Avera Medical Minute: The gift of Hospice care

Published: Jul. 25, 2022 at 10:34 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Planning for end-of-life care can be overwhelming.

Avera’s approach to hospice care is multifaceted and aims to offer options for both patients and family members navigating the final moments of life.

Through Avera’s Dougherty Hospice House, patients can receive 24-hour care, in the facility on the Avera Prince of Peace Campus in Sioux Falls.

There’s also an option for in-home hospice care, through the Avera @ Home program.

Both options offer skilled professionals and caregivers to offer support for both the patient and their families.

Mark Shlanta was an Avera hospice patient.

He lived a full life and he was surrounded by family up until the very end.

That was a blessing that Mark’s wife Peggy says was afforded to them through Avera @ Home Hospice care.

“We worked real hard on keeping focused on living our lives, we went on a lot of trips and put our family first and had a lot of love in our lives. And made sure we got everything done that we wanted to get done,” said Peggy Shlanta.

Mark was diagnosed with cancer in the fall of 2019.

Peggy says that diagnosis came with the reality that hospice care would be inevitable, and by January of this year, Mark’s treatment stopped, and the family turned to hospice.

“It was a learning experience for us. we learned the possibility of going to Dougherty [Hospice House] and the possibility of going home, the pros and cons of those, and how they actually work together so that the person receiving hospice can have that dignity of making decisions for themselves as long as they possibly can,” said Peggy.

Mark initially decided to stay at Avera’s Dougherty Hospice House, where he received around-the-clock care.

“Even though I felt that I could handle things better here and that I wanted him home, he felt very strongly that he didn’t want to be a burden for us, and he wanted to go to Dougherty Hospice House,” said Peggy. “And as it turns out, it was a really good decision.”

Dr. Andrew Burchett oversaw Mark’s care at Dougherty.

“We are a large team who approaches the end-of-life care from a very high-level perspective being directed by a physician, a nurse, volunteers, chaplains, social work case management, we also have music therapy. So as you can understand from the team members, we are a very comprehensive approach to end-of-life care,” said Dr. Burchett.

Doctors were able to get Mark’s pain and nausea under control, and after a week at Dougherty, he got the all-clear to head home for hospice care.

“Being home was an absolute blessing,” said Peggy. “We were home for about three weeks and my sons say that it was his victory lap because he was able to see a lot of people.”

The final weeks of Mark’s life were full of family, friends, and memories that Peggy now clings to.

She says she had confidence caring for mark in their home knowing that she had support from the Avera Hospice team.

“One thing that really took a lot of mental burden away from me was that hospice will deliver everything to your house,” she said.

The Shlantas also had help from Alice Robbins, an Avera Hospice Nurse.

“It was very well organized and I knew we were meeting his needs and he seemed like he was comfortable when I was ready to go,” said Robbins.

Those final moments in hospice, spent in the comfort of their own home, gave the Shlantas and their family and friends the peace and intimate time needed to celebrate Mark’s life and say goodbye.

“It was just very valuable time to have those people that he loved through his whole life around him at the end,” said Peggy.

Dr. Burchett says that is the overarching mission of the Avera Hospice care team.

“At the end of life, we often see that family and friends caring for the patient really bear the burden of the disease or the end-of-life care, and really what hospice aims to do is offload a lot of that and allow the family members to be family rather than the caregiver,” he said.

For more information on Hospice Care, visit www.Avera.org/MedicalMinute

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