November is National Home Care and Hospice Month. We invite you to join us in honoring the millions of nurses, home care aides, therapists, and social workers who make a remarkable difference for the patients and families they serve. Dakota Home Care is privileged to share the stories of two of our clients for whom home care and hospice made a remarkable difference for them and their dying loved one.
Todd Kuester & His Wife Terry
In the fall of 2016, My wife, Terry, was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. She was given only 18 months to live, but with chemotherapy, radiation, and loving care she was able to live for 29 months. With the help of Dakota Home Care and Hospice, she was able to stay in our home—her dream home—until the day she died.
About a year ago, Terry’s cancer, which had been in remission, came back with a vengeance. She became paralyzed on her left side. At that point, we knew we needed help. Terry told me to put her “in a home,” because she didn’t think I could take care of her—it would be too hard. I told her “You live in a home.” I knew she wanted me to take care of her.
A doctor at Sanford hospital, gave me some names of home healthcare companies. I called Dakota Home Care (DHC) first. They sent a Registered Nurse (RN) to meet with us and assess our needs. I asked, “What if my wife doesn’t hit it off with the people you send?” The RN immediately replied, “Let us know, and we’ll get someone else!” I was very impressed by that.
In January, DHC sent us two very kind and loving CNA caregivers, Viola and Shannon. They were God’s angels on earth. They were very good to work with and seemed very knowledgeable. They came in shifts from 8:00 PM – 8:00 AM to help with night care. Terry had bad headaches. I set out her medication and Viola and Shannon gave it to her at night and helped with all of her personal needs. They did everything I asked.
Viola is from Africa, and she would sit and have conversations with Terry about her husband and how she was working to get him here. Shannon was the same way. She had lived in ND all her life, so she and Terry had a lot in common. She loved to hear their stories, and they listened to Terry’s stories, too. It was very important for her to have that interaction with other people.
On March 7th Terry decided to stop treatment and go on hospice. The doctor at Sanford Hospital assigned a nurse and an aide, but they only came twice a week for about an hour. DHC worked side by side with hospice, and filled in the gap when hospice wasn’t there. I didn’t know what to expect when someone dies. I was an emotional wreck. Terry was my high school sweetheart. They told us what to expect. That was calming for both of us. It really helped to comfort me while going through the process.
The night Terry died, Shannon was on duty. I was upstairs, and she told me it was time to come down. I got on Terry’s bed and held her hand. Shannon sat in a chair and held her other hand. After Terry took her last breath, Shannon quietly got up and left the room and gave me time alone with my wife. She came back in when I stopped crying. She sat with Terry while I made calls. When I came back, she was still there holding her hand. She didn’t leave until 4:30 in the morning. Viola would have done the same thing.
Terry passed away at home after being on Hospice for just 19 days. We’re all going to die. DHC and Hospice help people in the process of going from this world to the next, while staying at home. I’m telling my story out of love and respect for my wife. It’s beneficial to me to talk about her, and I hope it helps other people who will go through the same thing. I’m doing what Terry and God would want me to do.
Becky Mahlum & Her Husband Mike
I would not have been able to keep my husband Mike at home had it not been for the good care we received from Dakota Home Care (DHC) and the Hospice Care from Sanford Hospital. Mike died on Sept. 1st from complications of Multiple Sclerosis. (MS) He had been on Hospice care for six months, but I wish I had used it longer. He was considered terminal a year and a half before he died. I tell people that making the decision to go on hospice may feel bad at first, like you’re giving up on the person, but you shouldn’t be afraid of that decision. You can always go off of it. Just say yes to it!
A year and a half before we put Mike on Hospice, I had help from CNAs sent by DHC. Acceptance of home care can be a hurdle to get over. I had to get used to the idea of having someone in my house all the time, but I got over that! They became like family. You get attached. They make it possible for you to do all the things you have to do. Mike needed someone to be at home with him. They came during the day for 7 hours while I was at work. Having their help made it possible for me to go to work without worrying about what was going on at home. I could also arrange to have them there overnight if I had to go out of town.
DHC hires really nice people. They helped Mike with meals, read the paper to him, talked to him. He came to rely on them. His attention shifted from me to them. When they came in, they would say “Hi” to me, but then it was all about Mike. They even took care of the dog, mopped the floor and kept my house clean. And they did everything with such kindness, such loving care. It takes a special person to do that. I don’t know how they do it every day.
The combination of Hospice Care and additional help from DHC was wonderful. During certain days of the week the hospice aide would come in and help the DHC CNAs with Mike’s bathing. They worked together and were respectful of each other. Hospice CNAs would also come for an hour in the evening, so I could have some down-time after work. It was really nice to talk to them. They gave me emotional support. The DHC and hospice people “have been there before.”
Having the hospice RN come to our house was comforting. She visited while the DHC CNAs were there. They could tell me what symptoms were normal and what showed a progression of his illness. I didn’t have to think about that or wonder if I should be doing something else for him.
I was so blessed to be able to keep Mike at home. That was what he wanted. I was especially glad that I could be there on days when he was scared. He would call out to me, and I could say “I’m here.” Having the help from Dakota Home Care and Hospice was such a gift. They helped us get through a very hard time!