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Hospice care stories
"The realization of the impending loss of my wife was an extremely difficult experience for me and my family…I cannot thank the caregivers at Allina enough for the support, comfort and care they extended to me, my family and friends during this emotional time."
George, Husband of hospice patient
These perspectives from families, employees, patients and volunteers show how Allina Hospice makes a difference in end-of-life care.
Allina Hospice: A Family Matter
Norman and his loved ones describe the compassion and care Allina Hospice provides during the transition to hospice care in his home.
Cindy: We met November 1976. It was the grand opening of Standing Room Only, a little three-two bar up in Oak Grove. It was a Monday evening. He asked me to dance, and he hates to dance. So, we had that first dance, and here we are, from 1976 until now – married 33 years, so, 35 years later.
Norman: I was diagnosed in '96. I'd gone to the VA, and I believe the doctor said I had some sort of lung problem. That's when I went to my regular doctor, got diagnosed.
[My caner was] job induced. I'm a retired bricklayer. It's from all the dust and stuff that you're breathing in on jobsites.
Hospice care is intended for patients who have a life expectancy of six months or less, if their illness runs its natural course. Provided in the patient's home, hospice is designed to relieve the patient of physical discomfort, provide emotional and spiritual support, and prepare the patient for a natural death. But hospice is also family-centered, offering support and information for loved ones and caregivers. Patients are eligible for hospice once it is determined that life expectancy is limited and they choose to control their symptoms without the expectation of prolonging life.
Cindy: It was in December, was then when he started with the oxygen. And then I started with Allina Hospice as a nurse, and so I gained better understanding of qualifying, and he and I talked about it. Sleep was an issue, laying flat is an issue. So, we ended up talking about it and pursued the hospice component for him. Itit made sense.
Norman: It made real good sense.
Brianna: I think the biggest thing is to make sure that people do understand that there's just so much available with hospice that it's a shame if you wait until the very last days to be able to utilize the program. It's not just for the loved one who's needing that care, but for the family as well. You know, there's so much, and they are such compassionate people who work with the program. It's an amazing, amazing program. There's so much available to the patients and to the families, so it's a shame if it's not utilized sooner rather than later.
Hospice care is coordinated by a team of health care professionals skilled in providing patients and families with a wide range of support services. Together with patients and families, the hospice care team develops a plan of care with the patient's doctor that honors the goals, values, and wishes of each individual.
Brianna: When he was admitted into hospice, the nurse that he had admitting him did a phenomenal job of answering any questions. And she made sure that we were all aware of all the different resources that were available, not just to him but to us as well -- as family. So, it was educational. I being a nurse, have some background knowing a little bit about hospice. But my brother and my dad's sister were both here, and they don't know anything about the medical field. So, it was very nice having that information. And it's just nice knowing that there is the support, that when we need it, that it's there for us as well, not just for my dad.
Once a plan of care is determined, hospice provides the necessary resources for pain and symptom management.
Cindy: It's typically such a defined stereotype word – that you have less than, probably, two weeks to live. Because that's usually – people don't usually reap the benefits. But the benefit of pain control that hospice can provide when you're diagnosed with a terminal illness is unbelievable.
Norman: Yeah, there isn't any reason to be in pain. That's one thing, you know…basically pain free. And, you know, it's the first time in years I've been without pain and been able to sleep longer at night than before.
Hospice care is covered by most insurers, including Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurers.
Brianna: What I didn't realize is all of the equipment that's available to patients, and medications, things that are covered, that the family doesn't have to worry about the cost of it. And that's such a huge stress on anybody with health care is the cost. So, I mean, I think that's a really big deal, and it's amazing to not have to worry about that, to have my dad be able to have a hospital bed so he can sleep comfortably. You know, to have him have the oxygen and have the medications that help him be comfortable. For us to not have to worry about that is really huge. I mean, it takes some very big stress off of us as a family.
Above all, hospice is about quality of life, however limited life expectancy may be. Norman: Don't think of hospice as the last days of your life. Think of it as freedom, and being able to be without pain, and do things that you want to do. I like to hunt and fish and just be outside, enjoying nature.
Cindy: Go out for breakfast with the guys, or sit outside and start a campfire.
Norman: Yeah, start the campfire. And it'll be time to plant the garden here pretty quick.
Ben: You can't stop him. I mean, you try to say no but he's just gonna do it. That's how he is and, you know, he's gonna do it, and he's able to do it in comfort now. So, that's huge in my eyes. I think the biggest thing is just being with his grandkids.
Norman: Samantha and Camryn spend quite a bit of time here, and I do things with both of them. I've taught them both how to ride their bikes without training wheels. And the last two years they've picked out the flowers that we've put in the garden, and everything turned out great. Yeah, I have Sara. She goes where I go.
Cindy: British Lab. And the British Labs have a sense. They just kinda…they kinda know. Norman: And her and I bonded right from day one.
Allina Hospice has helped many patients and families on their path with compassion and care.
Norman: There's nothing wrong with being on hospice. You can still do everything you were able to do before, there's no limitations – other than the limitations you put on yourself. And I don’t put limitations on myself. I haven't given up anything that I've done. As long as I'm able to do it, I'm going to continue to do it.
Cindy: It's a journey we're all taking together but each on our own path.
Allina Hospice care services are available to anyone living in our service area, which includes twenty-eight counties throughout Minnesota. For more information, please visit our website or call 1-800-261-0879. Allina care navigators are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Why I chose hospice care
Don Grossbach, MD, explains why he chose hospice and palliative medicine.
Teresa Conlan shares how hospice helped her family during her father's illness. That experience led her to a career in hospice care.
Allina Hospice in the news
When 74-year-old Hall of Fame slugger Harmon Killebrew entered hospice care, many baseball fans had questions about end-of-life care. Allina Hospice Care leaders answered their questions.
The J.A. Wedum Residential Hospice opened its doors to the public in February. One of its first patients was Carry Wong.
Perspectives from volunteers and staff
The Dying of the Light
I'm a physician at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, where I help care for patients struggling through the winter of their lives. We've got a lively spring unit, an obstetrical ward where fresh-faced tulips are popping up at all hours, but that's not my specialty. As a hospitalist, I see adult patients of all ages and complexities, most of whom make good recoveries and return to life as they knew it. But taking care of the threadworn elderly, those facing an eternal winter with no green in sight, is definitely the most difficult thing I do.
Love of baseball bonds hospice patient and volunteer
As a hospice volunteer, Julie shared her love of sports with Elnora. In the process, they developed a special bond.
To Joyce, life is a journey – one that should be shared with others. She feels privileged to spend time with those who are nearing the end of their journey.
Anna E. Lee, board-certified music therapist, shares why a music therapy session that will remain with her always.