Blog

Hospice of the Red River Valley is a not-for-profit hospice that provides intensive comfort care to enhance quality of life for individuals with life-limiting illnesses. Our site shares patient, caregiver and volunteer stories—demonstrating how hospice allows people to live well, and tools and resources about end-of-life and grief.

Caregivers: A Patchwork of Love

by Janna Benson Kontz, MDiv In many ways, I believe a brightly colored quilt symbolizes life with intricately interwoven shapes, colors and patterns. And, although life isn’t always as bright, easy and beautiful as a quilt, it’s not all dark either. We need both bright and dark shades to create the beautiful pattern, just as in our lives. It’s the way life is, and if we let it, our “life quilt” will turn out to be a stunning pattern of...

 

3 Ways to Use Mindfulness During Your Grief

by Stephanie Pritchard, LPC, NCC Mindfulness has become a hot topic in recent years even though it’s been practiced for centuries. It’s a tool that can be used to address a variety of challenges that people face, such as anxiety, depression, overeating, problems in relationships, chronic pain and grief. Fundamentally, mindfulness is more than having a general awareness of what’s happening around you. Jon Kabat-Zinn is a well-known writer on the topic and defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way:...

 

Hospice Nurse Profile: Judy Hendry

May 6-12 is National Nurses Week, a time to recognize the professional contributions of nurses in delivering exceptional care to those in need. Hospice nurses take on a critical role in caring for terminally ill patients and their families. Comfort is a hospice nurse’s primary focus and advocating for patients is always their number one priority. Hospice of the Red River Valley registered nurses (RNs) are specially trained in pain control and symptom management. They provide exemplary patient-centered care guided...

 

Sew Happy to Serve: Hospice Volunteer Expands Her Skillset and Perspective

[caption id="attachment_4886" align="alignright" width="226"] Barb Bohm, Hospice of the Red River Valley volunteer[/caption] Fifteen years ago, Barb Bohm chose a lovely way to spend more time with her daughter while giving back through volunteering with Hospice of the Red River Valley. Since then, the pair has experienced priceless life lessons together. “My daughter and I began volunteering together in 2003. At that time my daughter was 19, and I felt like we were drifting apart,” Barb recalled. “I said to her...

 

5 Ways to Support a Grieving Person

by Heather Larson, LSW, CT Knowing how to help a grieving friend or family member who has experienced loss through death can be challenging, but there are some things you can do to support someone going through this difficult time. The following are five practical ways to support a grieving person in your life. Be Present First things first, show up. I often have bereavement clients who are surprised when their closest family and friends have seemed to turn away from them...

 

Preserving Meaningful Moments: Valley City Resident Lives Well With Hospice Care

Sometimes, just being able to enjoy your cherished hobbies means so much, and helps you feel like yourself when facing a delicate time in life. Since Leo Hecker, 88, hung up his spurs and saddle as a ranch hand 20 years ago, his days have been filled with selfless service for a cause near to his heart. With purpose and passion, Leo has handmade more than one million red crepe paper poppies, both big and small, for the American...

 

The Distinct Role of a Hospice Social Worker

National Social Work Month is celebrated every March and offers us an opportunity to acknowledge the significant contributions of our hospice social workers. The role of a hospice social worker is to advocate for each patient’s end-of-life wishes and help individuals address the emotional aspects of late-stage illnesses. Hospice social workers also assist families in identifying other available local services and resources for additional support. We spoke with Hospice of the Red River Valley Social Worker Tammy Baehler about the...

 

“Why Not”: The Story of How Hospice of the Red River Valley Formed

In the quaint village of Quinton, a suburb of Birmingham, England, Joy Query grew up as one of three children in a socially conscious, well-educated family. The focus on health and welfare of their fellow countrymen was an important family value passed down from generation to generation, beginning with Joy’s grandfather who was a physician and many other family members who were also involved in the medical field. Being surrounded by her family’s belief system impacted Joy’s interests, so much...

 

Hospice Care in an Assisted Living or Skilled Nursing Facility

If your loved one resides in an assisted living or skilled nursing facility, you are entrusting others to provide the best care possible for your loved one. Staff members in these facilities are experts in long-term care, and Hospice of the Red River Valley staff members are experts in pain and symptom management for end-of-life care. We often hear questions about hospice’s role in an assisted living or skilled nursing facility, like those below. Through a partnership designed to promote...

 

A Reason to Ride: Northern Minnesota Community Supports Hospice Through Annual Snowmobile Ride

Nestled among evergreens and winding roads in eastern Mahnomen County, Naytahwaush, Minn., is a quaint town whose residents hold Hospice of the Red River Valley especially close to heart. For the past 13 years, community members have combined their love of Minnesota winters with supporting their friends and neighbors by participating in the Hospice Ride, an annual snowmobile ride that raises funds for Hospice of the Red River Valley’s compassionate end-of-life care in the region. The annual ride is organized...

 

Hospice Volunteer Shares Music From the Heart With Patients

The patient sleeps most of the time, even when she has visitors. But Julie Aanenson heard her singing, just a little bit, the last time she visited. As a Hospice of the Red River Valley volunteer, Julie sings and plays music for the patients she sees. “The patient was otherwise nonresponsive,” Julie said. “I can say goodbye to her, and she doesn’t respond. But something provoked her to sing.” Whatever it was that made the woman sing can likely be...

 

Forgiveness at the End of Life

by Lauryl Ivers, M.Div., B.C.C. If not for the grace and forgiveness I have experienced in my own life, I know I wouldn’t be able to do the work I do today. I am a Hospice of the Red River Valley chaplain, and it is my privilege to enter the homes and lives of people when they and their loved ones are facing one of their greatest challenges—dying. Throughout cultural, religious and spiritual traditions, forgiveness is one of the most important...

 

The Circle of Life: A Daughter Reflects on Caring for Her Father

A father is often one’s first source of strength, comfort, safety and stability for a daughter. The special bond formed between the two is unlike any other, and it’s one which is seldom outgrown. As life evolves and transforms so does this type of relationship, and with age, many daughters find themselves serving in a similar role for their fathers as they once did for their daughters. Brenda Giere, daughter of Terry Brunette, Hospice of the Red River Valley patient,...

 

Balancing Holiday Traditions After the Death of a Loved One

by Janna Benson Kontz, MDiv Holidays and grief form an interesting tension for each of us after the death of a loved one. We feel the tension between wanting to celebrate and never wanting to celebrate again. We feel the tension between wanting to be happy and feeling guilty for being happy. We feel the tension between traditions that included the one who has died and making new traditions that include only a memory of that person. So what do...

 

Hospice Employees Help Couple Celebrate Their 25th Wedding Anniversary

The old saying, “love at first sight,” rings true for Cyndy and Tony Andren, a Valley City, N.D., couple, who recently celebrated 25 years of marriage, filled with love, compassion, faith and family. Their courtship began as friendly neighbors and effortlessly grew into a deeper affection. “I really started to notice Tony when I witnessed how nice he was to the neighborhood kids, including my daughter,” Cyndy said. “I was a little bit older when we met, and I...

 

Hospice Chaplains Help Bring Comfort and Peace to Patients at the End of Life

Spiritual care can be vital to the well-being of a person. Such care is often where we find our purpose, direction in life, values, self-worth and morals. As part of the hospice interdisciplinary team, Hospice of the Red River Valley’s chaplains promote caring for the whole person by providing spiritual comfort at the end of life, if desired by the patient and their family members. Hospice chaplains, who are experts in the field of ministry, help patients and families cope...

 

Peace in Dying

by Barbara Karnes, RN, guest author A lot has been talked about people accepting and “coming to terms” with their approaching death. Even Elizabeth Kübler-Ross talked about acceptance as one of her stages of dying. I’m not so sure we “accept” that we are dying. I think we can understand that we are dying. I believe all of us know in the weeks before death that we are indeed dying. It is no secret but acceptance implies that it is OK,...

 

Lisbon-Area Volunteer Is Familiar Face and Comforting Presence to Hospice Patients

Warren Wiltse is a man with many roles: family man, caregiver, retired farmer and rancher, life-long Lisbon, N.D., resident; world traveler, local Kiwanis Club member (for the past 35 years), Gideons International member (for the past 59 years), friend to many, storyteller and conversationalist. One more role looms large in Warren’s heart and in his community: long-time Hospice of the Red River Valley volunteer. The way Warren tells it, he heard a representative from Hospice of the Red River Valley speak...

 

Activities to Do With a Sick Loved One

by Megan Suby Caring for a loved one during an end-of-life journey can be filled with challenges and joys. There may be times when a caregiver struggles to find meaningful and engaging activities for their loved one to participate in or help with. As humans, we often search for moments in life when we feel valuable, independent and a sense of dignity. When a person experiences a terminal illness, they often have feelings of losing their independence and diminished self-worth because...

 

5 Things Hospice Taught Me About Living

by David Montecuollo, chaplain C.S. Lewis once said, “Some of the best living can happen in the worst of health.” For many, the definition of “best living” takes shape through adventure, ability, accumulating things or the like. As a hospice chaplain, I have seen patients and family members who exemplify the words of C.S. Lewis by understanding living their best life is not defined by what they have or don’t have, including possessions, position or physical condition. Our best living...

 

Hospice Grief Specialists: Helping Clients Navigate Grief and Loss

Coping with the loss of a close friend or family member may be one of the most difficult situations many of us endure. When we face a significant loss, such as a spouse, sibling or parent, our grief can be particularly intense. Each relationship is as unique and individual as the grief reactions that follow the loss; none of us experience grief exactly the same way. Similarly, everyone copes differently, too. The overwhelming sadness typically lessens as time passes,...

 

Caregiving When the Caregiver Is Ill

by Sharon Dardis, guest blogger Many caregivers worry about what will happen to their loved ones if they become physically or financially unable to provide care. What will happen and what will they do if they cannot fulfill their own expectations regarding what they think it means to be a “good” caregiver? A solution may not be as easy as one might expect. One thing I’ve learned about caregivers is that there is no right or wrong way of doing things....

 

How to Handle Grief When Approaching Milestones and Anniversaries

Heather Larson, LSW, CT Grieving is some of the hardest work we will ever do. I have discussed this idea countless times with those who are deeply grieving the death of a loved one. The moment when one reaches his/her lowest point while grieving is different for everyone. What is likely not so different is that our grief intensifies at certain times throughout the year, such as birthdays, death anniversaries, holidays and other special days. Understanding that it is natural for...

 

Caregiving in the Late Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease

by Kendra Binger, Alzheimer's Association Alzheimer's can take a devastating toll on caregivers, especially in the later stages. Compared with caregivers of people without dementia, twice as many caregivers of those with dementia indicate substantial emotional, financial and physical difficulties. As symptoms worsen, the care required of family members can result in increased emotional stress and depression; new or exacerbated health problems; and depleted income and finances due in part to disruptions in employment and paying for health care or other...

 

5 Ways to Handle Things Left Unsaid

by Rebecca Anderson, RN As a hospice nurse who has experienced parental loss, I draw on my personal experiences with the grief and loss of both my parents to offer guidance to the families I serve at Hospice of the Red River Valley. [caption id="attachment_3691" align="alignright" width="300"] Rebecca and her mom Terry[/caption] Just as each life is unique, so was the loss of each parent for me and the things I wish I would have been able to say before each of...

 

Moving Forward: Hospice Supports Young Widow Through Her Grief Journey

Welcoming a new baby into the family is usually a time of exuberance, love and joy. But for Holly Undlin, this event came during a time of extraordinary circumstances and many unknowns as her husband, Matthew, was diagnosed with stage 4 esophageal cancer shortly after the arrival of their son, Finn. A terminal diagnosis meant their family’s plans for the future shifted to helping Matthew savor experiences with his son, making him as comfortable as possible and supporting him as...

 

Celebrating the Vital Role of Hospice Certified Nursing Assistants in Caring for Patients

It is National Nursing Assistants Week, a time to celebrate the professional contributions of certified nursing assistants (CNAs) in providing high-quality care to patients. Hospice of the Red River Valley CNAs work with patients to provide individualized care based on each person’s preferences. Hospice CNAs help patients with personal care needs, including feeding, bathing assistance, shaving and nail care. They also provide light housekeeping services for individuals under our care. But perhaps the most important aspect of a hospice CNA's...

 

A Letter to My Dad on Father’s Day

by Janna Benson Kontz, MDiv Father’s Day is a day of grilling out, fishing, boating—doing all the things we love to do with our dads. If our dad isn’t into those things, or if we’re unable to be with our dad, it might be a day filled with phone calls or FaceTime. That is, if we have a good and healthy relationship with our dad. But what if our relationship with our father is anything but good? What if it’s...

 

Refocusing Hope at the End of Life’s Journey

by Jenna Miosek, RN The poet Emily Dickinson wrote, “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul, and sings the tune without the words, and never stops at all …” Although hope may look different than expected at the end of life’s journey, it doesn’t have an end point. A common concern we hear expressed by families considering hospice care is that it feels as though you may be “giving up hope” by beginning hospice services. Katie, a...

 

Mother’s Day Musings

by Connie DeKrey “Dad, may I skate down to the grocery store with Susie, please?” “Go ask your mother.” Perhaps for most of us, this was a common exchange when we were growing up. How many questions we must have asked our mothers during the course of a day (let alone throughout the years, and even into adulthood)! It is possible, especially during adolescence, the tables turned somewhat, with your mom asking the daily quota: “What did you have for lunch at school?”...

 

A Calling to Care: Celebrating National Nurses Week

It is National Nurses Week, May 6-12, a time to celebrate the professional contributions of nurses in delivering the highest level of care to patients. Hospice nurses take on a critical role in caring for terminally ill patients and their families. Comfort is a hospice nurse’s primary focus and advocating for patients is always their number one priority. Hospice of the Red River Valley’s registered nurses (RNs) are specially trained in pain control and symptom management. They provide exceptional patient-centered...

 

Hospice Volunteer’s Experiences Encourage Open Communication About End-of-Life

If there’s one topic that’s generally avoided in casual conversation, it’s death and dying. The lack of conversation and planning before end-of-life can lead to confusion within families, missed opportunities to honor final wishes and a general sense of discomfort. Still most people will purposefully avoid talking about death. Not Steve Anglin. Steve, a volunteer with Hospice of the Red River Valley, is committed to being open and vocal about his wishes with his family, and he credits the...

 

Anticipatory Grief: Understanding Grief Before a Death

by Staci Metzger, MSW Grief is generally thought of as something that happens after the death of a loved one, but what many people don’t realize is grief takes on many forms, and can happen at any time. Grief can occur when witnessing a loved one lose his or her independence, when a loved one is diagnosed with a terminal illness, begins hospice care or after a loved one has died. Regardless of when your grief starts, grieving is a normal...

 

Celebrating the Important Role Hospice Social Workers Play in Patient Care

March is National Social Work Month, a time to celebrate the professional contributions of social workers. The role of a hospice social worker varies from patient to patient and is focused around addressing the needs and wishes of each patient and their family or caregiver. Social workers understand the emotional aspects of late-stage illnesses. They help families identify available local and county services and resources for additional support, and they assist in countless other ways throughout the end-of-life journey. We...

 

Using Technology to Aid in Caregiving Responsibilities

If you’re a caregiver, you know the labor of love this role entails—not only for your loved one—but for you and the sacrifices you undoubtedly make to fulfill this commitment. The average family caregiver is a 49-year-old woman caring for a 69-year-old female relative, most likely her mother. She has full-time job outside of her caregiving responsibilities and has been caring for mom for four years, about 24 hours a week. Does this sound like you? If so, you are...

 

4 Ways to Navigate Difficult Family Dynamics at End-of-Life

There’s no doubt, determining the best care for a terminally-ill loved one can be daunting and incredibly taxing, especially when multiple family members and caregivers are involved. Family dynamics can play a significant role in helping—or potentially hindering—end-of-life care considerations for the person facing a life-limiting illness. When we love deeply, our emotional reactions to situations involving those who are closest to us can become that much more intense in stressful circumstances. Although everyone involved in caregiving may have the...

 

A Tale of Two Hearts: Hospice Reunites a Patient With a Long-Time Love

Love is a curious thing. Timeless. Enduring. Hopeful. When you’re young and in love, you don’t often think about what will happen to your precious love as you age and weather life’s seasons. But for those who have been separated from the one they love, by death, time or distance, it’s natural for some individuals to wish to rekindle a lost love as they near the end of their lives. For Margaret,* a Hospice of the Red River Valley patient,...

 

The Power of Friendship

The purpose of any hospice volunteer program is to provide companionship and support to patients. But in Hospice of the Red River Valley Volunteer Bethany Freeland’s experience, the program provides so much more than companionship. As a pre-med major and current hospice volunteer, Bethany’s experiences are shaping her mindset and enhancing skills that she will take with her into the working world. When she first heard about the opportunity to volunteer with Hospice, Bethany was intrigued. She submitted her application...

 

Husband Entrusts Hospice to Care for His Wife in Her Final Year

Beginning with a long courtship and throughout 63 years of marriage, Larry and Marcella MacLeod experienced a life together full of depth, adventure and, above all, love. Both small-town natives, they knew of each other because they were from neighboring towns, but they each moved away to pursue successful careers. It wasn’t until several years later that Larry and Marcella would come together as a couple. Larry built his legacy in the education and athletic arenas, starting out as an...

 

A “Natural” Death: It’s About Perspective

by Janna Benson Kontz, MDIV The words “death” and “natural” may seem like anything but natural. The question remains: Why are we so afraid to talk about death and afraid of death in general? Death is a natural part of life. If we are born, we will die … yet, we celebrate birth, but we are afraid of death. Why is that? Both birth and death are part of a dramatic life change. Both can be painful and traumatic. Both...

 

My Hospice Story: To Do More Than Cure, Treat and Fix

[caption id="attachment_2737" align="alignleft" width="290"] Dr. Tricia Langlois, MD, Hospice of the Red River Valley medical director[/caption] I am a physician. It’s my calling. I have been taught to cure, treat and fix the patient at all costs. It’s what I do. Or, perhaps more accurately, it’s what I did. I am still a physician. It is still my calling. But the purpose of my work has shifted. I’ve learned much during all of my training, but the most important lesson came...

 

Resources to Help You Navigate the Holidays

  Grieving the loss of a loved one throughout the year, especially during the holiday season and other specials days, can be challenging. Is it possible to mourn and celebrate at the same time? While it is difficult to cope with the pain of loss while others are celebrating, there are resources available to help you navigate the holidays while honoring your grief and the memory of the loved one who has died. Holiday Services of Remembrance These services, many offered by...

 

A Beautiful Bond: Hospice Helps Family Live Each Day to the Fullest

Seize the day. In the Kottsick home, these are not just words hanging on the wall, but a daily reminder. For the past 12 years, Julie Kottsick, a mom of two and wife of nearly 22 years, has lived with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. This incurable, progressive disease attacks and disables nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. As the disease has slowly progressed, Julie has lost control of voluntary muscle movement, including those...

 

November Is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month

November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, and hospices across the country are reaching out to raise awareness about the highest quality care for all people coping with life-limiting illnesses. Every year, according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, nearly 1.6 million people living with a life-limiting illness receive care from hospice and palliative care providers in this country. These highly trained professionals ensure that patients and families find dignity, respect and love during a most difficult...

 

Hospice Support Group Offers Healing for Those Facing Pregnancy and Infant Loss

Losing anyone you love is extremely difficult, but it is especially devastating and overwhelming when faced with the loss of a baby. Whether the loss occurs during pregnancy, or after the baby is born, parents and loved ones lose not only the precious little one, but also their hopes and dreams for the future. Such a loss can forever change the lives and relationships of those affected. According to the March of Dimes, about 15-25% of known pregnancies will end...

 

The Working Caregiver: Balancing a Full Plate During Times of Life Changes

by Connie DeKrey, LSW, CT, bereavement specialist I recall a number of years ago driving down the Interstate on my day off work, en route to the community where my mother lived, to accompany her to the clinic for her PET scan appointment. Half way there, my cell phone rang. It was our school calling to tell me my nine-year-old daughter was not feeling well, and requesting I come to get her. I explained I was out of town for...

 

How Hospice Care Became My Calling

By Tracee Capron, executive director The day I received a phone call that my family needed comfort care/hospice care was the beginning of a journey that would change my life and the lives of my family members forever. At the time, I was an oncology nurse working in a hospital and I had an inaccurate understanding of comfort care/hospice care. Hospice wasn’t on the forefront then; I didn’t understand it until I experienced it. When I first heard the word “hospice”...

 

Difficult Conversations: How to Talk About Hospice Care

Family members and caregivers often feel uncomfortable talking about death and dying. But, these may be some of the most important conversations we have. If we avoid talking about death, how will we know what our loved ones want? It’s OK to talk about end-of-life wishes and hospice. Talking about hospice care does not mean there is nothing else that can be done. It also doesn’t mean there is no hope or death is coming soon. It may actually be comforting...

 

How to Write a Sympathy Note

When someone you know loses a loved one to death, a common reaction is to send a sympathy card. But once it’s purchased, what do you write inside? Do you have the perfect words of comfort? Will you accidentally say the wrong thing? Writing a sympathy note isn’t easy, but it is important. You can’t make someone’s grief and pain go away, but you can help someone feel cared for and loved. While it can be tempting to rely on...

 

A Heart for Hospice: One Hospice Employee Shares Her Calling to Care

For Hospice of the Red River Valley employee Miranda Heintzman, this line of work is more than a job, it’s her calling. It speaks to the core of who she is as a person—kind, patient and, most of all, compassionate. “When I was a certified nursing assistant (CNA), I knew every day when I got up that someone needed me. That is what I was called to do. Even if you didn’t feel it at the time, you knew...

 

Northwood Resident Finds Value in Giving Back Through Hospice Volunteering

When you live in a smaller community, you inevitably become an essential fiber in the tapestry of the town. Community members grow up supporting one another and giving back whenever they can to lift up those in need, and who most likely lives down the street. This sentiment is true of Northwood, N.D., and its residents, but the quaint city also holds an extra special treasure in long-time resident Gilman Beck. If you ask anyone in Northwood or the surrounding...

 

The Mourner’s Bill of Rights

by Dr. Alan Wolfelt Though you should reach out to others as you do the work of mourning, you should not feel obligated to accept the unhelpful responses you may receive from some people. You are the one who is grieving, and as such, you have certain “rights” no one should try to take away from you. The following list is intended both to empower you to heal and to decide how others can and cannot help. This is not to...

 

How Donations to Hospice Help Support End-of-Life Care

As a non-profit organization, Hospice of the Red River Valley receives funds from a variety of sources, including Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance. But we also rely heavily on community support to enhance the care and services we provide to those with terminal illnesses and their families. Deliberate acts of generosity ensure our compassionate care will continue, well into the future, and help fulfill our mission to provide comfort at the end of life’s journey—to everyone who needs it, regardless...

 

Angels at Your Door: How Hospice CNAs Support Patient Care

by Arlene Correia, CNA One of the many services offered to Hospice of the Red River Valley patients is regularly scheduled visits by our certified nursing assistant (CNA) staff. Four years ago when I joined the CNA staff at Hospice of the Red River Valley, one of my mentors, Jerry, who is a long-time CNA and Hospice employee, said that he likes to think about our visits with our patients as an opportunity to bring the “spa experience” to patients,...

 

The Physical Pain Grief Leaves Behind

by Lauryl Ivers, chaplain Grief touches every part of us. We feel it in relationships with our families, friends, co-workers and in our hearts and minds—even in our bodies. My mother died under the care of Hospice of the Red River Valley a few years ago. The Hospice team was so helpful for me and my family. I am thankful I didn’t have to be the professional during that time; I could just be the daughter. I vividly remember the time I...

 

5 Things I Wish Someone Would Have Told Me About Grief

by David Montecuollo, chaplain “Today is a day that will live in agony!” Though these words many times go unspoken, they are often felt by a person or family who has lost a loved one. No matter the manner or cause of death, there is one commonality among people who lose a loved one, they grieve. In my lifetime, I have learned many things about grief. Some of them I learned while serving as a pastor for 20 years. Others...

 

Caring Hands and Open Hearts: Celebrating the Important Role Hospice Nurses Play in Patient Care

It is National Nurses Week, a time to celebrate the professional contributions of nurses in delivering the highest level of quality care to patients, as recognized by the American Nurses Association. The celebration starts May 6 and closes on May 12, which is Florence Nightingale’s birthday, the founder of modern nursing. Nurses play an important role in society, and Hospice nurses in particular take on a critical role in caring for terminally ill patients and their families. Comfort is a...

 

Going the Distance: Caring for Loved Ones From Afar

by Wendy Tabor-Buth “Bump, set, spike,” I shout in support to the girls at volleyball practice. It’s a weekday evening, and I have the privilege of assistant coaching my daughter’s volleyball team. As the girls work together as team, I try to stay focused. But my thoughts are consumed by the phone call I just received from my dad, Wally, on my way to practice. He told me his cancer had spread and there’s nothing more they could do. This is my...

 

Grief vs. Depression: What You Need to Know and When to Seek Help

by Stephanie Pritchard, LAPC, NCC, bereavement specialist It is not uncommon for people to question whether they or someone they know is depressed after the death of a loved one. For most people, the emotional, mental and physical symptoms experienced after a death can be attributed to normal grief. However, this is not always the case. It is important to understand the difference between normal grief and clinical depression so the bereaved person gets the appropriate support or treatment. Before...

 

The Small Town with a Big Heart for Hospice

Fullerton, N.D., is a small town. Population: 54. It’s a tightknit community whose residents have known each other for decades—growing up together, working side by side, looking out for one another. It’s a community that Ruby Gramlow knows well. Ruby lives in Fullerton and works as a nurse for Hospice of the Red River Valley. “I think I have always liked hospice,” she said,” and I’ve always enjoyed being a hospice nurse.” Ruby has also always liked to sew,...

 

Amazing Grace: Hospice Volunteer Writes of Her Experience With a Special Patient

by Brenda Podolak I have been a patient volunteer with Hospice of the Red River Valley for the past three and a half years. Throughout the past year, I have had the good fortune of visiting with one very special lady named Evelyn. How grateful I am for the life-long lessons that our time together has taught me. Each visit is different, some full of heartache and sadness, and others full of hope and sunshine. Being present and showing someone...

 

With Humor and Hospice, Couple Finds Peace and Comfort at the End of Life

When you meet Bill and Karen, you instantly feel the love they have for one another. Their faces light up with joy when they sneak a glance of each other. A quick wit and robust laughter are at the heart of their relationship. They take turns teasing each other in a healthy back and forth, always with a chuckle and a smile. [caption id="attachment_2584" align="alignleft" width="1000"] Bill with his wife, Karen[/caption] Married for 14 years, the pair has experienced many adventures...

 

Adjusting to Life After Caring for a Loved One With a Serious Illness

By Sharon Dardis, guest blogger “There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning.” – Louise L'Amour I have never been a fan of endings. I have trouble with goodbyes. With the ending of something as intense as caregiving—in all its forms—there is certainly reason to wonder how to go about adjusting now that something so important has come to a close. There’s an opportunity for a new way of looking at life now that...

 

Family Ties: Daughter Forms Close-Knit Bond With Father Through Use of Hospice Care

Growing up on a farm in rural North Dakota as one of six children, Lori Goering pitched in to help wherever she could. As one of only two daughters in the family, Lori often found herself tackling household chores like cooking and cleaning while her four brothers tended to the fields, cattle and horses alongside her father, Robert. Given the many hours Lori’s brothers spent with their dad they naturally forged a close relationship with him as they grew. It...

 

Generations of Care: Hospice Enables Family to Spend Valuable Time Together at the End of Life

Hospice care is unique in that it provides comfort, relieves pain and offers support to people with a terminal illness and those who care for them. With hospice, the miracle isn’t the cure… it is in the caring. And hospice workers, patients and families see miracles play out on a daily basis. When Roger Greenley's mother Marjorie was living with dementia in the nursing home, it was unusual for her to interact with people whom she wasn't familiar. But according...

 

10 Things to Know About Hospice Care

Hospice care is a set of specialty services designed specifically for individuals with late-stage illnesses and their loved ones, and includes medical, emotional, spiritual and grief support. Despite its many advantages, for both patients and their families, hospice is often misunderstood. Sometimes, hospice care is never offered and other times an individual or family is reluctant to accept hospice care. Most families who receive hospice care say they wish they would have called sooner, and they had no idea how...

 

New Year’s Resolutions for Grieving

by Connie DeKrey, BSW, LSW, CT This time of year, we are inundated by the media with suggestions for changes we can make to greatly improve our lives in the new year. Talk shows tout weight loss strategies sure to trim us, magazines promote products and plans to perfectly organize our spaces, fitness gurus guide us to exercise nirvana, and the list goes on. New Year’s resolutions to improve our health and surroundings may be useful and even beneficial. However, if...

 

Year in Review: The most read Hospice blog posts of 2015

In 2015, Hospice of the Red River Valley’s blog was visited more than 20,000 times. Many individual posts were visited hundreds, or even thousands, of times—further validating our belief that education, information and an open conversation about hospice care, death and grief are valued and needed in our communities. One of our most passionate goals for this blog is to help lessen the stigma that surrounds talking about hospice care, death and grief. December tends to be a time of...

 

Kindness and Compassion Personified: Why I Support Hospice

Dear friend, I wish you could have known my wife, Marcia. She was brilliant—a perfect wife and mother of four. We met as children when I pushed her in a snowbank. Years later, Marcia waited for me while I spent two years overseas with the military, and we eventually married when I returned. For 54 years, we did everything together. When Marcia’s health deteriorated from probable Alzheimer’s, I spent nine hours a day in the nursing home, making sure my beloved...

 

5 Activities to Do With a Terminally Ill Loved One

When someone you care about or love has been told they only have a few days, weeks or months to live, it can be difficult to deal with that reality. It’s in our nature to always want to ‘fix’ things, so when we are unable to ‘fix’ the dying person, we sometimes find it difficult to deal with this. Because we may feel at a loss of what to say or do, it can lead to an avoidance of...

 

Caring for the Caregiver: Hospice Care Helps Wife Fulfill Vows to Husband

“For better or for worse, in sickness and in health …” This familiar verse, a promise made in many wedding vows, Sherry faithfully puts into practice each and every day as she cares for her terminally ill husband. For Sherry, and countless other family caregivers like her, these words are particularly poignant. For 12 years, she has walked alongside her husband, Russ, and his mysterious terminal illness. With help from Hospice of the Red River Valley, she can deliver on...

 

Put Your Wishes in Writing; Talk to Your Doctor and Loved Ones

This month Hospice of the Red River Valley celebrates National Hospice Month. And this year, we have extra reason to celebrate. Recently, Medicare announced it will reimburse doctors for end-of-life conversations with patients. As the area’s leading expert in end-of-life care and education, we have long believed these conversations should be happening earlier, at the time of diagnosis, not when all treatment options are believed to be exhausted. Have you talked about your priorities and values at the end of your...

 

Hospice Doesn’t Mean Giving Up, Rather Re-focusing Your Priorities

by Heather Larson, LSW As a Hospice employee and a mother who utilized hospice care for her son, the concept that hospice doesn’t mean giving up, but rather a shift in priorities, is second nature to me. However, I know for many people, the same notion doesn’t come as easily, but the reality is we all came into this world, and eventually we will all leave it, too. Early on in my hospice career, I had a very wise patient tell...

 

Sowing the Seeds of Understanding: Area Farmer Finds Many Ways to Give Back to Hospice

For the better part of the past 60 years, Merlyn has divided his time between physical labor on the dairy farm, bouts of solitude while traveling up and down the corn rows in a tractor, and visits to his cows at least twice a day, every day, on his farm near Waubun, Minn. Though Merlyn is now semi-retired and has turned the bulk of the physical labor over to his son, he still enjoys moments of solitude and visits, but...

 

Finding Peace for You and Your Child

The following is an excerpt from, The Journey Through Grief and Loss: Helping Yourself and Your Child When Grief Is Shared (St. Martin’s Press), by Robert Zucker. Published with permission. Learning to move forward after loss is more about finding peace than about establishing closure. Perhaps, as you read this, the crisis in your life seems to have subsided a bit and you’ve already begun to find your stride again, or maybe you’re still right in the thick of disruptive...

 

Harnessing Canine Kindness: Hospice Volunteer Forms Bonds Through Pet Therapy

Gracie joined the Tucker family as a fluffy, little lovable fur ball, one in which could be quite curious if not given proper training and a purposeful duty. So Deb Tucker, Gracie’s owner, set out to make her new Keeshond puppy more than a family pet by enrolling her in pet therapy training through Pet Partners. “My sister-in-law is a social worker for a hospice in the St. Cloud area, and she asked if I’ve ever thought about volunteering...

 

Faithfully Devoted: Honoring Wishes Made Simple with Hospice

[caption id="attachment_2124" align="alignright" width="200"] Great Aunt Eva[/caption] A quiet soul and one who always thought of everyone else first, Eva had a beautiful smile and a kind, gentle presence. She spent her 90-plus years on this earth dedicated to the service of others, providing compassionate care as a nurse and a helping hand to many, including four of her siblings as they neared the end of life. But as the youngest of nine siblings, Eva was also accustomed to being...

 

How to Recognize Signs of Pain in Those With Dementia

by Roxanne Smedsrud I have been working in hospice care for more than 20 years, and when I hear the word pain, I can’t help but think no one should have to hurt at the end of life. This is especially true when I think of people living with dementia. Dementia is disease type that causes impairments in language, memory, personality, behavior and judgment. It is a chronic disease that causes continuous decline in the ability to see, hear, move,...

 

When Irish Eyes are Smiling: Hospice Volunteer Brightens Patients' Days

Clarice Satrom has always been an outgoing and fun-loving person. Growing up in a tight-knit Irish family, she learned to appreciate music, dancing and laughter. She carried on her family’s traditions as she and her husband Lester raised two daughters and two sons on their farm near Grandin, N.D. Through 48 years of marriage, Clarice and Lester enjoyed many laughs and memories. A conversation with her husband’s doctor several years ago set Clarice and Lester’s lives on a path they...

 

Gifted Gratitude: A Family Member’s Choice to Support Hospice

[caption id="attachment_2090" align="alignleft" width="1024"] Mary with photographs of her mother and husband.[/caption] “I knew if I needed them, all I had to do was pick up the phone and they’d be there. I could not have done this [cared for loved ones], twice, without Hospice.” Imagine, for a moment, facing the news that two of your closest loved ones are terminally ill—just a few short years apart. Mary Nelson experienced just that, when her mother, Evelyn, and husband, Donovon, became ill...

 

Are You Traveling Without a Road Map? Advance Care Planning Essentials

Advance care planning is like planning a road trip to an unfamiliar destination. People approach mapping their route in different ways, but your trip can be made more comfortable by planning ahead. An advance directive is a map detailing where you want your health care “to go,” in the event you are unable to voice your own wishes. Do you have a written plan stating what kind of health care treatments you would or would not want if you could...

 

Shear Gratitude: Volunteer Delights Hospice Patients with Haircuts

Rebecca Wood, hair stylist and owner of a West Fargo salon and spa, has found the perfect way to blend her talents as a stylist with her love of volunteering. For the past year, Rebecca has visited the homes of Hospice of the Red River Valley patients to provide refreshing haircuts, and sometimes even a quick style. “Volunteering has always been a passion of mine. This experience has been nothing but positive, and I leave every single visit feeling...

 

In the Midst of a Life-Changing Event, Hospice Provides Extra Support to Patient

In late January 2015, on an otherwise normal day, Grace faced a life-changing incident: a heart attack. In an instant, Grace’s world turned upside-down, and she and her family were left with many uncertainties. “After the heart attack, things changed. There were many things Mom couldn’t do alone anymore,” Jodi, Grace’s daughter, said. “Losing that independence was hard for her—and us too, seeing her struggling to do some things that were easy for her the week before. The family...

 

A Labor of Love Becomes a Form of Healing

“A hug is a blanket of kindness.” – unknown author Greeted by a hug and a warm smile, any guest to Joan’s home is considered an instant friend. It’s no surprise Joan is a “hugger.” For the past several months, her fingers have carefully weaved vibrant, colorful strings of yarn this way and that, creating the material embodiment of a hug—crocheted blankets. It’s a lost art form, a labor of love. And for Joan, crocheting blankets turned into a saving grace....

 

Area Man Flies Tandem with Hospice of the Red River Valley

Stewart ‘Stew’ Bass’ legacy has taken flight. As a WWII veteran pilot, he was personally involved in sinking the Yamoto, a large Japanese aircraft carrier, which marked a turning point in WWII and earned him a Navy Cross—one of the highest honors the Navy bestows. Through sharing his experiences in aviation, Stew touched many lives in the Fargo-Moorhead community—and beyond—while preserving a piece of history. “He was living history for WWII, telling people what it was really like,” Kathy, Stew’s...

 

How to Know if You’re a Caregiver: Signs to Recognize in Yourself and Others

By Sharon Dardis If you're a Scrabble player, perhaps you already know there are 144 possible word combinations contained in the word "caregiver." Likewise, there are probably as many situations in which someone might be involved in a setting that would consider them a "caregiver." How do you know if you're one of them? The Accidental Caregiver My mother could have been labeled an "accidental caregiver." She married my jitter-bugging, music-loving father in 1942, neither one of them knowing what the future...

 

Good Deeds and Fellowship: Hospice Volunteer Aims to Make a Difference

The year 2014 proved to be a year full of changes and personal transformation for Matt Mastrud, a Hospice of the Red River Valley volunteer. About seven months ago, Matt set two very deliberate goals: get into better shape by starting a Brazilian Jujitsu class and share his time with others by volunteering. He knew right away he wanted to volunteer with Hospice because his mom received hospice care when she was dying of breast cancer and he remembered being...

 

Angels in Disguise: Husband Recalls Wife’s Experience with Hospice

“We traveled all over together, her and I,” Gerald ‘Toot’ shared about his late wife, Dee. “All you had to say to her is, ‘Dee, how would you like to … ?,’ and she would say ‘yes’ right away. You wouldn’t even have to finish what you were going to ask. She was willing to go any place, any time, anywhere. She was just so sweet.” Making cherished memories together—and with loved ones—was always a priority for the happily married...

 

Unexpected Connection: A First-time Volunteer’s Rewarding Experience with Hospice

When Julie Swiontek first considered volunteering for Hospice of the Red River Valley, she thought office work suited her best, and she never dreamed she would visit patients. "I thought, 'I don't know how to start conversations. What do I do if something happens?'" she explained. Julie spoke with Hospice Volunteer Coordinator Kristi Sherven, who reassured Julie that all Hospice volunteers are thoroughly trained on what to do if something happens and who to contact if she needs help. "She...

 

Helping Your Parents Deal with Loss

By Janna Kontz My Dad was an amazing man. He had an eighth-grade education, but he never allowed that to hold him back. He was incredibly intelligent and loved to be challenged by things like serving on the school board and church council and being District Governor of the Lions. He was great at math and helped all of us with our homework well into high school and beyond. He was creative and artistic and loved to collect toy...

 

Embracing the Final Journey: Hospice Helps Husband Care for Wife with Alzheimer’s

“I will take care of you as long as I can,” Bill explained to his wife, Judy, in May 2008 after leaving the doctor’s office. Judy had just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. “That was the only time she questioned what would happen to her when she didn’t know anyone anymore,” he said. “She never asked again after I promised her I would do my best.” For more than six years, Bill has done just that—providing loving care to his...

 

Comfort and Care When We Needed it Most: My Hospice Story

by Diane Samuelson Hospice is comfort. Hospice is support on a very long and sometimes very lonely journey. My Dad was terrified of dying and wanted to be at home. He was born in 1908, and grew up during a time when nursing homes and hospitals were very different than the facilities of today. Dad got sick in the spring of 1984. When his doctor told him the cancer had spread and very little was left to be done, he made my...

 

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. “At first, visiting patients was difficult with me, because I’ve lost so many people in...

 

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. In mid-September, Mike began receiving care from Hospice of the Red River Valley after he decided to stop chemotherapy treatments. “Discontinuing treatment was...

 

Reaching the End Zone: Hospice Staff Go Long for Patient

Woven 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...

 

Why We Give: Kirk & Stephanie's Story

Dear 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...

 

Honoring Our Relationships: The Simplicity of Legacy

By 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...

 

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....

 

Salute to Service: Hospice Cares for Veteran

For 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...

 

November is National Hospice Month: Letter to the Editor

A 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...

 

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

By 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...

 

True Grit: Patient Celebrates a Year on Hospice Care

For 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...

 

Hospice Youth Journeys: Helping Kids Navigate through Grief & Uncertainty

Through 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...

 

Loose Ends

By Karin  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...

 

Hospice Nurse Practitioner, On Compassion & Kindness

[caption id="attachment_1610" align="alignleft" width="300"] Michelle Cooley, Hospice of the Red River Valley nurse practitioner[/caption] We are all the same inside, and we all have the same basic needs—no matter our culture, age or road to travel. It’s a simple sentiment, but one in which Michelle Cooley, Hospice of the Red River Valley nurse practitioner, lives to the “T.” As a mother of three, grandmother of two, former foster parent and international exchange student host family mother, Michelle understands acts of...

 

Every Gift Counts: Donations to Hospice Patients Provide Immeasurable Support

By Jane Bartholomay If you knew you had just a few months left to laugh, love and live, how would you choose to spend your final days or weeks? For some faced with a terminal illness, the choice is clear—comfortably and surrounded by loved ones, which means accepting hospice care. What services does Hospice provide? When that decision is made—to transfer from curative care to comfort care—and Hospice of the Red River Valley becomes involved, the meaningful work of supporting that person’s...

 

Caregiving 101

by Sharon Dardis Editor’s note: Hospice of the Red River Valley is fortunate to have wonderful guest bloggers contribute to our blog. This blog is written by Sharon Dardis, former Hospice of the Red River Valley employee, and republishing or reprinting any part of this article, The Caregiver Bill of Rights or Top 10 List is prohibited without prior written permission by the author, Sharon Dardis. This story has a happy ending, and retelling it still feels like therapy. Four years...

 

A Brit with a Big Heart: One Volunteer’s Experience with Hospice

More than 4,000 miles away and 50 years ago, while growing up in Leicester, England, Hazel Meidlinger couldn’t have imagined the significant role Hospice would play in her life. She was familiar with the concept of hospice care because of its English roots, a movement started by Dame Cicely Saunders in 1948. “I heartily believed in hospice long before it was started in America because I recognized the importance of that type of care at the end of life,”...

 

Hospice Care: Creating Cherished Moments for Patients & Families

In May, the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) launched a new national campaign, “Moments of Life: Made Possible by Hospice,” aimed at educating those who are unfamiliar with the benefits of hospice care. The campaign focuses on sharing patient and family life moments made possible by hospices throughout the country. Hospice of Red River Valley is thrilled this new campaign garners national attention and shares the news that hospice care provides opportunities to live a fuller and richer...

 

Heart to Heart: Hospice Staff a Precious Aid to a Patient

Mark Twain once said, “Praise is well, compliment is well, but affection—that is the last and final and most precious reward that any man can win, whether by character or achievement.” Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Jenny, at Hospice of the Red River Valley, has earned that ultimate prize—affection—from our patient, Caroline. At age 89, Caroline was accustomed to taking care of things herself or with the help of her husband, who recently passed away. In October 2013, Caroline began receiving...

 

When’s the Right Time to Ask about Hospice?

By Roxanne Smedsrud, RN, CHPN It’s a Common Situation One afternoon I was visiting with my friend, Valerie, and she began telling me about her grandpa, George, who was recently diagnosed with colon cancer at age 94. He lived in a nursing home in Fargo, but the last year found him in and out of the hospital on several occasions. Valerie talked about the toll hospital stays and moving from place to place took on George. Her mom was also exhausted...

 

It Takes All Kinds: An Unexpected Hospice Volunteer

Vibrant, colorful tattoos cover Steve Smedshammer’s arms. Oversized, exaggerated earrings stretch his earlobes. A scratchy beard covers his face. By appearance alone, some might label Steve a hipster, or alternative. Few might be surprised to learn he plays guitar in a metal band. But, Steve is so much more than what meets the eye. You don’t know by looking that Stevo, as he prefers to be called, is a recent pre-med graduate of Concordia College. At age 30, he and...

 

A Child’s Understanding of Death & Grief: Age Matters

by Kriston Wenzel, LSW, CT From the very moment we enter this world, we are exposed to new people, things and experiences. Life is new—every day. And for most of us, when life is lost, that’s new too. No matter the age, the loss can evoke feelings of sadness, helplessness and even anger. But for children in particular, the loss of a loved one can be scary and confusing because—depending on their age—children may not understand the concept of death, or...

 

A Dream Comes True for a Hospice Patient

  [caption id="attachment_1423" align="alignleft" width="150"] Sonny with his daughter, Pam[/caption] Sweet Surprise On a rural farm in Ulen, Minn., a long-sought-after dream came true for Sonny, Hospice of the Red River Valley patient, when he received a phone call from Nashville, Tenn. On the other end of the telephone Sonny heard the voice of his favorite country music singer, Bill Anderson (also known as “Whispering Bill”). “My family kept saying the call was going to happen, but I just couldn’t believe it,”...

 

Clearing the Air: Differences Between Palliative Care vs. Hospice Care Explained

Defining the Difference The distinction between palliative care and hospice care can be confusing when deciding the next best course of action when you or a loved one is faced with a serious illness. Although both care plans have similar comprehensive, multidisciplinary team approaches—focusing on holistic care for the entire person—including medical, emotional and spiritual needs, they have key differentiating factors. The main differences include the patient’s prognosis, disease progression and desires for curative treatments. Hospice care is palliative care, but...

 

Helping Hands: Clay for a Cause Event Warm Hearts

Sometimes the slightest gesture can travel the greatest distance. That’s exactly what Plains Art Museum had in mind when they selected Hospice of the Red River Valley as the recipient of artwork created at a recent Kid Quest event. During the Clay for a Cause-themed event, families gathered at Plains Art Museum to explore the concept of art as a medium to connect people. More than 200 children—ages toddler to grade school—traveled through the galleries for inspiration of art before...

 

Two Peas in a Pod – One Volunteer’s Connection to a Patient

Sometimes you meet someone and a natural connection just happens, like an unstoppable force of magnetism. That’s precisely what happened for volunteer Breanna Hanan and hospice patient, Alice.* What started out as a routine college credit requirement, quickly turned into meaningful life lessons and an unexpected friendship. Breanna, an upbeat, cheerful young lady pursuing a nursing degree at North Dakota State College of Science (NDSCS), was required to complete 20 hours of volunteer service as part of her education. Having...

 

How to Say Goodbye to a Loved One

By Rev. Lauryl Ivers I can just hear the child in me saying, “But I don’t want to say goodbye!” We simply just don’t want to say goodbye to the people we love, or the pets we love, or the things we love. So, what is best? Sneak out the back door, or face endings as best I can and learn how to practice saying goodbye (which I will have to do many more times than I want to think...

 

Continuing a Philanthropic Legacy by Giving to Hospice

Editor's Note: At Hospice of the Red River Valley, we are blessed with ardent supporters and community friends. This letter was written by Erv and Linda Inniger. Please join them in giving your gift to Hospice of the Red River Valley this year. Dear friends, Over the years, we have heard about hospice care, talked about it, and even supported it. But the concept of care really came to life when we witnessed, firsthand, the work of Hospice of the Red River...

 

Heirlooms Celebrates 10 Years of Supporting Hospice of the Red River Valley!

In 2002, leaders of Hospice of the Red River Valley had a bold idea. They imagined an additional revenue source to support the organization—an upscale, resale store. Months later, after countless hours of planning, uncertainty and anxiety, their dream was born. Heirlooms officially opened its doors in September 2003. Today, 10 years later, Heirlooms is flourishing as a sophisticated destination for gently used, high quality goods. And, all proceeds support the important mission of Hospice of the Red River...

 

1,000 Extra Reasons to Give

By Joy Did you know, right now, certain types of gifts made to Hospice of the Red River Valley can result in an extra $1,000 gift to support our mission? Through the generosity of Bismarck Tool and Dye (BTD), the following four gift options qualify for an additional, immediate $1,000 gift for Hospice, for a limited time! Include Hospice Red River Valley in your will, trust, insurance policy and/or retirement account, and notify us. You might choose to leave a percentage,...

 

Coping With Guilt as a Caregiver

By Janna Kontz, chaplain Webster’s New World Dictionary defines guilt as “a painful feeling of self-reproach resulting from a belief that one has done something wrong or immoral.” Those are strong words, especially when used to describe someone who cares for a family member or friend in the last season of life. Guilt is an ugly emotion that, unless resolved, rarely results in anything good or sustaining. Guilt in caregivers often comes from within, but can also be imposed on a...

 

How to Help Children and Teens Grieve

By Kriston Wenzel, LSW, bereavement specialist As adults, we often don’t know how to process and work through our own grief; it’s common to feel even more helpless when consoling a child or teen. The grieving process is unique to each of us; however, children and teens grieve differently than adults. Youth may not be able to express or even identify their feelings. If you know a young person who has lost a loved one to death, be mindful of the...

 

Coping With Another Person’s Suffering

There is nothing more difficult for a caregiver than to sit at the bedside of a loved one who is dying and watch them suffer. We have an innate sense to help, and in these situations, most of us just want to do something—anything—to make them feel better. At the end of life, your loved one may experience pain, shortness of breath, secretions, restlessness/agitation or changes in temperature. While all of these symptoms are “normal,” hospice focuses on providing comfort—for...

 

What a Terminal Illness Cannot Do

By Jenna Miosek, RN, BSN, CHPN, patient care manager While working as a nurse for Hospice of the Red River Valley, I have had numerous opportunities to take care of people at their worst physical states. In many of the cases, cancer is the devastating catalyst for their rapidly declining health. Some people may wonder how professionals can deal with death and dying on a continuous basis. The answer may vary for every person in this career field, but one summer...

 

A Hospice Advocate on Capital Hill

By Jodi  Earlier this month, Randy Spahr, HRRV chaplain, and I had the honor of attending the Hospice Advocacy Intensive in Washington, D.C., on behalf of Hospice of the Red River Valley. How thrilling to visit a place I have only seen in history books, for work I believe in so passionately! Upon my arrival to the hotel, I was handed a welcome letter and schedule of meetings. And after registering for the intensive, I received a packet of more information...

 

Celebrating Three Decades of Volunteering

After 30 years of service, Leona Laugeness has worn many hats at Hospice of the Red River Valley. While her dedication to the organization is noteworthy, when one considers her commitment is entirely in a volunteer capacity, her story extends beyond admirable, to remarkable. Only an elite few have volunteered for Hospice of the Red River Valley since its beginning. Leona was first introduced to hospice care when her husband, Lloyd, received a terminal diagnosis of lung cancer. The year...

 

Offering Spiritual Comfort to Non-Believers at the End of Life

By Janna Kontz, MDiv, chaplain Bringing people spiritual comfort is a challenge at any time. Every person is unique, and comes to the end of his or her life with individual experiences. Additionally, not everyone believes the same things I do. In my role as a chaplain, I am often asked to bring spiritual comfort to someone who does not connect to any religious organization or belief. In these instances, I connect with a person’s spirituality instead of his or her...

 

Top 5 Common Myths of Grief

by Jennifer Messelt, bereavement specialist If you’ve grieved the death of a loved one, you know grief is complex. There’s no way around it. Did you feel societal expectations about the “right” way to grieve? Did you ever feel like you were grieving “wrong?” Our culture’s discomfort with grief has created many myths and misunderstandings, often inhibiting those who are bereaved. Recognizing the myths, and more importantly the truths, is a first step in embracing grief as a natural experience. Myth...

 

Enjoying the Comforts of Home with Hospice

Receiving a terminal diagnosis raises a flood of emotion. For those living in rural communities with limited medical resources, an additional fear can be the need to travel hundreds of miles for doctor’s appointments or face hospitalization in a city far from home. When Marjorie Wright of Gwinner, N.D., received such a diagnosis, she immediately knew she wanted something better. Without hesitation, she requested hospice care and was delighted to stay and be well cared for right in her home. A...

 

Glimpses of Heaven: Providing Spiritual Care at the End of Life

By Karin George was Catholic. He was 90 years old. He received the sacraments regularly and attended Mass. He lived at a nursing home with a beautiful courtyard. Every year, a mother duck returns to this courtyard to hatch her eggs. She raises her ducklings in a couple of swimming pools, which the facility provides. They are fed and watered by the staff, and when they are big enough, they fly away. George loved to watch and marvel at the unseen forces...

 

Sharing the Last Journey: A Love Story

“The love they shared and demonstrated was unbelievably strong—a relationship many people had never witnessed.”   “We have talked, and we have prayed we will be able to leave this earth together.” Irvin and his wife of 69 years, Cora, shared this decision with their daughter, Pat, several times during the last months of their lives. Irvin and Cora’s love story began like many others. After meeting on a double date, they married on December 20, 1941 in Halstad, Minnesota. Together they...

 

Six Questions to Ask an Aging Loved One—And Yourself

By Jean There’s no escaping it. At some point, our loved ones will all decline in health, and eventually pass away. Few of us enjoy thinking about this inevitable occurrence, but I guarantee, thinking about it, making plans and, more importantly, making memories with your loved ones will ease the discomfort. To help you in this process, take time to ask your loved ones meaningful questions, while you still can. While some questions are necessary, others may help you uncover hidden...

 

Hospice: Providing Care No Matter Where You Call Home

For most people, calling Hospice to care for a loved one is a decision fraught with emotion. For Loretta Olson, it was a decision she faced twice in one year. Loretta describes her father, Herman, as a determined and independent man. When he received a cancer diagnosis, it was understandably devastating. As his health deteriorated, Herman understood he could no longer stay on his farm alone, and agreed to move in with Loretta. “I told him I wasn’t a nurse, and...

 

Coping With the Grief of Sudden Death

By Kriston Wenzel, LSW, bereavement specialist As a bereavement specialist at Hospice of the Red River Valley, I facilitate support groups. The support groups vary from our teen/kid groups, to general grief groups, to grief groups for widows. As a facilitator, I am always in awe of the honesty and emotion shared by those who attend the groups. A topic of great interest to me is when a group discusses “hospice death” versus “sudden death.” Each loss brings up so many...

 

Short on Cash; Long on Supporting a Cause: Cashless Ways to Give

By Joy Come January, most of us are literally and figuratively spent. But, now is a great time to make a real impact on the patients of Hospice of the Red River Valley or other causes most important to you … and you don’t need your checkbook or credit card! Consider the following cashless ways to give: Donate. Get a jump on your 2013 tax return by donating furniture, decorative items, or other household items or clothing to Heirlooms, the upscale...

 

Top 5 New Year’s Resolutions for Caregivers

After the hectic pace of the holidays, a new year provides a welcome “fresh start”—a chance to adjust our habits and attitudes in ways that make us healthier and happier. As a caregiver, a new year provides a chance to reflect on the joys and challenges of caregiving in the past year, and look for ways to make the experience more positive for both you and your loved one in the year ahead. To help you on that journey,...

 

Saying Please and Thank You: A Basic Courtesy, a Valued Trait

By Mary Lou The prompting starts when we are very young. It’s passed on from generation to generation. Somewhere along the line, the value can get lost, but it is, nevertheless, a priceless gesture. Remember the cues from childhood? “How to do you ask?” followed by “What do you say?” Please and thank you are among the first phrases we teach our children. While we delight in hearing young ones call us by name, it is not likely they will grow...

 

Dear Santa … Top 10 Gift Ideas for Caregivers

There is no denying, caregiving is hard work. Between full or part-time jobs, doctor appointments, medical research and the demands of everyday life, family caregivers are pulled in many directions, usually with little time left to rest, relax and refresh—time they so desperately need. And caregiving during the holiday season is especially difficult. As you think about what to get the people on your holiday shopping list, consider giving something special to the caregivers in your life. Ask yourself, what...

 

Coping With Grief During the Holidays: Resources for the Grieving, Tips for Everyone

Traditionally, the holidays are a time of joy, laughter, sparkle, glitter and celebrations shared with family and friends. But for individuals who are grieving the loss of a loved one, the holidays can be difficult, bringing about feelings of anxiety, sadness and emptiness. As the holidays approach, it may be helpful to think about how to take care of yourself during this difficult time, or to be aware of the effect the holidays may have on your grieving family or...

 

Leaving a Legacy with Hospice: My Choice to Give

By Diane Samuelson My Dad was terrified of dying and wanted to be at home. He was born in 1908, and grew up during a time when nursing homes and hospitals were very different than the facilities of today. When his doctor told him the cancer had spread and very little was left to be done, he made my mother promise that he would never have to go back to the hospital or move to the nursing home. She promised. As...

 

What NOT to say to a Grieving Person: Tips from a Bereavement Specialist

By Jennifer Messelt, MSW, LCSW "I know exactly how you feel." In the nearly seven years I have worked as a bereavement specialist, I have learned this is one of most unwelcome phrases heard by those who have experienced the death of a loved one. No matter how similar two losses may seem, no two deaths are exactly the same. With grief comes a multitude of feelings, and with those feelings come individuals who experience them in their own unique...

 

Life’s Great Irony: Death is the Only Guarantee

By Jennifer As I reflect on my work at Hospice, a particular article attracted my attention, "Death Is Not An Option, How You Die Is" (Nevidjon & Mayer, 2012). This article drew me in because of its focus on openly talking about death. Prior to working at Hospice of the Red River Valley, much of my career had been spent using medical intervention with the intent to cure. My last three years were spent working with oncology patients. I have often...

 

What is respite? Do I need it?

Respite care was established to provide care to the patient and the caregiver. It serves as a lifeline to the caregiver and provides a break from the emotionally and physically challenging role of providing end-of-life care to a loved one. It can also provide a much needed change in the day to day routine of the patient. One day as I visited with a caregiver for a patient at end of life, she said to me, “I used to weigh...

 

How are donations to Hospice of the Red River Valley used?

By Jean Do you get that same great feeling I do when you make a gift to one of your favorite charities? That’s probably because your gift goes out to help others and then comes right back at you! In fact, a number of studies in the past decade reported this surprising conclusion: when you give, your brain chemistry produces endorphins, which is one reason charity leads to happiness. People who give often report feelings of euphoria, which psychologists have referred...

 

Tips for Pre-Planning a Funeral Service

By Paulette Frith Do you really feel good about … … making important decisions when you are tired? … making choices under time pressure? … making important decisions without guidance? These feelings are what you and your family might go through at the time of loss without preplanning. To avoid feeling unprepared and overwhelmed with the funeral decisions that must be made, we encourage you to make plans now. To start, follow this list: Secure vital statistics to make dates and history clear and easy to follow. Allocate...

 

Why I Volunteer for Hospice

By Hilde van Gijssel, Hospice of the Red River Valley volunteer I believe in living life to its fullest, to make every day worth living. At the same time, I believe there is only one sure thing in life and that is I will die someday. I hope that day will not come for a long time. I am not afraid of dying. If I die tomorrow, I know I have lived my life well. My funeral should be a...

 

The Importance of Storytelling for a Hospice Chaplain

By Pastor Tom Holtey “Humans are essentially storytellers.”- William Fischer Children love to tell as well as listen to stories. When people are at the end of their lives, they also need to tell and hear stories. Dr. Stanley Hauerwas wrote, “Our existence makes sense only insofar as we are able to place it in a narrative.” The search for discovering our purpose in life starts when we are very young and continues throughout our lives. As a Hospice chaplain, I have...

 

The Medicare Hospice Benefit Explained

Congress established the Medicare Hospice Benefit in 1983 to ensure that all Medicare beneficiaries could access high-quality end-of-life care. The Medicare Hospice Benefit offers dying Americans the option to experience death free of pain, with emotional and spiritual support for both themselves and their families. Care that patients receive under the Medicare Hospice Benefit for their terminal illness must be from a Medicare-approved hospice program. Hospice of the Red River Valley is Medicare certified and licensed in both Minnesota and North...

 

Honoring the Memories of Our Loved Ones

By Connie DeKrey, bereavement specialist I just returned from a trip to Walmart to pick up graduation cards. On my way to the Hallmark kiosk, I passed by an aisle newly designated for plastic white crosses, silk floral arrangements and wire wreath holders. Memorial Day is fast approaching. While the original intent of this holiday is to honor soldiers and veterans who have sacrificed and left this life, many people take it as a cue to also remember other loved ones who...

 

Who Will Speak for You? Advanced Health Care Planning

Life changes in an instant. We never know when we may be involved in a serious car accident, suffer a stroke or be admitted to the hospital unexpectedly. If you are unable to speak for yourself, do your family members and health care providers know how to proceed with your care? Do your loved ones know which treatment options you would pursue? Or, would they feel overwhelmed and unprepared to make difficult decisions? We’ve written about the importance of advanced...

 

End-Stage Alzheimer’s Disease: Tips for Caregivers

by Alzheimer's Association Minnesota-North Dakota Chapter Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative, neurological disease. Progressive, yes. It is much more than “being a little bit forgetful.” The disease slowly robs a person of their ability to perform long practiced skills, recall memories and the ability to care for him or herself. As people with Alzheimer’s disease live longer into the end stage of the disease, it is important for families and caregivers to recognize symptoms of the late stage and practice approaches...

 

Common Sense and a Little Grace to HELP Hospice

By Susan Does one voice on Capitol Hill matter? When you are a North Dakota delegation of one, stepping off a loaded bus amidst a parking lot filled with loaded buses, you have to wonder. This was me, in late March, merging with my hospice colleagues into the steady stream of dark business suits, brief cases, rapid paces and protesters headed toward the Supreme Court on the sidewalks of The Hill. Armed with pertinent information from the National Hospice and Palliative Care...

 

Three Ways You Can HELP Hospice Care

Today is Hill Day 2012, and we’re asking Congress to HELP Hospice! In Washington, D.C. today, hospice advocates from around the country are meeting members of Congress to educate them on the challenges faced by community hospice organizations. Specifically, they are addressing the HELP Hospice bill. Even though you may not be in Washington, D.C., you can significantly add to the impact of this national effort by participating. There are many ways to engage your political representatives and encourage policies...

 

Signs That Death Is Near: A Caregiver’s Guide

Dying is a natural part of life, but few of us are prepared to care for someone in his or her final days. Family members and friends play important roles during a loved one’s final months, weeks and days. This article explains some of the changes that naturally occur and shares tips on what you can do as a caregiver during this delicate time. Our bodies are miraculous. Some of the changes that take place at the end of life...

 

Hospice Social Workers: Providing Support to Patients and Families

Our social workers focus on the individual needs of each patient and his or her family. The work they do varies in each setting, with each patient and within each family. They also have great knowledge and expertise in caregiving. A Hospice of the Red River Valley social worker shares, “When the unthinkable happens and people are thrust into caregiving roles, they can’t help but be life changing experiences. Caregiving can bring out the best and worst in people. But,...

 

Coping With Grief at Milestones

By Virginia Grief changes things. This may sound simplistic, but when a loved one dies, our lives are never the same. Our lives continue—days come and go—but how do we celebrate milestones and grieve at the same time? Recently, I spoke with a mother who attends a grief support group. Her story (shared with her permission) is one of double tragedy; she lost two of her three adult daughters in separate accidents within a few months. She shared it is not...

 

Top 8 Hospice Care Myths

Hospice care is a set of specialty services designed specifically for individuals with late-stage illnesses and their loved ones, and includes medical, emotional, spiritual and grief support. Despite its many advantages, for both patients and their families, hospice is widely misunderstood. More often than not, hospice is synonymous with death, when in reality, its purpose is to enhance life. Below are the 8 most common myths about hospice care and the facts: Myth #1: Hospice care is only for cancer patients. Fact: Hospice care...

 

Challenges Faced By Male Caregivers

“Caregiving is hard work. Caregiving is pain. Caregiving is loving and giving and sharing. Caregiving is accepting and learning new things and going on, and on, and on. Caregiving is lots of questions and very few answers. Caregiving is being out of the mainstream. Caregiving is learning what it means to die with dignity and making sure your loved one's wishes will be honored. Caregiving is all these things and a whole lot more.” - National Family Caregivers Association...

 

30 Years of Compassionate End-of-Life Care

2011 marked 30 years of compassionate end-of-life care provided by Hospice of the Red River Valley throughout eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota. As we begin 2012, we remember our roots with nostalgia and pride, and reflect on the values embraced by our early dreamers and believers—respect for the dignity of people, belief in the quality of life, a willingness to serve and a commitment to caring. To celebrate 30 years, a collection of stories have been written about our...

 

Hospice Care: One Family's Experience

With the support of Hospice of the Red River Valley, Bob and his daughters were able to care for their wife and mother at home during her final months. In this video, Bob and his granddaughter, Cari, share memories of their experience with Hospice and what it meant to their family. To read more about Bob and his family's story, click here. If you have questions about how your loved one or family could benefit from hospice care, give us a call at (800)...

 

Make Your Wishes Known–Plan your future!

By Jean I still remember the conversation, and I still have the paper napkin. On it my dad had written, “If the time comes that I need to be in a nursing home, I hereby give my whole-hearted consent.” And then in his sprawling loopy handwriting, he dated it and signed it, “Lynn E. Anderson, Papa.” As odd as it might sound, the conversation surrounding the signing of the napkin was jovial. Perhaps our words were casual because my family and...

 

No One Makes Pie Crust Like My Mother — Coping With Grief During the Holidays

By Mary Lou Life has been different this year. And the upcoming holidays will be very different. That’s what happens when you lose someone you love. My mother died on December 31, 2010, and because she lived less than five minutes from us and I talked to her every day and saw her at least once a week, adjusting to a new normal has not been easy. I’m the oldest of seven and, for the last many years, have been the...

 

Caregiver Burnout: Signs to Watch for in Yourself and Others

“The capacity to care is the thing that gives life its deepest significance and meaning.” -  Pablo Casals, World renowned cellist As a caregiver, you are one of many courageous people who provide care for a loved one. You provide emotional and physical support, and may also deal with medical and financial decisions. Coping with the strains and stresses of caregiving can be challenging. You may be so focused on giving care to the one you love that you sacrifice your...

 

Choosing the Right Setting for Your Loved One

Choosing an alternative to a current living environment can be a sensitive subject. It can be especially challenging when your loved one does not want to make a change. Relocating to a less independent setting is an individual decision and requires a great deal of thought and preparation. When is an independent setting no longer appropriate? When safety becomes an issue. For example, if this person falls or is at risk of falling; or smokes while on oxygen and falls asleep...

 

When Siblings Share Care

Siblings who share the care of a parent sounds like a great fairy tale, but the reality is, it is a challenge. My siblings and I shared the care of my mother until her death from ovarian cancer. The experience was rewarding, stressful, humorous, frustrating and downright life-consuming in an already busy world. But, cancer does not wait for a convenient time, and we needed to come together to care for our mother on life’s final journey. Caring for a...

 

Nearing the End of Life’s Journey: Understanding the Dying Process

By Michelle  When someone you love is dying, it can be a very scary time. Along with the sadness of facing the loss, you may feel everything is out of your control, especially if you don’t understand the dying process. I believe by educating families and caregivers, it enables them to “take back” some control. If you know what to expect during the dying process, it doesn’t have to be so scary. I was with my mom and dad when the...

 

The Gracious Gift of Acceptance at the End of Life

By Karin   “To refrain from giving advice, to refrain from the affairs of others, to refrain, even though the motives be the highest, from tampering with another’s way of life – so simple, yet so difficult for an active spirit.”  - Henry Miller I consider myself an “active spirit.” As a hospice chaplain, I am trained to be involved in people’s lives. I am also a mother, daughter, sister and friend. A “hands off” approach just doesn’t fit my understanding of...

 

How to Talk to a Child about Death

By Kriston Wenzel, LSW Talking about death is not something most of us are comfortable doing—even with other adults. Sometimes in the midst of our own grief, we forget that death can present a tremendous blow to even the youngest children. Children understand death very differently than adults, depending on their age and stage of development. Below are tips to help you talk to your child about death. Be honest. Provide simple, direct and honest answers and encourage questions. If you...

 

Understanding and Caring for Those with Dementia

By Roxanne Smedsrud, RN When I was in junior high, my great-grandma Ree went to live in the nursing home in Devils Lake, N.D. She had dementia and could no longer care for herself.  At the time, I knew that dementia meant she couldn’t remember things, and I thought it was just a normal part of “getting old.” She lived many years in the nursing home, and after awhile didn’t know her family or friends. She stopped talking, lost weight,...

 

When it is Your Time, Would You Like to "Die Gently?"

By Mary Lou I recently listened to an online discussion moderated by Don Schumacher, president of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, and featuring Dr. Ira Byock, renowned author, lecturer and practicing hospice physician. The focus was on dialoguing with individuals about their disease situation and the apparent path ahead. I have heard Dr. Byock speak before. In fact, he has been a guest of ours twice in Fargo, where he addressed hundreds of individuals as he spoke of “living...

 

Experiencing the Circle of Life with Hospice Care

I want to tell you a story about a little girl who was 6 ½ years old. Her aunt was dying of ovarian cancer. This young girl had a wonderful relationship with this aunt, even though for most of her life the aunt had lived thousands of miles away. The summer this aunt died, the little girl and her family had spent close to three weeks in California visiting her. They went to Disneyland and San Diego and had a...

 

New York Times Article Tackles Rising Hospice Costs

A recent article published by the New York Times (in collaboration with Kaiser Health News), “Concerns about Costs Rise with Hospices’ Use,” painted a troubling picture of hospice care in the United States. The article pointed to isolated instances of abusive practices by several for-profit hospices—presumably, for the financial benefit of the hospice over providing the best care to the patient. Like the large majority of hospice providers, Hospice of the Red River Valley does not condone this sort of...

 

How are Hospice Services Paid For?

  How are hospice services paid for? This question seems like it should have a very concise answer; but in reality, it is so complex.  Like many hospices, Hospice of the Red River Valley is Medicare-certified. We are also licensed in both Minnesota and North Dakota, which means we are regulated by federal and two state laws. For patients who have Medicare Part A, hospice is reimbursed at a per diem (daily) rate that is determined by where the patient resides....

 

My Wish to Give + My Chosen Cause = A Winning Plan for the Future

By Joy Most of us go into each day with a plan. If we are going to the grocery store, we take a list. If we are packing for a trip, we think through what we’re going to need. With gas prices at all-time highs, we map out the most efficient routes for our errands. We plan all life long for those things that are important to us. We may be looking at purchasing a different car, or taking a vacation...

 

What are the Basic Elements of an Estate Plan—at Any Age?

Guest Blogger:  Mona Tedford, CFP®, CTFA Vice President, Bremer Trust in Fargo No matter what your age, it’s important for each of us to consider getting basic estate planning documents in place. Doing so can spare your loved ones undue stress in the event of your incapacity or death. The following three documents form the core of a good, basic estate plan. Below is a description of each document and some common misconceptions: 1) Last Will & Testament Your Will governs the distribution of...

 

When is a Patient Appropriate for Hospice Care?

By Janine When a family hears the words "hospice care" for the first time, it can be scary. Although I have worked with Hospice of the Red River Valley for many years, I was still unprepared when we were faced with this decision for a family member. I realized first hand how difficult this decision can be when it involves someone you love. Thankfully, we have wonderful staff who were able to support and provide teaching to our family during a crucial time. My...

 

Pathway Volunteers Provide Additional Support for Patients and Families

“I’m not afraid of dying, it’s getting there that worries me.” One of the biggest fears people have is that they will die alone. While Hospice of the Red River Valley cannot guarantee patients will not die alone, we have developed a volunteer program to address this need. The Pathway Volunteer Program was created to offer additional emotional support to patients and families during the active dying process. Pathway volunteers are available on an on-call basis to sit at the bedside...

 

Get to Know Our Physician

[caption id="attachment_2737" align="alignleft" width="290"] Dr. Tricia Langlois, Hospice of the Red River Valley medical director[/caption] Dr. Tricia Langlois, MD, MS, ABIM, is the chief medical director at Hospice of the Red River Valley. In this role for five years, she is responsible for the strategic leadership and vision for delivering hospice and palliative care in both urban and rural settings. She is the expert within the organization that determines when end-of-life care is needed for patients. She works with health care...

 

Fulfilling Spiritual Wishes at the End of Life

By Karin  As a chaplain with Hospice of the Red River Valley, I have the privilege of providing spiritual support to many of our patients and their families. My passion and interest in the spiritual dimension of hospice care emerged from my own experience. When I was twenty-eight years old (thirty-two years ago), my dad died from lung cancer. He was able to remain in his home due to the support and care of his children and an area hospice program.  In...

 

10 Tips to Help You Handle the Challenges of Caregiving

Caring for someone in your home is never an easy task; yet, it can be one of the greatest gifts you give. Being a caregiver requires patience, understanding and love. Although there are many positive things that happen when caregiving, there are also many challenges. Knowing that these challenges will occur may help alleviate some of the stress. Challenges You May Face Caregiving can be hard work. Your life will change. As a caregiver, you may have someone dependent on...

 

Strategies for Self-Care While Grieving

By Connie DeKrey, Bereavement Specialist Each journey of grief is as unique as the individual who walks its path. That being recognized, an aspect of grief that shares commonality with all who grieve is the need for self-care. Grief may be experienced in a variety of ways—emotionally, certainly, but also physically, cognitively and even spiritually. The reactions of our minds and bodies to grief can include such symptoms as fatigue, sleep disturbance, appetite changes, mood fluctuations, forgetfulness, loss of concentration and...

 

Patient vs. Family Expectations of Hospice Care

By Mary Lou My husband and I recently attended the wedding of the daughter of some very good friends. As with many occasions of this nature, you end up meeting someone new. After the name exchange, there is most likely the question, “And what do you do?” At this particular event, when I introduced myself as working for Hospice of the Red River Valley, I got two very different responses. I suppose that happens to many people, especially if you meet...

 

Making Unexpected Connections by Volunteering for Hospice

By Cheryl Melbye Hospice of the Red River Valley has had a special place in my heart for years, as I’ve listened to countless stories of lives that have been touched through the care and comfort of this special organization. And as a person who became acquainted with grief at a young age, with the death of my oldest brother, I have been impressed with the spiritual care and bereavement support that Hospice provides to grieving families. As my long-anticipated final...

 

Difficult Conversations: Tips for Health Care Providers on Starting the Hospice Conversation With Patients and Families

For many health care providers working in assisted living facilities, nursing homes and other environments, beginning a conversation about hospice care with a resident, patient or family member can be extremely difficult. Yet, as a trusted source of information, you can play an important role in ensuring patients are informed about—and receive—the most appropriate care available to them. First, know that it is OK to talk about hospice care: It doesn’t mean there’s nothing else that can be done, It...

 

Family Member Concerns About End-of-Life Care

By Lisa “Don’t worry so much, everything will be fine.” “You’re overreacting.” “You have other things to worry about. There’s nothing we can do, anyway.” Do these statements sound familiar? When you’re concerned for a family member nearing the end of life, you may sometimes feel your concerns are dismissed by others. Or, perhaps it seems others in your family are more concerned than you are. What is normal? I recently ran across an interesting study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association[1]...

 

The Gift of Presence: Tips for Visiting a Terminally Ill Family Member or Friend

If you’ve ever visited a friend or loved one who is terminally ill, and not very responsive, you may wonder whether your visits are making a difference. Some of the questions we hear include: "I don’t feel like I am doing anything" ... "The person is asleep, or falls asleep, during my visit. Should I wake them? Should I stay?" ... "What should I be doing? Am I helping?" or  "What should I say to the person?" I want to assure you—your presence does make...

 

What Happens During a Hospice Referral Visit?

By Lisa Making the initial phone call is often the most difficult part of hospice care. As a patient or family member, you’ll get the most comprehensive care by contacting a hospice organization when you learn the illness is incurable. You don’t need your doctor's permission to contact us; we’ll arrange for the physician’s order approving hospice care so we can begin to care for you or your loved one as soon as possible. We have staff members that specialize in meeting with...

 

The Need for Advanced Care Planning

By Susan The New York Times  reports, "The Obama administration, reversing course, will revise a Medicare regulation to delete references to end-of-life planning as part of the annual physical examinations covered under the new health care law." According to the Times, "The move is an abrupt shift; coming just days after the new policy took effect on Jan. 1. ... While administration officials cited procedural reasons for changing the rule, it was clear that political concerns were also a factor." I’m...

 

Maria Shriver on Hospice

Below is a short video of Maria Shriver sharing a recent hospice experience. Her message is very powerful and reinforces the value of sharing our stories with others. Special thanks to the Hospice Foundation of America for making Ms. Shriver’s video available. Have you had a hospice experience you'd like to share? We'd love to have you share your story by commenting on this post. 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,...

 

Experiencing a Hospice Chaplain Visit (Part Two)

By Amy  Elizabeth On another visit, I went along as James*, a Hospice chaplain, met with Elizabeth*, a cheerful patient living in a nursing home. I followed James as he navigates the maze of hallways in the nursing home with remarkable proficiency, stopping to greet each of the patients that he recognizes along the way. When we came to Elizabeth’s room, her door was wide open and she rested comfortably in her chair. “Hi, Elizabeth, it’s James from Hospice of the Red River Valley,”...

 

Experiencing a Hospice Chaplain Visit (Part One)

By Amy Editor's Note: An important aspect of hospice care is the spiritual support provided to patients. Hospice chaplains are professional clergy who are well-versed in the spiritual needs of both patients and families going through the end-of-life experience. If desired by the patient, they provide support based on the patient’s personal beliefs, no matter what religion, and can serve as a link to a faith community. **** When tagging along with a Hospice chaplain, James*, on patient visits, I learned the simple...

 

An Early Referral to Hospice Can Make a Big Difference

By Mary Lou As I was checking out at a local retail store last week, the clerk noticed my Hospice nametag. She commented that her daughter would probably be calling us in the near future because her husband (the clerk’s son-in-law) was very ill. They had recently returned from the University of Minnesota where they were told that nothing more could be done for his advancing cancer. She continued to tell me that her son-in-law was in a bed or a...

 

Grief During the Holiday Season: How Do You Cope?

 By Connie DeKrey, Bereavement Specialist Ordinarily, we think of the holidays as a busy, joyous time. But when one is grieving the death of someone beloved, there is nothing “ordinary” about it. Holidays are typically filled with memories and reflection, so it is not surprising that the longing we may feel for that absent loved one intensifies against the backdrop of festive bustle. There may be reminders that cause an ache in one’s spirit, such as a card addressed to the...

 

Grief During the Holiday Season: Embracing Memories

By Connie DeKrey, Bereavement Specialist                                                         *** Christmas 2004: This was an even-numbered year, which meant it was our turn to celebrate the holiday with my husband’s side of the family in Bismarck; odd-numbered years had traditionally been spent with my side of the family. But current circumstances dictated differently. My Mom was temporarily staying in Fargo to receive radiation treatments recommended by her oncologist, but not available in her hometown. She would not be up to a road trip, and...

 

Celebrating the Holidays When a Loved One Has Alzheimer’s

by Alzheimer's Association Minnesota-North Dakota Chapter Editor's Note: At Hospice of the Red River Valley, we've been privileged to partner with the Alzheimer's Association on a number of educational programs. In recognition of Alzheimer's Awareness Month, we have asked the Alzheimer's Association to share timely information with our readers who may be facing the challenges of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's. The Holiday Season is a time when families join together to make memories and reminisce.  When a loved one has Alzheimer’s disease,...

 

Hospice Care: Part of the Solution

November is National Hospice/Palliative Care Month. The goal of this month is to increase understanding and awareness of care at the end of life. The following message is adapted from a Letter to the Editor. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ By Susan Health care reform has been among the nation’s hottest topics in the past year. In the midst of the debate, virtually nothing has been said about hospice care. At the same time, utilization of hospice care for people nearing the ends of their lives continues...

 

Thank You, Veterans

[caption id="attachment_193" align="alignleft" width="473"] Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower visits paratroopers, including Bill Hayes, at center behind Ike's right hand, in England on June 5, 1944, moments before the troops boarded transport planes bound for Normandy and the June 6 D-Day invasion. Bill Hayes is one of many veterans Hospice of the Red River Valley has been privileged to serve.[/caption] In honor of Veterans Day, all of us at Hospice of the Red River Valley would like to extend our heartfelt...

 

Volunteering for Hospice: In Giving, You Receive Immeasurably

By Deb As the manager of volunteer services at Hospice of the Red River Valley (HRRV), I get to see first hand the impact our volunteers have on patients and their families. I realized recently that my 10 year anniversary as an employee for HRRV is coming up. This got me thinking back on how I first became involved with Hospice. My dream in 1993 was to become a patient care volunteer for Hospice of the Red River Valley. I was...

 

The Blue Folder: Making Final Wishes Known

By Mary Lou Since I work in healthcare, I have learned from our hospice staff about the value of making your end-of-life wishes known. In fact, I always talked about it whenever I was invited to speak on hospice. I was talking the talk. The time had come to walk the walk. Armed with the right forms, I talked about this with my husband several years ago. Dying is not a pleasant topic. In fact, most people will avoid it. As much...

 

Spiritual Comfort at the End of Life: The Role of a Hospice Chaplain

Anytime you’re dealing with a life-limiting prognosis, spiritual issues inevitably bubble to the surface. Everybody approaches this topic and searches for answers in his/her own way. Hospice of the Red River Valley's chaplains are experts in the field of ministry and professional clergy who recognize spiritual needs at this time of life. Hospice chaplains promote caring for the whole person. While Hospice chaplains may not have all of the answers, they specialize in listening and recognize that asking the thoughtful...

 

Helping Out Offers and Assignments

  By Mary Lou How many times have you said, “Just call if there is anything I can do to help.” How often have you heard from the person you offered that to? Maybe it’s a generational thing, more likely a cultural thing, but for the most part, people aren’t comfortable calling up a friend and asking if they would run to the grocery store, or swing by and mow the lawn. So the good intentions stay just that. I have certainly...

 

I'll Bet You Didn’t Know a Hospice Social Worker Did That

By Amy [caption id="attachment_162" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Susie and Midget[/caption] Believe it or not, this is an actual photo from a hospice social worker visit. Let me explain. Susie*, a young patient of ours, has Huntington’s disease. It’s an awful disease which causes the wasting of nerve cells in the brain, leaving a person with very little control of his or her own body and speech. Susie’s disease has progressed to the point where she is in a wheelchair, needing constant care. Because...

 

Beyond Widowhood: Grief and Spousal Loss

  This fall, we’re offering a unique grief course in Fargo focused on widowhood. There are many unique grief challenges faced by widows and widowers. Many encounter a loss not only of their spouse, but also of their way of making it through life. After a spousal loss, grievers often struggle with loneliness and the need for companionship. There are also losses of security felt from having a long-standing way of life. A spousal loss completely changes the day-to day-things you took...

 

Diagnosing and Addressing Pain in Dementia Patients

By Roxanne Smedsrud, RN Because of their disease, many dementia patients are unable to report that they have pain. For family members or other caregivers of dementia patients, this can be a cause of concern. In my years as a hospice nurse, I’ve learned you can sometimes ask dementia patients repeatedly if they are experiencing pain, and they will answer "no."  Often the biggest challenge is getting others to see that the patient is hurting, and allowing pain medications to be administered. As an...

 

Celebrating Assisted Living Week

It’s National Assisted Living Week, and during this time each year we like to extend our gratitude to our partners in care working in assisted living facilities throughout our service area. Many times, people are surprised to learn that hospice care is available in assisted living facilities, nursing homes or even hospitals—wherever a patient calls “home.” In assisted living facilities, Hospice staff does not take over care, but rather combines their skills and expertise with facility staff. In this situation, we...

 

What is a CNA Visit Really Like?

By Amy I recently went on a patient visit with Pat, a certified nursing assistant (CNA). As a CNA, Pat’s job is to provide personal cares, such as bathing, feeding and light housework. I think this must be one of the most difficult jobs on earth, but Pat vehemently disagrees. In fact, Pat left her job as a successful paralegal to become certified as a nursing assistant because she had such a strong desire to provide hospice care. After tagging...

 

What's the Latest? Family Communication Long-Distance

  By Mary Lou When my father died in 1998, the preferred method of voice communication was still telephone. During his illness, we played the telephone game. Whenever there was a change, or even just to let us know things were okay, my mother would get on the phone and begin the conversation with the seven of us. We would offer to make a few phone calls; and, once in a while, one of us would call a sibling, but Mom always...

 

Welcome to the Hospice of the Red River Valley Blog!

The launch of our blog has been a long process, built from conversations with co-workers about the types of questions caregivers—and the general public—often have about care giving, and ultimately about hospice care. We wanted to explore these issues and questions in a way that effectively reaches as many people as possible, in a comfortable environment. We hope this blog will be a tool to do just that. The goal of our blog is twofold; first, to provide resources and...