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End of life resources available through several avenues at NUMC

Home Health, Hospice and Advance Care Planning team members: (from left) Jessica Hertling, RN; Kaylee Kamm, LSW; Leonard Hummel, Chaplain; Deanna Aufderheide, MSW and Emily Hoffrogge, Grief Counselor.

End of life situations can be extremely difficult not only for the patient but for the family and loved ones in the patient’s life. However, with a certain amount of planning and support from the resources available through Allina Health, these situations don’t have to be quite as stressful.

At end of life, there are several resources available for patients and their families through New Ulm Medical Center (NUMC), including Advance Care Planning, Home Health, and Hospice.

Home Care and Hospice

Marcella Dammann can speak firsthand to the benefits of Home Care and Hospice during one of the most difficult times of her life – the final stages of her husband, Stan’s, bone marrow cancer. Stan received several months of Home Health services before enrolling in Hospice and in both programs, he was able to receive a nurse to help with disease and medication management and a Home Health Aide to help with things like showers.

“Stan’s cancer was a slow decline over several months, but nothing seemed to work for him,” Dammann said. When the couple finally decided to enlist the help of Hospice, she said, “It was a good decision because Hospice just stepped in and took over.”

Upon enrolling in Hospice, additional services also become available to patients and their families, including things like Music and Massage Therapy, Spiritual Care, Social Work, Volunteer Services and Bereavement care.

The Dammann’s granddaughter, a hospice nurse in another state, also flew in to be with them and help as much as she could. But Allina Health Hospice let the family know that they were just a phone call away and continued to help where she couldn’t.

“They brought a bed and lots of supplies – everything we needed,” Dammann said. “I’m just so happy that the services were available. If he’d said he didn’t want hospice, I don’t know what I would’ve done on my own. I didn’t think I could do it alone. Hospice helped me through that journey.”

Stan was in hospice care only a few weeks. Their granddaughter and the Hospice staff helped keep Stan as comfortable as possible.

“We also had Home Care services,” Dammann said. “They set up Stan’s pills and took his vitals. They helped him with showers. We looked forward to them coming. They would take time to visit with us and we would share funny stories with them.”

In the long run, a situation that could’ve been so much more traumatic was made easier through the help of readily available resources.

“Everybody should take advantage of Allina Home Care and Hospice,” Damann said. “Just don’t think you have to go through this by yourself. There’s help out there. You just have to ask for it.”

For more information about Hospice and Home Care through NUMC, go to allinahealth.org/newulm and look for them under the Services tab.

Advance Care Planning

An advance care plan is designed to help anyone communicate their wishes for medical treatment. A person doesn’t have to be sick or near the end of life in order to create an advance care plan and, in fact, it’s better if the plan is completed far in advance of that critical time.

The planning process helps clarify what a patient’s family and friends need to know if the patient becomes unable to make health care decisions for themselves. It often saves a lot of undue stress on family members if the patient’s wishes are clearly outlined in a plan, rather than having to guess – and potentially disagree about – what the patient would want. When you put these wishes in writing, this kind of plan is called a health care directive.

“The best reason to complete a health care directive is to ensure your healthcare wishes are followed if something happens to you where you are unable to speak for yourself and to nominate someone you trust to speak on your behalf at that time,” said Kaylee Kamm, Licensed Social Worker at NUMC. “Health care directives are recommended for anyone who is over the age of 18.”

A health care directive addresses what kind of care and treatment the patient does or does not want; and the patient’s wishes, goals and values, and how they relate to their health care choices for the future.

Health care directives are located on the Allina Health website. Go to allinahealth.org and search for advance care plan. People can fill them out independently and they can call NUMC to make an appointment 507-217-5011 to sit down with Kamm go through the process together.

“If they just have questions first and want to call me directly that is great, too,” Kamm said. Her direct line is 507-217-5078.

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