My mother was a very independent lady.  She had been a widow since 1983 whtn my Dad passed away.  She stayed on the farm for 5 years after his passing, taking care of the yard, the few cattle and chickens along with the house and business.  In 1988 she moved to Sterling to a townhouse where some of her work lessened, but found herself with a broken hip while on her daily 2 mile walk as a large dog knocked her down.  Another broken hip (on the other side) and some broken ribs slowed her down some, but continued to do what she loved most - teach piano lessons to those who wanted to learn how to play the piano. 

At age 101, she was still teaching piano to three of her great-grandkids, but she just didn't have the "poof" (her words) like she used to have.  Her health

seemed to deteriorate where she was unable to stay alone anymore and needed help getting her meals, more Dr. visits and medications, etc.  When I mentioned for the Hospice people to come talk to her, she said she didn't want Hospice as that meant she was going to die, but I asked if they could at least come & talk to her.  They assured her that many people have Hospice come and help out and sometimes they are even discharged!  The Hospice of the Plains Chaplain along with nurse Tiffany came to visit mom and she liked both of them very much and decided Hospice wasn't so bad after all!   

Hospice of the Plains helped me secure a part-time caregiver that mom loved, and with all the TLC she received, DID get better!  With Tiffany coming to do moms vitals and helping with all our medical questions, etc., and helping the family as much as they helped mom, we knew that we had made the right decision securing Hospice.  

With mom getting so much better, they did discharge her.  However, the last 3 months of her life she moved to an assisted living facility in Sterling and then to a skilled nursing facility the last week of her life with Hospice of the Plains there every step of the way.  

We will never forget the wonderful care mom received while being under Hospice care - before she passed away she requested some of her Memorial money go towards Hospice, which we were able to present them with a sizable amount.  For someone who didn't exactly want Hospice, it turned into a wonderful experience!  Thank you Hospice of the Plains!

-- Sincerely, Her Daughter

Beautiful Music

Watching someone you love in their final days of life is devastating, especially if it’s your child. For those going through this struggle, Hospice of the Plains is there to provide support for both the dying and their family members.

John and Trudie Mendez relied on hospice last year when his daughter and her step-daughter, Ashley Mendez, died of Melanoma, in April, at the age of 22.

“They helped out a whole lot more than what I expected them to do,” Trudie said. “They made it possible for us to do as much as we could with her, things that she wanted to still do; they gave us every opportunity to get her out and do stuff.”

Hospice provides palliative (comfort) care to individuals whose illness is not curable. Pallative care focuses on making the person as comfortable as possible by managing the symptoms of the disease. The goal is to maximize a person’s quality of life.

It is paid for through Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance and the Colorado Indigent Care Program.

Ashley was a student at Northeastern Junior College when she got sick. She fought the cancer for three years, undergoing treatment first at University of Colorado Health Cancer Care Clinic, in Greeley, and then going back and forth for eight months to Cancer Treatment Center of America in Phoeniz, Ariz. When Ashley returned to the hospital in Greeley, about six months before she passed away, she was told there was nothing they could do and her doctors suggested the family get in touch with hospice.

So, they reached out and Deb Neal, a chaplain with hospice, and hospice nurse Tiffany Storch visited the Mendez home to talk to them about what hospice is. At that time John had never heard of it, but their support proved to be invaluable to him and Trudie.

Ashley didn’t need hospice right away, as she was still able to be mobile and function pretty well. It was when she started not being able to get up and walk around, and experiencing lots of falls, that hospice really got involved.

“When they came in it wasn’t like strange people coming in, it was just a part of the family coming to help,” John said.

Ashley grew close with her nurse, Storch, who also got attached to her and fondly recalls the talks the two of them would share together.

The Mendez’s say hospice helped them with everything Ashley needed – a bed, oxygen, bathtub, toilet seats, housing equipment, etc. When she needed things in the middle of the night hospice staff made sure the family knew to call them, not worry about going out and getting it themselves.

One of the things the family appreciated most was hospice’s help in getting Ashley’s doctor, in Greeley, on board with pain management. They were able to get her pain medicine without Ashley having to go back and forth, and were willing to try whatever she needed, including getting her lollipops when she was having difficulty swallowing.

“They were a phone call away every time we needed them, always answered, even in the middle of the night,” Trudie said.

John recalled a truly meaningful time just before Ashley died. When they couldn’t figure out why she wasn’t ready to pass, they realized she wanted to be able to go shopping for her sister who was pregnant at the time. Hospice arranged for Sterling Fire Department to come pick Ashley up from her home and take her to the Dollar Tree to go shopping.

The “cute” firemen, as Ashley called them, even donated some money for her to shop with and Dollar Tree covered the remaining cost.

“It made her day, because she’d always yell at us, “I want to go shopping!” Trudie said, adding that while the baby shower came after Ashley’s passing, her sister made sure to use as many of the items Ashley bought as possible once the baby arrived.

Towards the end of Ashley’s life, Trudie said hospice helped a lot, especially as two families joined together to say goodbye. Hospice staff would show the family what Ashley’s needs were and what they needed to do, and when she passed away they were there to help with funeral arrangements.

“With them telling us what was going to happen to Ashley, it made me a little bit more prepared to let my daughter go,” John said.

“It was a blessing for us to be there,” Neal responded.

Tammy Futch, office manager for the Sterling Hospice of the Plains office, pointed out that the situation is very unique when the person who’s dying is so young versus an older patient whose lived a good life and is ready to go. It presents different grief.

“People think that hospice is for old people, somebody who is terminally ill or life limiting illness in their elder years and that’s not so,” Neal said, noting they just recently helped another family with a child even younger than Ashley who passed away.

John and Trudie are grateful that they were able to keep Ashley at home in her final days, which was what she wanted, but something they know they couldn’t have done without hospice.

“It’s a gift if you’re able to give that gift to your family member, whether it’s 22 or older, that gift that you gave to her, it may have been a gift to her, but it’s your gift that you will always have inside, knowing that you were able to be with her,” Futch said, speaking to John and Trudie.

Even though Ashley is gone now, John and Trudie remain connected with the staff at hospice.

“They’re party of our family,” Trudie said, sharing that their family at hospice will still send text messages and call to check up on them and ask how they’re doing.

After Ashley passed, her nurse, Storch, took time to help keep score at a memorial softball tournament to raise money for funeral expenses. Another softball tournament is being planned for this year, this time to raise money for an NJC scholarship in Ashley’s name.

Hospice of the Plains covers a 10,000 square-mile region, which includes Logan, Morgan, Phillips, Sedgwick, Washington and Yuma counties, plus the eastern border of Weld and northern border of Kit Carson County.

-- Source:  Journal Advocate

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