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St. Joseph’s Health: Hospice care makes a difference to patients, families

Edith (Weinreis) Bosserman of rural Golva was a fun-loving person who enjoyed nothing better than spending time with her husband, children, grandchildren and extended family. So when Edith was diagnosed with cancer, it was no surprise that her greatest fear was the effect her illness would have on her loved ones.

Edith’s cancer was centered in her liver and it progressed quickly. Just eight months after her diagnosis, Edith’s family found themselves consulting with a St. Joseph’s Hospital emergency room doctor on the degree her cancer had spread. When the family learned that chemotherapy was no longer able to contain her cancer, they desperately wanted to find a way to keep Edith close to her family and home in her final days of life.

At the hospital, the Bosserman family was visited by a staff member from Heartland Hospice of Dickinson, which provides health care, education and support to terminally ill clients, their families and caregivers.

“We didn’t know what hospice was, let alone if it was an option for our mother, whose home is quite far from Dickinson,” said Kari Bosserman, Edith’s daughter. “We were so afraid the only option was to put her in a nursing home. It was such a relief to know that there was an option for us to bring Mom home, close to her family and friends, during her final weeks of life.”

Jil Baird, director of St. Joseph’s Home Health and Heartland Hospice, said hospice is an important service to many families.

“Staying at home, surrounded by family and friends, free of pain with your illness under control, support for your family caregivers — that’s what most Americans want at life’s end,” Baird said. “Hospice makes it happen. The hospice team provides expert medical care as well as emotional and spiritual support for the entire family.”

Nurses came to Edith’s home three times per week.

“They were so good to us,” Kari said. “I can’t say enough about how knowledgeable and compassionate they were. They made themselves very available to us, whether we just had a question over the phone or if we needed them to schedule an extra visit.

“The hospice nurses helped Mom keep her dignity throughout her illness. She appreciated things like getting help from a professional to bathe and wash her hair so that she wouldn’t have to burden her family with some of those private tasks. And for family members taking care of her round the clock, that hour break when hospice was with Mom was a valuable moment to just collect ourselves and take a few minutes away from the illness.”

Kari explained that Heartland Hospice also coordinated with Medquest Home Medical Equipment in bringing needed items like a hospital bed and walker to Edith’s home.

“It was very overwhelming, the things we needed to do to bring Mom home safely,” Kari said. “We were so pleased that hospice stepped in and took care of arranging all of the equipment details for us. That kind of service was a big help.”

Baird reiterated Kari’s sentiments.

“Coping with a terminal illness can be overwhelming — most people don’t know where to turn for help,” Baird said. “We can help families find out if hospice is right for them and how the costs are covered by Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurance plans.”

Edith spent three weeks under the care of Heartland Hospice before passing away. Kari said her mother truly looked forward to the visits from hospice staff members, not only for the help with things like bathing and hair-washing, but also because the nurses were friendly and cheerful, which brought fun to her day.

Less than a year after Edith’s death, Kari’s nephew, Cody Janikowski, was losing his fight with testicular cancer. While he had been doctoring in Wyoming, he wanted to come back to North Dakota as he faced the end stages of the disease.

Kari immediately advised her sister, Sherri Janikowski, Cody’s mother, to call Heartland Hospice. Cody was under hospice care the last few weeks of his life, and Kari said he truly appreciated the dignity and care he received from the Heartland Hospice staff.

“The nurses — they really cared,” Kari said. “They helped answer questions about medication and even what end-of-life signs to look for. They helped make the situation less scary to all of us. I can’t thank them enough.”

Story submitted by St. Joseph’s Media Relations.