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'They were a godsend': Hospice of Douglas County praised for work

Brandy Safe, Hospice of Douglas County registered nurse, talks with a patient about the hospice program and what it offers. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press) 1 / 2
Alice and Jack Juettner were both Hospice of Douglas County clients. Their daughter, Cathy Juettner, said the end-of-life care they received was top-notch. (Contributed) 2 / 2

Cathy Juettner of Alexandria knows first-hand how important the services of hospice are to families. Her father, Jack, was under the care of Hospice of Douglas County for a year and her mother, Alice, was under their care for six months.

Hospice touches every aspect of someone's care, and not just the medical side, noted Juettner. She said hospice workers are available 24/7. If a family member needs a question answered in the middle of the night or their loved one needs help, she said someone from hospice is just a phone call away.

Juettner's family isn't the only family impressed with the care from Hospice of Douglas County. Families who have used their services are more than satisfied with the care their loved ones have received this past year, according to survey results.

Because of this, Hospice of Douglas County was one of three hospice providers in the state to receive the Hospice Honors award from HealthcareFirst.

Repeat winner

This is the third time for Hospice of Douglas County to receive the prestigious Hospice Honors award.

The award is based on surveys filled out by families of patients who have used the hospice program. It recognizes hospices providing the highest-quality end-of-life care as measured by families.

"This is so important to us," said Sue Quist, Hospice of Douglas County supervisor. "Our families are extremely satisfied with the care they have received. We are meeting the needs of their loved ones and they are being taken care of. This is such an honor for our volunteers and staff."

Quist explained that Hospice Honors acknowledges high-performing agencies by analyzing performance based on quality measures. When families fill out the survey, they have to rank the various aspects of hospice on a scale of 1 to 10. To even be considered for the award, Quist said, a hospice has to receive scores of 9 and 10.

"Our families rated us between 9 and 10," she said. "That means a lot because families expect a lot. But it takes all of us. It's a team effort. With hospice, you definitely need a team of people."

Hospice of Douglas County has six nurses, two social workers, one chaplain, one music therapist, one massage therapist, one volunteer coordinator and one medical director on staff, along with more than 40 volunteers, said Quist.

The award is an exclusive recognition for hospices that have selected HealthcareFirst as their hospice survey partner. HealthcareFirst is a full-service provider of software solutions and services for home health and hospice agencies nationwide.

Angels on Earth

Jake and Alice Juettner, according to their daughter, Cathy, used Hospice of Douglas County to its fullest. It helped them with medications, doctor appointments, music and dog therapy and so much more.

"I would tell everyone to take advantage of the hospice program," said Juettner. "The nurses and volunteers can help you and your loved prepare for what's to come, emotionally and spiritually. And don't wait until someone is at death's door."

Juettner said the hospice workers helped her mom write a "legacy letter" and it was so beautiful. Legacy letters are written by hospice patients to their family members. It can include anything the patient wants to write about. Juetter said her family found out things about their mom they didn't know about and it was because of hospice and the guidance staff provided to write that letter.

"They are a great support system. They have great resources. They can answer your questions," she said.

Juettner, who could not sing their praises loud enough, said she and her siblings weren't the only ones thankful for the hospice staff and volunteers. She said her parents were just as grateful — right up until they passed away.

Jack Juettner, who had prostate cancer, died Feb. 9, 2018. Alice Juettner, who suffered from Parkinson's disease, died Jan. 1, 2019.

Her parents' lives, she said, were made better at the end because of the care they both received from Hospice of Douglas County.

"They (hospice staff) are so patient. They are the most caring, compassionate people," said Juettner. "Hospice took an extremely difficult situation for our family and just took over. They were a godsend. They are all truly angels on this earth."

How hospice works

Quist explained that hospice is a benefit set up through Medicare, which is a federal benefit. Those who are in the last six months or less of the end of their lives qualify for hospice. Examples are those with any type of terminal disease, including cancer, dementia, Alzheimer's, lung disease, heart disease, Parkinson's disease and more.

There is a misconception that hospice is only used once the person reaches the last couple weeks or even days of their life. In reality, Quist said, patients can benefit from its services over the last six months.

"We want to get involved as soon as it's appropriate," she said.

Patients are referred to hospice through a variety of ways, including doctors, family members or even a facility where a patient might be living. Once a patient is referred, a hospice nurse will do an assessment and coordinate the care a patient needs.

Hospice of Douglas County provides the following:

• Registered nurse on call 24 hours a day to answer questions and provide support.

• Medications and treatments to manage pain and other symptoms.

• Necessary equipment, such as a hospital bed, oxygen and supplies related to the illness.

• Assistance with day-to-day care such as bathing, dressing, skin care and more.

• Spiritual care in collaboration with local spiritual providers.

• Grief support and bereavement services up to one year following the loss.

• Music and massage therapy.

For more information, contact Hospice of Douglas County at 320-763-6018 or visit its website at www.hospicedouglascounty.org.

Celeste Edenloff

Celeste is a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press and has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in June 2016 to report on the community she calls home. Besides writing articles for the Echo Press, she has a blog, “Newspaper Girl on the Run.” Celeste is on a continuous healthy living journey and loves to teach bootcamp fitness classes and run. She has participated in more than 200 races with her husband, Al, covering the 5K, 10K, 10-mile and half-marathon (13.1 mile) distances.

(320) 763-1242