Jan 27

Volunteering with Hospice: A Language of the Heart

For Arlene Schneider, a volunteer with Hospice of the Red River Valley, her experience started out like many others who give of their time, “I was retired, and I like to be busy,” she said. “I was looking for something to do, and they [Hospice] needed the help.” Arlene quickly realized her time with Hospice was anything but ordinary when she started visiting Hospice patients.

Arlene Schneider“At first, visiting patients was difficult with me, because I’ve lost so many people in my life,” Arlene explained. “But now I’m really comfortable with the process, and I feel joy when I am able to help a patient and their family members.”

Spending 10 hours or more volunteering for Hospice each week, Arlene provides respite and Pathway visits and also works as an office volunteer in the bereavement department in Fargo. “I just love it [volunteering],” she said. “I love people and connecting with patients and families. When someone says, ‘Thank you,’ and you can see it’s really sincere, it’s worth every minute.”

Just as each patient is different, so is Arlene’s approach to connecting with patients. Carefully and thoughtfully, she molds each visit around a person’s interests. Recently she read a book about World War II to brush up on her history knowledge in preparation for a visit with a veteran. “It has to be different for each patient,” she said. “What you get out of volunteering is what you put into it.”

Arlene also visits an elderly woman with Alzheimer’s disease. Even though the patient doesn’t recognize Arlene when she visits, Arlene believes the time they spend together truly makes a difference. “She greets me with a hug every time I visit her,” Arlene said. “She always stretches her arms out to me, and says, ‘Can I love you?’ All she wants is a hug, and she gives me another hug before I leave and says, ‘You’re going to come again, aren’t you?’ That speaks to the heart.”

Although Arlene enjoys all types of hospice visits, she cherishes Pathway visits, for patients who are within days of dying, the most. “When my husband passed away, I was alone,” she said. “I didn’t know about hospice care then. I appreciate that with hospice care, there’s all these other little corners where someone fills in for you. It makes a big difference for the families.”

Arlene Schneider“When a family member needs a break, it’s so nice to be able to walk in, and say ‘I’ll sit with your loved one so they don’t have to be alone until you get back,’” she shared. “The hugs and thanks I’ve received after Pathway visits are worth every minute. It’s an honor, and you can’t put a price on that—knowing how much you’ve helped a family.”

One experience in particular has left a mark on Arlene’s heart. She sat with a patient at a nursing home during a Pathway visit, and within 10 minutes of her leaving, the patient passed away. The following week, the family of the patient returned to the same nursing home in hopes they would be able to express their sincere gratitude to Arlene. “To think a family would make a trip back to the place where their mother passed away just to tell me thank you and that they appreciated what I did for their mother was such a special moment,” Arlene said. “Hospice speaks to the heart. It’s not only what you give to others, but also what you feel inside.”

Deb, Hospice of the Red River Valley volunteer services manager, knows just how much people like Arlene mean to Hospice patients and their loved ones. “Arlene is a wonderful volunteer who gives so much to hospice families,” Deb said. “She is always willing to help with quick-turnaround requests to assist patients and families, and at times, she makes up to eight visits a week. We’re so thankful for her.”

After almost four years as a Hospice volunteer, Arlene has a plethora of heart-warming stories to share about her experience, and she doesn’t intend on quitting any time soon. “I will work with Hospice as long as I can,” she explained. “It’s just great to feel you’re with an organization that everybody really loves.”

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/2015/01/27/volunteering-with-hospice-a-language-of-the-heart/

Jan 13

An Attitude of Gratitude: Couple Gives Thanks for Extra Support

During any visit with Mike, a Hospice of the Red River Valley patient, and his wife, Eileen, you quickly realize you’re gaining an unintentional education in grace and gratitude. The couple is warm, welcoming and unassuming. Mike faces serious health challenges, but rather than becoming bitter, they are acutely aware of the blessings and kindness surrounding them.

Mike B_quote

In mid-September, Mike began receiving care from Hospice of the Red River Valley after he decided to stop chemotherapy treatments. “Discontinuing treatment was hard, but also good, because it was wearing him down. You’re in one day for blood work, the next for treatment, the next for a shot. Going to the hospital four days a week, at times, was just too taxing for him,” Eileen explained. “My doctor suggested we talk to Hospice, so we talked to a hospice nurse that same day,” Mike said. “The transition into hospice care was seamless,” he added.

Initially, the word “hospice” was intimidating to the pair. But after witnessing first-hand the care and extra support hospice provides, they know hospice was the right choice for their family. “At first you hear hospice, and it is a little scary, but it’s not a service to be fearful of. You’ve got to run to it with open arms and let them embrace you because they’re going to help you so much. Hospice takes a lot of weight off a person’s shoulders,” Mike said.

Mike and Eileen

Mike and Eileen

Prior to starting hospice care, Mike and Eileen weren’t fully aware of the extent of services and equipment available through Hospice. “You think you know, but you really don’t until you experience it. I can’t say enough about hospice. We have our team, and they always call and ask if we need anything. They do not leave you wanting for anything,” Eileen shared. “What surprised me the most is that they respect our wishes. If we need something, we call and help is there. I tell you what, they are wonderful!”

Small requests to Hospice, like a different chair for the shower, have made Mike’s daily care routine easier for Eileen to manage. “It helps me take care of him. I know Hospice would be happy to come out and help me. But it’s something I want to still be able to do for him,” she said. “If I need something, I just ask, and I’ve been impressed by how quickly they’ve responded,” Mike said.

With the transition to hospice care, more guests, including Hospice staff, family and friends, have visited Mike and Eileen than usual. The extra attention and numerous good deeds have proved to be a blessing for the couple who live in rural Gardner, N.D., 35 miles north of Fargo. “People want to do something to help,” Eileen said. “And, it’s a ways out here; it’s nice having extra help, especially with winter coming.”

A new addition of a wheelchair ramp, running from the house to the garage, is a combination of the time and talents of many people, including Mike’s dad, Nils, his brother, Jon, and a Hospice volunteer, Matt, among others. The idea for a ramp came from Nils who was hoping to ease the trips in and out of the house for Mike and Eileen. “My brother and my dad came up with a pretty nice structure and drew the plans for it,” Mike said. “They [Jon and Nils] had it planned out perfectly; they knew exactly how much lumber to buy,” Eileen said.

Mike and Matt

Volunteer Matt with Mike.

The project came to life in just one day with the helping hands of Matt, who traveled from Fargo to assist with the build. Even though they had never met Matt before, Eileen said, “He just fit right in, and he interacted so well with our family. Everyone loved him, and he worked hard.” “What a wonderful person he is,” Mike added with a smile.

“There was really no pause. They were all open-arms and super nice right away. It was a great day,” Matt said. Originally, Matt was only planning to stay for a couple of hours, but once he got involved in the project and felt the warm, small-town community spirit around him, he knew he had to stay until the ramp was complete. “I just knew there was no way I’d be able to leave until I saw him ride that ramp,” Matt shared. “How often do you get to walk into a whole community and you’re welcomed with open arms and you all have the same goal of making someone’s life a little easier and better?” The family appreciated Matt’s help so much that they even invited him to stay for a classic Midwestern lunch—tater tot hot dish.

Mike B._Ramp Project

Family and a Hospice volunteer helped build the ramp for Mike.

Now the distance to and from the car is steady and stable not only for Mike’s wheelchair, but also for his peace of mind. “I don’t have to worry about her [Eileen] falling or hurting herself now,” Mike explained. “How do you thank people for that? You feel like you have to do more or do something for them. You just have to accept what they did and move on. It is just unbelievable how nice people are.” Eileen’s feelings mirror those of her husband’s. “The ramp is just as smooth as can be—no bumps whatsoever. It means a lot to us.”

With each passing day as winter settles in, Mike and Eileen are grateful for the extra support and assistance of everyone, including Hospice. And, as Eileen says, no matter the weather, “the people are always ‘warm’ year round,” and both Mike and Eileen are thankful for that.

Mike passed away on November 29, 2014. His remaining time at home was peaceful and comfortable.

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/2015/01/13/an-attitude-of-gratitude-couple-gives-thanks-for-extra-support/

Dec 29

Reaching the End Zone: Hospice Staff Go Long for Patient

DennisWoven tightly into the fabric of his life, sports and a sense of brotherhood remain close at heart for Dennis, Hospice of the Red River Valley patient. Even with a prognosis of five to six months to live, Dennis and his partner, Cindy, are determined to make the most of the time he has left by living life to the fullest—embracing each precious moment and new experience.

Three weeks ago, complications from a blood transfusion procedure caused by a weak heart led Dennis to hospice care. “He wanted to go home,” Cindy explained. Besides the comfort of his own home, Dennis wanted to spend more time with his family, and have the freedom to go out and about in his small rural town of Walcott.

With the assistance of Hospice staff, the past few weeks have been a true blessing, beyond measure, for the couple. Shortly after beginning hospice care, Dennis and Cindy met with Cathy, a Hospice social worker, to determine their needs. Cathy explained that during her first meeting with a patient and family, she always asks the same two questions: “Is there anything you’re worried about? Or is there anything you still want to do?” These questions sparked conversation.

Dennis and Cindy

Dennis and his partner, Cindy.

“I told her about things I knew Dennis wanted to do,” Cindy said. “He’s been wanting to go to a Bison game and reunite with a long-lost Army buddy.”

“I’m always up for a challenge, and I love to surprise people and make people’s wishes and dreams come true. There aren’t too many dreams we can actually fulfill,” Cathy explained. “Most people have had their diagnosis long enough that they’ve tried to accomplish all the things they’ve wanted to do. But I thought Dennis’ dreams didn’t seem like over-the-moon requests, so we could try.”

Cathy worked diligently to secure two tickets to North Dakota State University (NDSU) Bison football game and tracked down Dennis’ Army friend, Leo, with some information provided to her by Dennis. Additionally, Cathy requested a small gift of $150 from the Hospice Institute, which Dennis will receive soon, to help offset travel expenses for the trip to visit his friend.

“I didn’t know Cathy could help with locating Leo,” Dennis shared.

“That was just amazing and heart touching. She has been an angel and done a great job.”

“There are those people who are just so genuine; being able to do that for him was so great. It’s just one of those things that’s not about anybody else besides him [Dennis], and he was just so deeply appreciative,” Cathy said. “The rewards we experience from the people we meet are the best part of my job.”

Dennis and Rick

Dennis and his nephew, Rick.

On Oct. 18, 2014, Dennis attended a NDSU Bison home game with his nephew, Rick. The game was the perfect epilogue to Dennis’ decades-long love affair with Bison athletics. Dennis first became interested in the Bison 20 years earlier after taking his nephew to countless men and women’s basketball games. “My nephew more or less coaxed me along to get into the games,” he said. “And I started to really get into them after a while.” As for Bison football, the past three years have been the most enjoyable for Dennis, so the opportunity to attend the recent game with his nephew was especially sweet. “I’ve never been to a team [game] like the Bison—winning and that,” Dennis described. “It just meant everything in the world [to me].”

Just a week later, accompanied by Cindy and his stepson, Dennis was finally reunited with his friend, Leo, in Watertown, S.D. The pair spent two years together in the U.S. Army, beginning with basic training through air defense schooling, an overseas deployment and finally the ride home on the same bus after their discharge. Although 50 years had separated the two, they recognized each other immediately.

Dennis and Leo

Dennis and his Army buddy, Leo.

“As soon as Leo came in the door, even from quite a distance, I recognized him,” Dennis said with excitement. “I’ve always wanted to see him again. I don’t know how to explain it, [it’s] like long-lost family member. He recognized me too, and that’s all that counted.” Over a warm meal, they shared stories of their Army adventures and made plans to see each other again. “It was touching to see him again,” Dennis said. “We’re the best of friends.”

Both experiences have touched Cindy’s heart and solidified her feelings about hospice care. “I think the main stigma people have about hospice is that you don’t get on it until the last days,” she shared. “You can get on hospice and have some valid times and be active. Hospice doesn’t just mean you’re in a bed,” she explained. She urges others who may be appropriate for hospice care to look into hospice sooner rather than later. “Don’t wait to get on hospice care because they can help,” she said. When asked by loved ones if Dennis should be so active, she says, “Why not? You’ve got to do it while you’re up and about and able to.”

These special moments of life have meant so much to Dennis, but he’s most thankful for the medical care he’s received. “They’ve [Hospice staff] done a lot for me. It’s made me feel a lot better, and you couldn’t have gotten much better care anywhere else. They’re up-front with me, and I feel safe with them,” Dennis said. “They’re sticking right with me. I’d recommend it to anybody.”

Cindy has found comfort in the care Dennis receives, too, and confidence in knowing she can ask questions along the way. “I utilize the nurses; I call them and they’re really good about responding right away. So I don’t hesitate to call them to ask what’s going on,” she said. Dennis is equally pleased. “I’ve got some great nurses who know what they’re doing. They help me in every way. If they can’t answer my questions, they will check with someone else. So I always get an answer,” he said. “They’re [Hospice staff] making my last months and days enjoyable. What more could you want?”

Watch Dennis discusses his experiences in the video below.

Your support makes a difference in the lives of others, like Dennis and his family. Please consider giving 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.

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/2014/12/29/reaching-the-end-zone-hospice-staff-go-long-for-patient/

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 worker, 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.”

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/

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