Rubber ducky fundraiser supports hospice care
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — If not for the visiting hospice team, Beverly George wouldn’t have been able to keep her parents at home during their final days.
“It means everything,” George said, of what the caregivers provided her family. “They are truly God-sent angels.”
For her mom and dad, who died about eight years apart, George said the hospice workers brought them peace. For her, in addition to the medical support, they gave her a chance to go to the grocery story or just take a drive and a much needed break.
Through the Hospice and Palliative Care program, Northwest Colorado Health is the only hospice provider in Routt County. The team consists of doctors, nurses and nurses’ aides, physical and occupational therapists, social workers, a spiritual care and bereavement coordinator and volunteers.
On Aug. 25, Northwest Colorado Health will host the annual Rubber Ducky Race to raise funds for the program. NWCH provides care regardless of ability to pay, and while some health insurance includes hospice benefits, many costs — such as medications, oxygen, wheelchairs and bereavement support — are not.
George’s parents, Vera and Otto “Punch” George, wished to remain at their ranch between Phippsburg and Yampa where they spent more than 60 years of their life. When her mom died, the hospice team gave her dad confidence as a caregiver, George said. He was more comfortable with everything he needed to do, because he knew the hospice team was also there.
As her dad’s health declined, “They were absolutely amazing. They would just step up to the plate at any given moment. I could call at the drop of a hat and someone would be here.”
Adrienne Hearne, a Home Health and Hospice social worker with NWCH, described the many things their team offers to patients and their families.
“We work with families facing the loss of a loved one. We work with patients facing mortality. We make sure families have the resources they need.”
They facilitate last wishes. The team went above and beyond to accommodate her father’s requests, George said.
They communicate with estranged family members and help patients reconcile with the past.
They talk about fears, anxiety, finding meaning in the face of death and saying goodbye. And they listen.
“We make things as peaceful and comfortable for patients and family members as possible in the last days,” Hearne said.
In addition to comfort, the hospice team is there every step of the way to prepare patients and families medically for “what the dying process looks like, what they will see and what that means for what’s ahead,” she said, thus “empowering them with knowledge.”
George said in addition to being incredibly kind, open and supportive, the team was “so educated.”
However, “There are often no words you can say to make it better,” Hearne said. “The most valuable thing we offer is our presence — being there with them in that vulnerable time of life.”
Hearne calls it an honor to work with patients and families during their time of need.
She also recognizes value, mystery and a certain beauty in the dying process. “We know all of us will face mortality. It’s just a matter of when.”
George said she cannot praise the hospice workers enough.
The Northwest Colorado Health Rubber Ducky Race will be held at 11 a.m. on Aug. 25 at Old Town Hot Springs, 136 South Lincoln Ave. Tickets are $10. Because of river closures and conditions, the event location was modified so ducks can race down the water slides. Entry to the Old Town Hot Springs will be free to race spectators. There will be $3,000 in cash prizes including a $1,000 grand prize.
Entrants don’t need to be present to win. Tickets are available at northwestcoloradohealth.org/rubberducky. They also can be purchased at Northwest Colorado Health, Yampa Valley Bank or the Steamboat Springs Chamber. Volunteers are needed to help with pre-event ticket sales and other aspects of the event. For more information, call 970-871-7609.
To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.
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