When the doctor recommended home-health services and ultimately hospice care, Frank and Linda Feist of Great Bend were leery about the idea.
The Feists weren’t sure they wanted strangers in their home during Frank’s last days. He had cancer.
Nevertheless, they soon realized they needed help. The Feists contacted Golden Belt Home Health & Hospice (GBHH&H) and Linda said it didn’t take long to realize they made the right decision.
GBHH&H is part of the St. Rose Health Center family.
Since November is National Home Care and Hospice Month, Linda wanted to share her family’s experience and recommend professional help to others.
“We had the same feeling other families have,” Linda said. “We weren’t sure we wanted nurses and other people in our home. But we soon learned they would be there only when we wanted or needed them.”
Frank was diagnosed with incurable cancer in November 2012 and died May 23, 2013, at age 67.
Despite the heartache, Frank’s last days were enhanced by the presence of GBHH&H staff members.
“They became acquainted with Frank, did an evaluation and assigned a nurse,” Linda recalled. “The nurse immediately made a personal connection with Frank and those four days of home-health care went so fast. Then eight days of hospice started.
“The nurse did not intrude but was there when we needed her,” Linda continued. “Sometimes it just took a phone call. Other times, they were here within minutes. We couldn’t have managed without them.”
Linda noted that GBHH&H explained the stages of death “so I would know what to watch for. They also showed me how to give Frank certain medications. They were compassionate and never made me feel like I was asking a dumb question or that I was bothering them.”
To illustrate the staff’s compassion, Linda recalled how they handled certain tasks. “For example,” she said, “when they delivered the hospital bed, they set it up quietly and discreetly. And within an hour after Frank died, they got it out of there.
“In addition,” she continued, “they were here within five minutes after Frank’s death. They called the funeral home and the doctor’s office.”
A short time before his death, Frank insisted that he personally visit the funeral home. “That was Frank,” Linda said, smiling. “He made the arrangements, chose the music and picked out what he would wear.”
Just as she wasn’t sure if her husband should make the trip to the funeral home, Linda also was uncertain about another request.
“A week before he died, Frank said he wanted to go to the Odin Store for a ham sandwich and a red beer,” she explained. “That is the last place he ever went.
“And I have to give the nurse credit for making it happen,” Linda added. “He was weak and I was afraid of what could happen. But the nurse encouraged us to let Frank do what he wanted to do. I am grateful that she did.”
Linda shared these anecdotes to demonstrate that terminally ill patients should be allowed to make decisions whenever possible.
Another one of Frank’s requests also was honored. The Feists have three grown children who live in Fort Worth, Hutchinson and Rogers, Ark. “They really wanted to be here but Frank didn’t want our kids and grandkids to watch him die,” Linda said. “So we were on our own and couldn’t have done it without Golden Belt Home Health & Hospice.”
One of Frank’s last requests was that memorials go to GBHH&H.
Since Frank’s death, Linda and her family have benefited from other GBHH&H programs, including its Memories Matter Bereavement Camp for children and its grief support group for her.
“Memories Matter was absolutely fantastic for all of us, and the grief support helped me realize I was not alone,” she said.
Donita Wolf, R.N., GBHH&H manager, noted that many other clients also have appreciated the staff’s compassionate professionalism.
“Hospice is such an important service,” Wolf said. “We hear all the time from our families that it is so helpful to have the expertise of our staff to help them through this difficult process. They say they could not have done it without us.
“Hospice provides high-quality, compassionate care that helps patients and families live as fully as possible,” she added.
GBHH&H has been serving central Kansas families since 1979. For more information about services in Barton, Pawnee, Rush and parts of Stafford counties, call 620-792-8171.
St. Rose specializes in primary care, prevention and wellness. Services include St. Rose Family Medicine, Convenient Care Walk-in Clinic, Great Bend Internists, imaging, infusion clinic, WellnessWorks, one-day surgical procedures, Golden Belt Home Health & Hospice and a comprehensive Specialty Clinic. St. Rose is co-owned by Hays Medical Center and Centura Health.