Celebrating New Year’s Day after a kayak run on the Fox River, I was just about knocked to the floor when I overheard someone say, “I’ve seen some wonderful deaths.” When I recovered from hearing this statement and recognized the sparkling eyes of the nurse who said it, I asked if I could meet with her at another time to learn about “wonderful deaths.”
Several weeks later I met up with Connie Schreiner, the effervescent and popular Director of Health Services at Provena Fox Knoll, an assisted and independent living community located along the Fox River just north of downtown Aurora, IL.
Connie and I talked about assisted living and what a wonderful living arrangement it is for residents who no longer feel safe living at home alone or need assistance with medication management or help with routine tasks that, with age or illness, have become more difficult to manage. Connie and I both liked the idea of being provided three meals a day as well—we considered residency ourselves!
“It is very difficult for a resident to leave the comfort and familiarity of his or her home and make a new home somewhere else. Therefore, we make every effort to ensure that they can live the rest of their lives at Provena Fox Knoll,” said Connie. “When our independent living residents can no longer live independently, they can transition to assisted living. When illness causes a resident’s health to decline, or a resident is diagnosed with a terminal illness, the opportunity exists to contract with palliative or hospice care. It is not uncommon for a resident to tell us that they don’t want to go to the hospital again.” One resident said to Connie, “You know, I’m 95 years old and don’t want to see the inside of a hospital again. If my time comes to be with the Lord, then let it be.”
As Director of Health Services, Connie provides residents and family members with the basics of hospice care, specifically:
• That it is important for the resident and the family be comfortable and in agreement with the decision to elect hospice care.
• That the resident’s primary physician must agree and write an order for hospice care.
• That certain criteria must be met to qualify for hospice.
Connie then recommends they contact Provena Home Care-Hospice for an assessment and the details of care.
Hospice provides lavish support for both the ill person and his or her loved ones. Hospice care includes nurses, nurse aides, social workers, and pastoral care—all who work alongside the family and the Provena Fox Knoll staff in support of the resident. In addition to frequent visits, a hospice nurse is always on call to ensure needed care and comforts are afforded the resident—not only managing physical well-being through medication, but also caring for emotional and spiritual needs. “We currently have a resident on hospice, and her best medicine is a visit from pet therapy. Provena Fox Knoll is blessed to have three women who visit with their dogs. It is truly heartwarming to see the excitement on our residents’ faces when these dogs visit,” Schreiner remarked.
Provena Fox Knoll is licensed by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), as are all assisted living communities. Schreiner explained that IDPH limits the scope of nursing care that she and her staff can provide. However, hospice nurses are authorized to provide care that is beyond the scope of their assisted living licensure. Additionally, most of the hospice costs are covered by Medicare.
Connie remarked, “The three essential elements to provide a wonderful death are the collaborative efforts of the family, the assisted living staff, and the hospice personnel—which then allows our residents to stay in their home environment with friends and familiar caregivers and peacefully live out the end of their lives. I have been part of several end-of-life decisions with our residents. I am richer for it and tremendously grateful to have shared with the resident and his or her family, some wonderful deaths.”
More information on Provena Fox Knoll can be accessed at www.provena.org/foxknoll and Provena Home Care at www.provena.org/homecare.