Volunteer, patient form bond

FAIRMONT – The way Belva Peterson and Dee Larsen-Lueth hold hands and practically finish each other’s sentences, you’d think they must be family. But they are not.

Peterson visits Larsen-Lueth at Lakeview Methodist Health Care Center in Fairmont twice per week as a volunteer with UHD Home Health and Hospice. She has only been coming for a few months.

“Seems like I’ve known her forever,” Peterson said.

“I just think that’s what we’re on this earth for: care and share and think about others,” Peterson said. “It makes my heart happy and I hope it makes Dee’s heart happy.”

“I’m very happy when you come,” Larsen-Lueth said.

Hospice is for people whose doctor has certified they have a life expectancy of six months or less, said Russ Steele, social worker and volunteer coordinator. Hospice is available to them whether they live in their own home or at a care facility.

About 10 people are on UHD’s hospice care currently, Steele said. Six are in care facilities, he estimated.

Peterson has volunteered with hospice for more than 10 years.?Her previous experience was visiting patients in their homes; this is the first time she has visited someone in a care facility, but she said the care of the patient doesn’t change.

“When you volunteer in a home, you’re giving the family a break [in caring for their loved one],” Peterson explained. “We all need those kinds of breaks.”

“Dee’s getting good round-the-clock care,” Steele said. “When we come in with hospice, we network with [the facility]. Our nurses work with their nurses; our social workers work with their social workers and families.

“It just adds that extra bit,” Steele said. “Get everybody on the same page that we’re doing hospice here. Make sure Dee is comfortable physically, emotionally and spiritually.

“Nurses, social workers, home health aides and volunteers: It’s a team effort to make sure we’re taking care of the patient,” Steele said. “We have good volunteers like Belva who take the time to be here with them.”

“I get some return because I met a new friend,” Peterson said.

They do things friends would do.

Sometimes Peterson will read letters to Larsen-Lueth, or take her to activities at Lakeview. A lot of times, they will watch game shows and advise contestants.

“It’s Dee’s choice and I’m here for Dee,” Peterson said. “We talk about her family. She was a schoolteacher.”

Larsen-Lueth taught fourth grade for 30 years in Sherburn, and also taught in country schools, sometimes handling more than one elementary grade. She likes telling stories of her younger years and teaching career.

She was married to Gordon Larsen until his death, then married Harold Lueth, who had hospice care before his death in 2010. Larsen-Lueth wants more people to know help is available.

“It’s a wonderful organization,” she said.

Peterson began volunteering while she was still working full time.

“I’d come in the evenings and Saturdays,” she said. “Now I can come in the week. And I love it.”

She has had her husband, Tim, drive her into town, or takes a bus in bad weather because she knows people are counting on her.

“I’m hoping I’m making someone happy that day beause they’re making me happy,” she said.

“You are,” Larsen-Lueth said.