“Hospice for my family is about respect, love and living well. It’s about living the way you want at the end of your life.”
As a medical doctor, Dr. Lucia Fouts had experience with Visiting Nurse because of her profession. What she didn’t have until this past year, was a personal experience with Visiting Nurse.
“When it became clear that my father’s Parkinson’s was bringing his life to an end, and that caring for him at home was going from difficult to impossible, we called Visiting Nurse and they came out right away to evaluate him in his home. Suddenly, it was like we could breathe again. They ordered a hospital bed and other equipment to help us care for him. They sent aides to bathe him and comb his hair and take the strain of those basic functions off my mom. Dad stayed in his home among his memories and with my mom to talk to and make him cookies.”
Dr. Fouts credits Visiting Nurse with making that possible. Eight months later, she had to contact the on-call nurse at Visiting Nurse, who came out right away and helped her family make the decision to have her father moved to the inpatient facility so he could be kept more comfortable in ways that could no longer be provided at home.
Dr. Fouts’ story represents what Visiting Nurse is all about.
“We are the only free-standing, community-based, non-profit hospice provider in northeast Indiana,” says Mary Shankster, chief development officer for Visiting Nurse. “Visiting Nurse is unique in that we have Hospice Home and the Peggy F. Murphy Community Grief Center that provides grief counseling to adults who have experienced the loss of a loved one. Hospice involvement is not required to receive counseling.”
Shankster is referring to the Hospice Home off Homestead Road that opened in 2001, and the Peggy F. Murphy Community Grief Center, which opened in 2015. The Grief Center is open to the public and offers individual and group counseling both on and off-site at no charge.
Both buildings are warm and inviting and surrounded by beautifully-landscaped flower beds, ponds and natural trails. Dozens of volunteers work hard to maintain the premises and continue the longtime mission of Visiting Nurse.
“For the last 130 years, we have had tremendous community support and that’s really amazing,” says Bonnie Blackburn-Penhollow, Director of Communications for Visiting Nurse. “Throughout its history, Visiting Nurse has always focused on helping people. Our services are available to anyone regardless of their age or ability to pay.”
There are numerous services that fall under the entities of Visiting Nurse, such as palliative medicine, Hospice Home and grief support.
“We have an expert team in place and we are here to support and educate both the patient and the patient’s family,” says Dr. Ann Moore, chief medical officer for Visiting Nurse. “We encourage people to start working with us earlier in their disease course instead of later. We want to get your support team in place so you can build those relationships in a non-urgent, non-chaotic environment. So that when that crisis comes and end-of-life is near, you already have your support in place. You have the equipment, the medication and the people in place and you already know them, so it’s not a stranger walking into your house. Even though most of our patients are terminally ill, we focus on quality of life and we hold their hand as they walk this journey.”
Dr. Moore says while many patients have little or no out-of-pocket cost for hospice care through insurance, there are plenty of other people who benefit from donations given to Visiting Nurse to offset their costs.
Visiting Nurse provides services to eight counties in northeast Indiana and helps thousands of patients every year. An on-call nurse can be reached 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Dr. Fouts was so thankful for the care her father and her family received as he was dying, that she made a contribution to Visiting Nurse in the form of a memorial bench which now sits next to the prairie walk on the campus.
“I am more grateful than I can express for the wonderful work they do to help people at the end of their life have respect, love and the best life they can.”