Changing the way people think about hospice care services

Published 9:00 pm Tuesday, October 31, 2023

By Ayanna Eckblad

November is National Hospice and Palliative Care month, and the staff at St. Croix Hospice in Albert Lea hopes to change some of the misconceptions about this important service.

“People think of [hospice care] as just giving up, and we’re not giving up,” said Chastity Fossum, manager of clinical services at St. Croix Hospice in Albert Lea. “We’re not here to hasten or shorten (the patients’ lives) … But really, it’s focusing on quality of life versus quantity.”

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For three consecutive years, St. Croix was awarded the Quality Connections four rings honor through the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO).

St. Croix Hospice has branches across the Midwest, but its Albert Lea location was added in August 2022. It serves Freeborn, Mower, Steele and Martin counties.

“We have actually grown quite a bit for a brand new branch,” Fossum said. She explained that the Albert Lea facility has many caring staff members, including six nurses, seven CNAs, two chaplains, two social workers, a massage therapist and a music therapist.

“We have our own full-time nurse practitioner, which is not common in hospice,” she said. She also said that St. Croix works to serve patients and their loved ones holistically, spiritually and psychosocially.

“We serve people in multiple places, wherever they call home, so it could be nursing homes, or a private home, hotels,” Fossum said. St. Croix has even brought their services to a campground.

Many of St. Croix’s services are paid for through Medicare, although they can also go through Medicaid or private insurance. Fossum said many of the services they offer are underutilized, and she encourages people to reach out to their local hospice care facility and schedule a consultation to see what they qualify for.

Due to the stigma that surrounds end-of-life care, people tend to avoid looking into hospice and consequently, do not utilize the services that can help them when they need it.

“It’s known that people who are on hospice live longer than those who didn’t get hospice services because we really focus on that comfort measure and symptom management,” Fossum said. Hospice care services also provide support for patients’ families and caregivers.

“It’s an additional support and resource, you know, for their loved ones in such a difficult time,” We have our bereavement team, which is huge,” said Fossum. “After our patients pass, our bereavement team follows the families for 13 months after the times of death so that way we can be there for all those major holidays, anniversaries and stuff like that.”

Fossum considers it an honor to support people at such a critical time in their lives.

“It’s difficult coming into the world, and it can be difficult leaving the world. … When you get to be there earlier and really get to know the family and build that relationship, it’s almost like you become family to them, too,” she said. “You get to celebrate some of their memories and listen to their stories, and I think that’s one of the things that my staff really like is getting that relationship. … We can always learn from other people and their history.”

More information about St. Croix can be found on