Avera Medical Minute: Family thankful for 'Avera @Home' Hospice in Mitchell

The thought of dying, or losing a loved one, is not easy to digest.

But 'Avera @Home' Hospice services exist to make that transition as easy and as comfortable as possible. One rural South Dakota family is thankful for moments together until the very end.

"Raised three girls in small town South Dakota... was married to my father for several years while he was in the service. was a beautician her entire life, mostly out of her own home so she could care for us girls," Terri Claussen said.

Terri Claussen and Debbie Brown are two of those daughters.

"My mom had been dealing with COPD for several years... and at that time, she had an acute episode that took her to the emergency room. 04 Because she wasn't showing any signs of an infection, there wasn't reason to admit her. So they treated her in the emergency room and treated her with steroids, nebulizers and IV's and discharged her back at home," Claussen said.

They didn't want their mother living on her own so they moved her in with Debbie. But, she needed more care.

"I started reaching out to various resources attempting to find out if there was someone who could do a home visit or tele-health to possibly regulate her medications without having to take her to the doctor all the time. It was so difficult and taxing on her, given her breathing status," Claussen said.

That's when all resources pointed to Avera @Home Hospice in the Spring of 2017.

"I will readily admit, even working in healthcare, I thought hospice was very near end of life. So I was quite surprised by the recommendations that we were getting from those resources to consult with hospice. Although my mom had a chronic disease, we did not feel she was near the end of her life," Claussen said.

"We provide, not only the nursing care, CNA care for bathing, light housekeeping if needed, helping out the family a little bit, even just a back rub or foot rub or putting lotion on their legs," Nurse Case Manager Jennifer Eckerman said. "Medication assistance, making sure you're comfortable, breathing and pain are under control, you're sleeping OK, eating OK, don't have nausea."

Case manager Jennifer Eckerman and the entire Avera @Home Hospice team was there with support: physically, medically and spiritually.

"I never would have dreamed we'd have 18 months with Karon. Once we simplified her medicine, her nebulizer regimen, with the help of her family she didn't have to make those trips to the doctors, didn't have to cook for herself, do her laundry. She thrived, she flourished and got to enjoy every minute of her time and it was wonderful to see," Eckerman said.

"They really, to our belief, prepared mom for death the best anyone could. My mom was certainly ready for death," Claussen said.

Karon died nine days after her health took a turn for the worse.

"She got to go how she wanted to go and without them, I don't think we would have been able to keep her at my house until the end. So I'm very appreciative of them and very thankful they were there for us," Debbie said.

"I don't know if her life would have been as long or as fruitful as it was had we not had the services of Hospice helping us along the way," Claussen said.

Hospice through Avera is a Medicare Benefit so patients are not charged for its services. To learn more about Avera @Home to see if you, or a loved one, would qualify, visit Avera.org.