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Hospice program celebrates 30 years

A program offered to patients in their final stages of life has existed with Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea for 30 years. 

The hospice program provides services to patients and their families, when a patient has a life expectancy of six months or less, said Renae Meaney, hospice supervisor with both the Albert Lea and Austin locations of Mayo Clinic Health System.

Meaney said referrals for the program come from many sources, including doctor’s offices, nursing homes and other facilities.

The program has grown from being primarily for patients with cancer diagnoses to being a program that serves patients with other diagnoses, such as heart failure, kidney failure, advanced dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, to name a few.

Meaney said once someone is referred to hospice, a referral visit is conducted, which looks at the condition of the patient, as well as the family’s needs and wishes.

Hospice provides a team approach, which consists of the patient’s primary care physician, a medical director, nurses, aides, social workers, a chaplain, massage therapists and trained volunteers.

Each provides different services, looking at the physiological, sociological, educational, spiritual and emotional needs of the patient and family.

The program also provides any equipment that would be needed in the home, including a hospital bed, oxygen, shower benches and other equipment.

According to the Mayo Clinic Health System website, hospice provides the following services:

• Care of the patient and family, which includes pain and symptom management.

• Support services and case management for cancer and advanced disease patients and their families.

• Bereavement and counseling support to assist family members in the grieving process.

• Education and presentations to inform community members about hospice care, pain and symptom management, grieving and bereavement.

Meaney said there are grief groups that meet a couple times a year, and a weekly coffee group that meets weekly.

The program has two major fundraisers, including one in September and one in December.

On the first Sunday in December, the annual Set Memories Aglow hospice fundraiser is slated, when people can buy a Christmas tree light bulb in memory of someone.

Hospice also provides two memorial services throughout the year — one in the fall and one in the spring — to acknowledge patients who have died in the previous months.

Meaney encouraged people to call if they were interested in finding out more about the program.

“I love what I do,” she said. “It’s truly trying to make the end of life and the end days for patients and families the best that they can be. It’s rewarding — to help them through that.”

Meaney said the program is always open for new volunteers that work based on their own availability. They could play several different roles.

To find out more about the hospice program and the upcoming Set Memories Aglow event, Meaney can be reached in Albert Lea at 377-6393.