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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 Health 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 Health Hospice makes a difference in end-of-life care.
Allina Health Hospice: A Family Matter
Norman and his loved ones describe the compassion and care Allina Health 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 Health 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. It 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 Health 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 Health 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 Health care navigators are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
How hospice helped my mother, my family and me
This is the last photo taken of Deb O'Halloran's mother. It was taken at her favorite restaurant. She would not have been able to be there without the support and care of Allina Health Hospice, according to her daughter.
During a 10-minute presentation to Allina Health Hospice staff, Deb O'Halloran shares how Allina Health Hospice was there for her mother and the entire family during her mother's illness.
Allina Health Hospice in the news
Like many men and women of his generation, Richard Willis joined the military after Dec. 7, 1941 - that day of infamy when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and America went to war. Now age 92, Willis knows his battle with congestive heart failure is one he cannot win. Willis is one of more than 300 veterans enrolled in Allina Health Hospice, which participates in We Honor Vets, a nationwide initiative that offers services addressing the unique physical and emotional end-of-life needs of ex-military men and women. Willis shared his story with Boyd Huppert on Land of 10,000 Stories, in December 2013.
Allina Health Hospice uses music therapist to work with hospice patients and their families, using musical instruments, songs and conversation to encourage reminiscence. Two Allina Health Hospice music therapists explain how this relatively new offshoot of music therapy can help hospice patients with their symptoms, pain anxiety and even depression.
When 74-year-old Hall of Fame slugger Harmon Killebrew entered hospice care, many baseball fans had questions about end-of-life care. Allina Health Hospice Care leaders answered their questions.
Jack McHugh is a veteran and about half of the patients he's come to know have been veterans. In a recent speech he gave to accept an award for his volunteer services, McHugh shared about one veteran in particular, and about how hospice and veteran’s services working together can do more than provide palliative care. Sometimes they can change a life.
The Human Touch
Allina Health Hospice massage therapists Theresa, Anne, Gail and Sarah bring relief to patients near the end of their lives. They share what inspires each of them about the work they do.
The Dying of the Light
As a physician at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, Dr. Craig Bowron helps care for patients struggling through the winter of their lives. As a hospitalist, he sees 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 thread-worn elderly, those facing an eternal winter with no green in sight, is definitely the most difficult thing he does.
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.