Hospice program training volunteers in Paynesville

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 11/11/97.

The first of two training sessions for hospice volunteers was held at the Paynesville Area Health Care System Wednesday.

A group of about 13 people took part in the training. Dr. Philip Iverslie, Willmar, explained the hospice concept to those present. Iverslie is the hospice medical director based out of Rice Memorial Hospital, Willmar.

ďHospice is not a sad moment. Yes, we do lose our patients and friends, but hospice is a part of our lives and is not meant to be a depressing experience.Ē

He stated that a 1982 poll showed 82 percent of terminally ill patients preferred to be taken care of at home. Hospice is Latin for hospitable. The hospice concept started with lay people. It was a place where people would go when they couldnít be taken care of at home, at the turn of the century.

ďNobody likes to think or talk about death, but it is a fact of life. Death is tough to acknowledge but tougher when you have to talk about your own death,Ē he added.

ďMost people in the hospice program have widespread cancer. A main part of the program is palliative care or comfort care. Treat the symptoms to keep the patient as comfortable as possible,Ē he stressed.

Hospice as we know it today couldnít and wouldnít survive without volunteers. When a person chooses hospice care, it doesnít mean they are giving up. It does mean they can change the focus of their treatment to symptom control. ďRather than curing the patient, the doctor and family will let the illness take its course with a minimum of tests. It doesnít mean death will be hastened but sometimes prolonged,Ē Iverslie stressed.

ďOften times, patients in a hospice program live longer because they can be treated at home instead of a hospital or nursing home,Ē Iverslie said. ďDeath is not preventable. Hospice care refocuses death in the home instead of the hospital.

The hospice team consists of a registered nurse for the patient, social worker who helps with finances, living will, social needs; a volunteer who comes into the home, takes the patient to coffee or provides relief for the primary care giver; clergy, and the patientís doctor who is still in charge. He writes the orders and makes the medical decisions and is responsible for treatment.

Who is eligible to be on the hospice program? Patients who are terminally ill with a prognosis of living six months or less; a patient whose symptoms can be controlled for comfort; someone with a progressive disease or nutritional impairment (someone who has lost 10 percent of their weight in the last six months).

Other criteria include people in the end stages of heart disease, lung disease, Alzheimers, liver disease, kidney disease, AIDS, MS or ALS, diabetes mellitus, and cerebrovasular disease (stroke).

Iverslie said the hospice concept started in Ireland in 1879. The Rice Hospice was started in 1982 and became certified in 1986. In 1993, there were 73 hospice formed in the state and 37 were Medicare certified. By 1996, the number grew to about 90 hospice in the state with half of them Medicare certified.

The Rice Hospice Program has 150 to 160 volunteers serving patients from Appleton to Paynesville to Granite Falls, Ortonville, Graceville and Dawson.

In the Paynesville area, Doris Dodds and MaryAnn Chladek, Paynesville, and Margie Hufford, Hawick, are trained volunteers.

Chladek feels hospice is a fantastic program and encourages anyone interested to take the courses for their own education. ďYou learn so much that you can use in your daily life,Ē she said. ďThe staff is wonderful to work with. They are considerate, caring and willing to help whenever possible.Ē

Chladek took the volunteer training course last spring and has been working with two patients after bereavement.ďI lost my husband a year and a half ago and donít feel Iím ready to work with the terminally ill yet,Ē she said. Chladek also works in the hospice program office at Rice Memorial doing typing and letter writing.

Doris Dodds, Paynesville, sings to the hospice patients at GlenOaks Nursing Home in New London. ďI know a lot of the old music they grew up with and they enjoy hearing the old familiar tunes,Ē she said.

Dodds took the course two years ago in Willmar. ďPeople shouldnít be afraid to take the course. Many things they cover, a person does naturally. However, it is helpful to know the things you shouldnít be doing,Ē she added.ďI think the program is wonderful and the people you work with are fantastic.Ē

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