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Losing a loved one is a frightening experience that everyone will eventually face, but hospice workers are there to ease that journey.
There are a lot of misconceptions about hospice from the cost to the extent of its services, according to local providers. AseraCare, which provides hospice care, works to ensure that the needs and wishes of both patients and their family are met.
Brooke Borer, Executive Director of the O’Neill office, said, “When we come into this world, we have prenatal care. When we leave this world, we should have end of life care.”
Borer said that oftentimes hospice providers are doing more than keeping a patient comfortable. They also fulfill people’s last wishes. She told stories of a 93-year-old woman who was given an opportunity to ride a horse and a man who hosted a state-wide chess tournament in his home.
“He would say he was having the time of his life on hospice,” Borer said, “He lived until the very end, and he always said that if it wasn’t for hospice, he would have never been able to do that."
AseraCare provides staff and equipment for these individuals to finish their final days in peace and sometimes doing that one thing they always dreamed of.
Christy Knutson of Neligh is a Registered Nurse (RN) and case manager with hospice for the past seven years. She said there myths about hospice, including viewing it as depressing or dark employment.
“I don’t think of it as death, as morbidity,” Knutson said. "I think of it as beauty. We’re giving them love."
Knutson said research shows that a person on hospice will live nearly a month longer than a person not on hospice with the same diagnoses. She said she believes this is because they provide that “extra touch.”
The women said it's easy to become close to patients and their family. Knutson said she even receives Christmas cards from some. Both admitted they mourn the loss of patients but feel they are part of something beautiful by helping the family and taking away their fear.
Borer said hospice is paid for by Medicare or Medicaid as well as private insurance, so families pay no out-of-pocket expenses. They will provide services in nursing homes, hospitals or even a private residence. They have a staff to accommodate any needs or wishes of a patient, from RNs to bereavement councilors, social workers and spiritual advisors.
AseraCare currently provides hospice services to individuals 16 years of age and older. However, they cannot provide hospice care for children, as they currently do not have a pediatrician on their staff. There are eight AseraCare locations in Nebraska. The O’Neill office provides service to Holt, Antelope, Boone, Knox, Wheeler, Garfield, Boyd, Rock and Brown counties.
Both women said that they not only love their jobs, but they feel blessed to be able to do their work.
“I don’t feel like it’s a job,” Borer said with a smile. "It's a part of my life."
Knutson added, “It’s almost like you pay it forward every single day."