The IOM argues that the country cannot afford to wait any longer to have a less heated conversation, especially as the number of elderly Americans continues to grow with the aging of the baby boom generation.

“At a time when public leaders hesitate to speak on a subject that is profoundly consequential for the health and well-being of all Americans, it is incumbent on others to examine the facts dispassionately, assess what can be done to make those final days better, and promote a reasoned and respectful public discourse on the subject,” write Dzau and Dr. Harvey Fineberg, the former president of the IOM, in a forward.

The report also addresses how to make palliative care – care that focuses on quality of life and pain control for people with serious illnesses – more prevalent and available to all patients.

Over the past decade, palliative medicine has become a widespread specialty.  But while 85 percent of hospitals with more than 300 beds now have palliative care services, many patients still may not have access to a specialist, including those who are not hospitalized or who live in rural areas.

To address the shortage, the committee writes, all clinicians regardless of specialty “should be competent in basic palliative care, including communication skills, interprofessional collaboration, and symptom management.” Medical schools are currently required to cover end-of-life care as part of their curriculum, but they offer an average of just 17 hours of training over all four years. And end-of-life care is not one of the crucial 15 topic areas for Step 3 of the medical licensing exams, the final step to becoming a practicing physician.

The committee calls for medical schools, accrediting boards and state regulatory agencies to bolster their end-of-life training and certification requirements.

Some private insurance plans have already started adopting some of the practices recommended in the report. “It’s not entirely altruistic,” said David Walker, co-chair of the committee. Private payers have the data to know that palliative and hospice care can save money at the end of life.

The IOM is an influential body that is the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences. Its mandate is to provide objective information to advise the public and policy makers. IOM reports are sometimes undertaken at the request of Congress, which can also fund the work. “Dying in America” was funded privately, however, by “a public-spirited donor” who wishes to remain anonymous, according to Dzau and Fineberg.

This article was produced by Kaiser Health News with support from The SCAN Foundation.

Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

Upcoming Event
The 11th Annual Fargo-Moorhead Caregiver Conference, “The Fearless Caregiver,” will be held this Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014, at the Hjemkomst Center located at 202 1st Ave. N. in Moorhead, Minn. The half-day seminar begins at 9 a.m. A light brunch will be served.

The conference features expert panelists on variety of caregiving topics. Additionally, “The Caregiver Bill of Rights” will be presented by Sharon Dardis, RN, BSN, author and board member of the Minnesota Coalition for Death Education and Support.

The conference will close with light chair yoga led by a trained yoga instructor. Area vendors will also be onsite during the event. The event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. For questions or to register, please call Julie Marxen at (218) 299-5514. Click to download and print an 11th Annual Fargo-Moorhead Caregiver Conference agenda/registration form.

About Hospice of the Red River Valley
Hospice of the Red River Valley is an independent, not-for-profit hospice serving all, or portions of, 29 counties in North Dakota and Minnesota. Hospice care is intensive comfort care that alleviates pain and suffering, enhancing the quality of life for patients with life-limiting illnesses and their loved ones by addressing their medical, emotional, spiritual and grief needs. For more information, call toll free 800-237-4629, email questions@hrrv.org or visit www.hrrv.org.

Permanent link to this article: http://hospicerrvblog.areavoices.com/2014/10/20/dying-in-america-is-harder-than-it-has-to-be-iom-says/

Oct 07

True Grit: Patient Celebrates a Year on Hospice Care

Duane_1For 365 days, Duane, Hospice of the Red River Valley patient, has received hospice care in his home, with his beloved wife, JoAnn, by his side. Each day is an adventure that Duane has met with true grit, gratitude and a little humor.

A year ago, Duane left the hospital for the last time with a three-week prognosis. His persistent heart issues led to a pattern of hospital stays, a string of discharges, ambulance rides and numerous re-admissions. “When they told me I only had three weeks left, I was out of this world,” Duane described. “At the hospital, they told me I wouldn’t return home, and that was hard.”

After these experiences and the prognosis of three weeks to live, Duane told his family, “No more,” and he called Hospice of the Red River Valley. “I was looking for some help, and Hospice provided it,” Duane said. “I didn’t want my family to have to worry about me, especially my wife.”

With such a short amount of time left, Duane was determined to get all his personal affairs in order, including finances and insurance. “I drove my daughter nuts to get everything done,” he said. “I even sent her to the funeral home to make arrangements.”

Robyn, Hospice of the Red River Valley social work

er, helped Duane appoint his daughter as power of attorney. Robyn also assisted the couple in creating living wills, which was a pleasant surprise for Duane. “I didn’t know Hospice could help with so many things,” he said. “It was such a relief, and now, I feel good knowing that everything is taken care of.”

In addition to helping with his personal affairs, Hospice staff worked immediately to simplify Duane’s medications. “I’m happy to say I’m off most of the medications I was taking before I was on hospice,” Duane explained. “Every week Hospice comes in to take a look at my meds. It is a great, great feeling knowing a nurse is going to check in with us.”

Duane and Jerry

Duane with Hospice CNA, Jerry.

Duane is most grateful for the attentive care provided by his hospice certified nursing assistant (CNA), Jerry. “When Jerry started coming to the house, I started receiving showers consistently and more trips to the bathroom, but most importantly, he helped me regain my strength,” Duane said. “We’ve walked up and down these halls, many times.” With each careful stride of the 162-step journey, Duane and Jerry grow closer, talking about movies, their mutual affinity for John Wayne and life.

“It’s been a great relationship with Jerry; we’ve had a lot of good times,” Duane explained. “He’s been as nice to me as any person can be. There’s a lot of bologna passed between us.” “I think that has added a lot to my recovery, because I don’t even think about my heart problems when we’re visiting,” he said.

Jerry has developed a mutual fondness for Duane, as well. “I look forward to seeing him,” Jerry said. “He’s a great guy with a zest for life and a good attitude, no matter what he faces.” “I think Duane is a hospice success story because he’s chosen to utilize all of the services hospice can offer to him.”

Hospice of the Red River Valley Nurse Practitioner Michelle echoes Jerry’s feelings. “Duane is such a delight,” she said. “I think his embrace of hospice care has contributed to how well he’s done under our care. He’s really taking full advantage of everything hospice care offers. A lot of people don’t have the chance to celebrate a one-year anniversary on hospice care.”

Duane_2This past year has also offered Duane more moments to celebrate with his family—his 80th birthday, another Thanksgiving, Christmas and his 57th wedding anniversary. He doesn’t take this time on hospice care lightly, or what it’s meant to him. “I’m alive, and I truly believe I wouldn’t be here without Hospice,” he said. “Hospice takes care of you spiritually, medically and also offers friendship. It makes a difference when you’ve got somebody who cares; that does something for your heart.”

Despite outliving his original prognosis, Duane’s health continues to slowly decline, which makes him still eligible for hospice care. A member of Hospice’s medical team must regularly visit Duane to re-certify that he still meets the medical guidelines for care.

“Everyone who has come to our home from Hospice—Jerry, Robyn, Michelle, Tom—has a genuine interest in helping me; I appreciate that,” Duane shared. “I can’t emphasize what I think about hospice enough. I don’t care what anyone else says. My experience with hospice has been great.”

Upcoming Event
The 11th Annual Fargo-Moorhead Caregiver Conference, “The Fearless Caregiver,” will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014, at the Hjemkomst Center located at 202 1st Ave. N. in Moorhead, Minn. The half-day seminar begins at 9 a.m. A light brunch will be served.

The conference features expert panelists on variety of caregiving topics. Additionally, “The Caregiver Bill of Rights” will be presented by Sharon Dardis, RN, BSN, author and board member of the Minnesota Coalition for Death Education and Support.

The conference will close with light chair yoga led by a trained yoga instructor. Area vendors will also be onsite during the event. The event is free and open to the public, but registration is required by Oct. 15. For questions or to register, please call Julie Marxen at (218) 299-5514.

Click to download and print an 11th Annual Fargo-Moorhead Caregiver Conference agenda/registration form.

About Hospice of the Red River Valley
Hospice of the Red River Valley is an independent, not-for-profit hospice serving all, or portions of, 29 counties in North Dakota and Minnesota. Hospice care is intensive comfort care that alleviates pain and suffering, enhancing the quality of life for patients with life-limiting illnesses and their loved ones by addressing their medical, emotional, spiritual and grief needs. For more information, call toll free 800-237-4629, email questions@hrrv.org or visit www.hrrv.org.

Permanent link to this article: http://hospicerrvblog.areavoices.com/2014/10/07/true-grit-patient-celebrates-a-year-on-hospice-care/

Sep 23

Hospice Youth Journeys: Helping Kids Navigate through Grief & Uncertainty

Youth JourneysThrough creativity and imagery, Hospice of the Red River Valley Chaplain Tom Holtey shapes a safe and warm environment for youth to explore their grief emotions during Youth Journeys, a day-long grief workshop offered by Hospice of the Red River Valley for young people, ages 6-18, who have experienced the death of a loved one.

“I’ve been with Hospice for almost nine years now. During this time, I’ve discovered I need weekly group reflection, and daily personal reflection, to process my thoughts and feelings,” Holtey explained. “I believe reflections on thoughts and feelings—in a more physical way—can be a great way for youth to express their emotions, too.”

The Labyrinth
For many, the thought of reflecting on your thoughts and feelings might sound boring, especially for children. But at Youth Journeys, Holtey used a labyrinth—an elaborate combination of paths—that children walked on, or a finger labyrinth. He said, it’s helpful, and can be fun, for children of different ages and personalities to process their thoughts and feelings in a group setting and in individual ways.

“The labyrinth’s roots, in a large sense, can be traced back to hospice because hospices were places of rest for pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land,” Holtey explained. “For people unable to make the pilgrimage, a labyrinth was built in Chartres, France, at the Cathedral, to simulate the journey. I love that labyrinths have this hospice connection.” 

In addition to his personal life, Holtey has put labyrinths to good use in previous positions where he worked with youth as a camp director and pastor. “I’ve used it [labyrinth] to help redirect the energy of active kids and provide a connectedness, while harnessing creativity at the same time,” he shared. Whether he combines his musical talents—singing and playing instruments—while children march along the labyrinth, or they simply sit in a circle around it, Holtey finds this tool resonates with young people.

Youth Journeys
“All of the chaplains at Hospice of the Red River Valley are always looking for ways to assess and track the needs of those we work with,” he explained. “Using a labyrinth to help express emotions seemed like a natural fit for use at Youth Journeys,” he explained.

Youth Journeys_labyrinth-collageDuring last spring’s Youth Journeys, held in April, Holtey used a very large labyrinth “map” that covered the floor to engage and interact with youth, ranging from grade school to high school age. “I wanted to create a comfortable place where kids could be themselves and participate at their own pace,” he said. “I also wanted to create a foundation for the Hospice social workers and bereavement specialists who worked with the kids later in the day.”

Holtey encouraged participants to walk around the labyrinth at a pace comfortable to them. “I sat down in the middle of the labyrinth, and invited the kids to take a seat anywhere on it,” he described. “I expected them to either sit near the edge of it or not at all. And surprisingly, almost everybody immediately came right to the center.”

While the kids claimed their spot on the labyrinth, Holtey played his ukulele and gently discussed different emotions and how there are times we feel happy and other times we do not, and it’s OK to be yourself. “Similar to the different stages of grief, there’s no rule on what you should be feeling, and just because someone else is feeling a certain way, doesn’t mean you have to as well,” Holtey described. “A sense of community started to develop as kids began interacting with me and each other. You have your own space on the labyrinth, yet you are together.”

The conversation continued to flow into discussions about finding meaning in life’s events and how everyone has their own way of looking at and dealing with experiences based on his or her own system of values. “I wanted to convey the message that however each person handled the grief and loss of a loved one, it was OK and not a reflection on how much we loved the person who passed away,” he said.

As the group’s talk evolved, Holtey used a handout depicting a finger labyrinth and using feeling and thinking words to help assess the needs of each participant. “We talked about wellness and the different types: physical and spiritual,” he said. “And, how we [Hospice staff] wanted this to be a safe place for each child to share and feel.”

 The labyrinth activity helped set the tone—a comfortable environment where it’s OK to cry, smile and even laugh—and guidelines for the rest of the day, while providing a tangible metaphor for the grief journey. It is just one example of the types of activities that take place at Youth Journeys.

Looking Ahead
From season-to-season, the activities at Youth Journeys may change and evolve, but the dedication to helping youth explore and work through grief remains the same. “Youth Journeys is really all about kids; they get to be with peers and hear their stories,” Holtey said. “And our [Hospice’s] grief team is so good and in-tune with kids. They provide them with a safe place to be wherever they are in the grief process. It’s wonderful.”

Hospice of the Red River Valley will again offer Youth Journeys this fall on Saturday, October 4. Portions of the day will include parent/guardian participation. For more information about Youth Journeys, or to register, contact us at (800) 237-4629 or email questions@hrrv.org. Pre-registration is required by Monday, Sept. 29, 2014.

Youth Journeys is just one of many grief-related offerings that Hospice of the Red River Valley provides to our communities. In addition to this workshop, we also have support groups and classes, a grief resource library and an annual conference. If you or someone you know could benefit from grief support and resources, please contact us.

Tom Holtey has been working as a chaplain at Hospice of the Red River Valley for nine years.

In addition to grief support groups, Hospice of the Red River Valleys offers a number of classes, workshops and a conference in the fall. Please visit our website for more information about these upcoming opportunities.

Upcoming Event
Tonight, Tuesday, Sept. 23 from 7-9 p.m., we are pleased to offer a FREE community event as part of our Journeying Home Conference. Douglas C. Smith, professional speaker, trainer, consultant and counselor, will present “Different Styles of Grieving, Different Styles of Healing.” Participants will explore different ways of grieving and ways to navigate grief and loss. The event will take place at Ramada Plaza & Suites, 1635 42nd St. S., Fargo, N.D. It is free and open to the public, no registration required and no CEUs provided. The event is sponsored in part by Forum Communications, Gate City Bank, Ramada Plaza & Suites and Enventis Foundation.

Smith has worked in hospitals, hospices and social service agencies. He is the author of several books, including The Tao of Dying, Caregiving: Hospice-Proven Techniques For Healing Body And Soul, Being A Wounded Healer and The Complete Book Of Counseling The Dying And The Grieving. He also has much experiential knowledge in the fields of terminal illness and grieving.

About Hospice of the Red River Valley
Hospice of the Red River Valley is an independent, not-for-profit hospice serving all, or portions of, 29 counties in North Dakota and Minnesota. Hospice care is intensive comfort care that alleviates pain and suffering, enhancing the quality of life for patients with life-limiting illnesses and their loved ones by addressing their medical, emotional, spiritual and grief needs. For more information, call toll free 800-237-4629, email questions@hrrv.org or visit www.hrrv.org.

Permanent link to this article: http://hospicerrvblog.areavoices.com/2014/09/23/hospice-youth-journeys-helping-kids-navigate-through-grief-uncertainty/

Sep 18

Hospice Hosts Journeying Home Conference Sept. 23-24!

Journeying Home 2014At Hospice of the Red River Valley, we’re committed to providing quality end-of-life care and education, including grief support and resources. We’re pleased to announce our annual Journeying Home Conference will take place Sept. 23-24, 2014, at the Ramada Plaza & Suites in Fargo.

The conference kicks off with a FREE community event on Tuesday, Sept. 23 from 7-9 p.m., open to the public with no registration required. Attendees will have the opportunity to learn from a professional speaker, counselor and expert on grief and loss, Douglas C. Smith. His inspiring and engaging presentation, “Different Styles of Grieving, Different Ways of Healing,” will help anyone who has experienced grief through his message of hope and healing. Participants will also have the chance to quietly reflect on their losses and honor their unique grief journeys.

On Wednesday, Sept. 24, health care professionals are invited to attend the daylong educational event. Smith will present, “Ethical and Spiritual Issues in End-of-Life Care.” Continuing education units/hours available at this program are 6.5 social work CEUs and 5.75 contact hours for nurses.* Registration is required for this portion of the conference. The conference fee is $99. Click here to register.

Please join us, and let others know about these events. For details, visit www.hrrv.org/journeyinghome or call (800) 237-4629.

About the Presenter
Douglas C. Smith is a professional speaker, trainer, consultant, counselor and expert on grief and loss. He has worked in hospitals, hospices, and social service agencies. He is the author of several books, including The Tao Of Dying, Caregiving: Hospice-Proven Techniques For Healing Body And Soul, Being A Wounded Healer, and The Complete Book Of Counseling The Dying And The Grieving. He also has much experiential knowledge in the fields of terminal illness and grieving, having lost to death a brother and two daughters.

*Hospice of the Red River Valley is an approved provider for continuing education for social workers in North Dakota. This continuing nursing education activity has been approved by the Arizona Nurses’ Association, an accredited approver by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission on Accreditation.

About Hospice of the Red River Valley
Hospice of the Red River Valley is an independent, not-for-profit hospice serving all, or portions of, 29 counties in North Dakota and Minnesota. Hospice care is intensive comfort care that alleviates pain and suffering, enhancing the quality of life for patients with life-limiting illnesses and their loved ones by addressing their medical, emotional, spiritual and grief needs. For more information, call toll free 800-237-4629, email questions@hrrv.org or visit www.hrrv.org.

Permanent link to this article: http://hospicerrvblog.areavoices.com/2014/09/18/hospice-hosts-journeying-home-conference-sept-23-24/

Sep 09

Loose Ends

Karin MobergBy Chaplain Karin Moberg

In the last year of Mom’s life she had become increasingly confined because of emphysema and COPD, until eventually she was living what we call in hospice, a “bed-to-chair” existence. Her oxygen tubing was long enough to stretch across her small one room apartment, while her nebulizer and inhalers sat on her end table within arm’s reach of her favorite chair.

She spent hours in her big, red floral patterned, antique winged-back chair—reading, watching the San Diego Padres, playing with her cat named Blue and crocheting.
Crocheting was probably her preferred form of handwork. It seemed like the click of the needles, soothed her similar to a mantra, calming her anxiety and easing her breathing. I wonder if this activity didn’t also enlarge her otherwise shrinking world by giving her a more expansive purpose, as she held one of her loved ones in mind with each new creation.

She took a certain pride in the notion that every completed piece had at least one mistake in it because nothing was perfect, insisting it was the imperfection that made a doily or afghan unique and special—compared to a factory-run product.

Her lovely flawed creations were special—not just because they were made by hand—but because they were made by her hand.

In the last week of her life, my brother Dave and I were going through her bags of unfinished projects. I thought of the 250 brown and cream granny squares I crocheted as a young adult—an afghan in the making. I kept that paper bag full of squares for years, thinking maybe someday I would finish it. I never did.

Mom’s impending death, like any, had a way of bringing unfinished business into focus, not by choice but by necessity.

As we sorted through a closet filled with all her homey but incomplete efforts, we discovered many loose ends. We didn’t want her precious work to unravel, so we asked her if she remembered how to tie up the ends.

My brother knelt in front of her holding one of her beautiful pineapple-patterned doilies in his hands. Mom was too weak, and her fingers would not cooperate. My brother said, “That’s ok, Mom; we’ll do it.”

In that tender failure, I experienced a fresh illumination of a larger truth. Since there is no perfect life—there is no perfect ending. We do the best we can, but something is always left hanging and unfinished; passed on to the next generation to complete or continue in its own way. In these thoughts, I felt strangely comforted and readied to carry on—as her daughter, and also as a hospice chaplain—encouraging and supporting patients and families in this final spiritual act of letting go.

That same night, in spite of the loose ends, Mom whispered, “I’m ready, I’m ready.”

And I knew what she meant.

Karin Moberg is a chaplain at Hospice of the Red River Valley.

About Hospice of the Red River Valley
Hospice of the Red River Valley is an independent, not-for-profit hospice serving all, or portions of, 29 counties in North Dakota and Minnesota. Hospice care is intensive comfort care that alleviates pain and suffering, enhancing the quality of life for patients with life-limiting illnesses and their loved ones by addressing their medical, emotional, spiritual and grief needs. For more information, call toll free 800-237-4629, email questions@hrrv.org or visit www.hrrv.org.

Upcoming Event
Hospice of the Red River Valley is pleased to offer the 2014 Journeying Home Conference, Sept. 23-24. Douglas C. Smith, professional speaker, trainer, consultant and counselor, will present “Different Styles of Grieving, Different Styles of Healing” during a FREE community event on Sept. 23 from 7-9 p.m. This portion of the conference is free and open to the public.

On Sept. 24 from 8:45 a.m. to 4 p.m., he will present “Ethical and Spiritual Issues in End-of-Life Care.” This event is for health care professionals, and registration is required. Conference fee is $89 on or before Sept. 15, and $99 after Sept. 15. Continuing education units/hours available at this program. Click here to register.

Smith has worked in hospitals, hospices and social service agencies. He is the author of several books, including The Tao of Dying, Caregiving: Hospice-Proven Techniques For Healing Body And Soul, Being A Wounded Healer and The Complete Book Of Counseling The Dying And The Grieving. He also has much experiential knowledge in the fields of terminal illness and grieving.

Permanent link to this article: http://hospicerrvblog.areavoices.com/2014/09/09/loose-ends/

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