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The end @ home

By Staff | Dec 2, 2016

Anne Friesner had doubts. “I’m not the right person for this story,”?she said.

“You are exactly the right person,”?Avera Holy Family communications coordinator Jen Hough said. “You’re always singing the praises of our hospice.”

More than one million times in 2015, families turned to hospice care for dying loved ones. Hospice is now involved in 44.6 percent of American deaths, according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

Hospice to take

the sting out of loss

Friesner’s connection with hospice at Avera Holy Family Hospital began in 2005 when her father, Harry Anderson of Estherville, became ill.

“Dad was in his late eighties and had always been hardworking, a grizzly bear type. He never wanted to be in the nursing home,”?Friesner said.

The family could not care for Harry on their own once he required assistance with eating and other activities of daily life.

Three times per week nursing assistants came in, while Hagedorn came in once per week.

“I loved him,”?Hagedorn said.

Friesner said, “Hospice would bathe my father, dress, give him his meds, and attend to his personal needs, talking to him when he got really down.”?

Friesner said, “Carol [Hagedorn] got up in the bed with him and gave him a big hug.”

“The hospice team became family to us,”?Friesner said. “We absolutely learned to love hospice. They helped my dad, but they also helped my mom, who was not capable of doing it all for dad. “

At the end of Anderson’s life, he made a trip to the hospital for symptom control.

“They took care of his physical and emotional needs, and let him know he was loved and cared for. He could have peace at the end, and the family could take turns sitting with him,”?Friesner said.

At 6:30 a.m., Jan. 31, 2006, it was Anne’s turn to sit with her father.

“I?could feel he was leaving this world, and then, with one breath, he did,”?Friesner said.

Hospice was there and helped the family with the grief of losing Harry.

Death as part of life

Hospice originated in the 1950s in the U.K., and came to the United States in the 1970s.

The concept of hospice was to allow patients to experience death as a more natural part of the life cycle. Hospice, according to Carol Hagedorn of Avera@Home, “allows us to take something scary and negative, and make it a more natural process.”?

The Friesner family’s connection was not done. Friesner’s mother, Frances was to the point she could not live alone at home any longer. At age 92, Frances moved into the apartments on the campus of Good Samaritan, then into the nursing care unit for five months.

“Mom only ended up spending three weeks on hospice,”?Friesner said. “She had the same loving care and we had the privilege of hospice nurses helping us.”

Frances died at Good Sam March 25, 2012.

Friesner, who was an only child, was grateful to have husband, Virgil, at her side as her parents’ lives came to an end.


“Then Virgil got sick for quite awhile toward the end of 2014,”?Friesner said.

Virgil and Anne agreed it was time for a change in order to make their lives easier, and they moved intoi Homestead. This lasted about two months.

“I’m so blessed,”?Friesner said through a few tears. Friesner praised her family for standing with her through their losses.

“I?have such good kids, the best family in the whole world,”?Friesner said.

Virgil had an ileostomy and bag that needed to be changed, and he lost control of his legs, requiring the home to be equipped with a Hoyer lift to get him from bed to chair.

The family was told Virgil had six months or fewer to live, and the family called in hospice care.

“Virgil had a catheter, and when it would come loose, it didn’t matter if it was the middle of the night, we could call and the nurses would support us,”?Friesner said.

Sister Patrick, the now-retired mission services director at Avera Holy Family, checked in on the Friesner family often.

“She came over to see how we were spiritually,”?Friesner said.

The moment came, near the end of Virgil’s life, in which Anne talked to her daughter, Annette.

“You know, I just don’t know if I can stand to see dad die at home. I’d see the spot in the house, and I’d have the memories.”?

Annette said she had not considered that, and told her mother, “Let’s see what we can do.”?

Hospice transported Virgil to the hospital, where he had less than 24 hours remaining.

Friesner said, “God allowed the family to see Virgil’s passing.”?

Friesner said, “We have had such loving kindness, caring, helping, no matter when we called, they were willing to come, do, and support us. We love them!”?Friesner said.

“I have one family in a million,”?Friesner said. “God has revealed to me how much I am blessed.”?

Friesner’s children are Greg Friesner, of Sioux Falls, a chiropractor attending school to go into prison ministry; Cheryl Heyer of Rogers, Minn., Annette Schmaus of Estherville, and Mark Friesner of Estherville.

Avera Holy Family Hospice and Home Health Care are together as Avera@Home. See more in today’s editorial on page 4.