Hospice: Supporting families to ease uncertainty

November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month and the 20th annual Parkview Festival of Trees, benefiting Parkview LaGrange and Noble Hospice. While tickets for the evening gala, which will be held this Saturday at the Kendallville Event Center, are sold out, the Open House (10 a.m. – noon) is a great time to come and take in the beautiful entries.

For a greater understanding of the work these compassionate caregivers do every day, we have more on hospice, from three perspectives.

The gift of hospice.  
“We are here to give each family the gift of more quality time with their loved one,” Jennifer Weigold, RN, clinical supervisor of Parkview Hospice, said.

Hospice means supporting patients and their families through end of life situations. “I like to think that we help people overcome their fear of the unexpected. There are a lot of unknowns when dealing with end of life. We’re there to answer their questions honestly and tell them what they need to know so they can spend that quality time with their family member.”

Often, the hospice team finds themselves offering emotional care as much as physical. “I’m proud of the fact that we can often turn a very difficult situation into something that can be handled. We can help the family come together at the end. To see someone with a limited life expectancy have a happy, peaceful end is a great thing for the family.”

The Parkview Hospice care team includes nurses, aides, a social worker, a chaplain, a music therapist, a massage therapist and respite volunteers. “We have a very close team and most of them have been here for 10-20 years.”

It’s that exceptional team that garners so much support from people in the community. “Patient families want to support us. That is why Festival of Trees does so well. People are appreciative of our services and want to give back for what the team has given them,” Jeni said. “The stories these families share are so heartfelt. This is why we do what we do.”
 

A patient story. The Nantz family
Many people think that hospice services are only provided in patient homes, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. “Hospice is meant to help the patient live out his or her final days in comfort,” Jeni said. “Often when the caregiver isn’t able to tend to the patient at home, we can provide the same services in a nursing home or inpatient setting.”

Such is the case with Victor Nantz, of Rome City. “Vic’s arthritis became so bad, he wasn’t able to turn over by himself in bed at night,” his wife, Bobbie, explained. “He could use a walker for a while and we had home health care workers coming in to help then. But as he deteriorated, he needed more assistance and I needed more help caring for him, too.”

In addition to his severe arthritis, Vic, 82, also has some heart and kidney issues that are contributing to his health decline. 

On August 4 – Vic and Bobbie’s 60th wedding anniversary – Vic was admitted to Lutheran Life Villages in Kendallville with hospice overseeing his care. The move brought peace of mind to Bobbie. “The hospice nurse still comes anytime we need her and checks him twice a week. Hospice provides his medications, supplies, anything we need for his care,” she added. “Vic has also had a massage from the hospice massage therapist, and chaplain Ken Weaver has called on us as well.”

Bobbie said, she and Vic have received many resource materials, including manuals to read and information to help along this part of their life journey. “The hospice staff is so good about giving you options concerning the care you need or the things you need help with. All kinds of people came and evaluated Vic right away to make sure we were on the right path here,” she added.

Bobbie still spends her days with Vic, visiting him frequently at Lutheran Life Villages, tending to some of his needs and sharing time with him. “Hospice is a fabulous support system, full of ideas, offering suggestions and most of all a shoulder to lean on. I don’t feel like I’m doing this on my own anymore.”

 

A family’s gratitude. Johnny Knight
“Today we laid my dad to rest.” These words open a remarkable portrait of Johnny Knight – husband, father, grandfather-figure and friend – that was written by his daughter, Becky Knight at the time of his death from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma on September 1.

Johnny Knight was a musician, a Tiger’s fan, an avid fan of 1940-1950s Westerns, a cat-lover and a history buff, especially when it came to World War II and its aircraft. He was an accountant who worked for Orland Community Elevator in Orland for 35 years. “Dad loved people, and loved the people he worked with,” Becky continued.

After numerous visits to his doctor, a battery of diagnostic tests, and a hospitalization at Parkview Regional Medical Center (PRMC), Knight was diagnosed with lymphoma in December 2016 and was referred to an oncologist. He went through six rounds of treatment over the next seven months and the cancer appeared to have lessened dramatically in size.

Late this past spring, Johnny’s health began to decline again. His lymphoma was growing rapidly. On August 15, he was again admitted to PRMC where, in consultation with his physician and care team, he and his family decided it was time to enroll him with Parkview Hospice. He was admitted to an inpatient hospice bed at Parkview LaGrange Hospital.

“Hospice was wonderful,” Becky said. “They involved Dad and the family in decision-making. They were always very responsive to any questions or concerns we had. My dad was a fairly large man and one of the first things hospice did was to arrange for him to have a special air bed. The mattress would automatically adjust to relieve any pressure point that developed – without the need for nursing staff to physically turn him.  This was such a blessing since turning was a painful process for Dad.

The nurses and others who cared for Dad were always very gentle with him. They would look in and ask us if we needed anything. It was so important to us to know that Dad wasn’t in pain, that he wasn’t uncomfortable. Though Dad wasn’t with hospice very long, the care he received and the care we, as his family, received was incredible.”

The nurse, Rosie Simon, who was with Johnny when he passed, was the same nurse who had provided care to his mother-in-law when she died at Parkview LaGrange Hospital 42 years prior.

“It was beautiful to see how many people came to visit him; to witness how many lives he touched; to see the many local friends who loved him like family that were able to come in to say their good-byes. I would encourage families to consider using hospice. They provide a great deal of comfort for the patient, but also for the families as well. Even in the brief time since dad passed, the social worker has reached out to us several times to provide support. Hospice is a wonderful program that helps patients and their families make the transition through their loss as comfortable as it can be.”

 

Patients with life-limiting cancer, lung, heart or kidney disease, or Alzheimer’s disease and who have decided against further treatment may be candidates for hospice care. For information about Parkview Home Health & Hospice, or to make a referral, call 800-292-9894.

 

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