Hospice set to mark 25th

FAIRMONT – UHD Home Health & Hospice will celebrate its 25th anniversary next week.

The annual recognition is usually hosted in November, which is Hospice Month, but was shifted for logistical reasons.

“We’re wanting to celebrate in the summertime,” said manager Ellen Rigby. “It’s easier, so people can get around and not have road conditions to deal with. Besides, it’s more fun to eat hot dogs in the summer.”

The event is slated for 1:30 p.m. Thursday at Citizens Park in downtown Fairmont.

“We’ll have hot dogs and root beer floats in the park,” Rigby said. “Eat and chat, low-key, just a celebration. It’s a great opportunity for people in the community to meet my staff.”

The hospice program began in early 1987 as a volunteer endeavor.

Back at the beginning, no nursing or Medicare was provided, but Hospice is now a Medicare-certified agency and on-site nursing has improved patient care.

“Hospice provides a range of services; we operate like a team,” Rigby said. “From the person who answers the phones to the person providing the care, it truly takes a village.”

In addition to nurses and attending physicians, patients and families have a host of other services at their disposal, including medical social services; home health aide or homemaker; chaplain; massage therapist; speech, physical and occupational therapy; volunteers for a variety of help; and bereavement care.

Hospice pays 100 percent of the cost of medications relating to the terminal diagnosis and equipment rental to manage the terminal illness.

“Physicians do home visits,” Rigby added. “Our [medical] director makes a lot of home visits.

“Social workers and volunteers [help] with what families need most, support and compassion,” she said.

Hospice doesn’t just see to a person’s physical needs.

“Hospice is very holistic,” Rigby said. “Dealing with a terminal illness is very emotional. It’s why we help with emotional and spiritual issues also. It’s so much easier to go through this process when you don’t feel like you are alone.”

UHD’s Home Health & Hospice covers all of Faribault and Martin counties and stretches into northern Iowa, but the patient load has doubled in the last two years, Rigby said. The overall number of patients served has risen to 100-130.

“We typically service about 18-30 [patients] a day,” she added.

In 2010, the decision was made to set up a physical presence in Fairmont.

“We felt we needed to show the commitment and sometimes you need to be physically present,” Rigby said.

Home Health & Hospice is working with more people because word has gotten out, Rigby figures.

“I think there’s a lot more awareness about hospice,” she said. “I think the patients we serve, a lot of them are Baby Boomers focused on quality of life and having the support. The majority of people want to be at home.”