Hospice celebrates 30th anniversary

By Xiomara Levsen, The JOURNAL


Hospice of Washington County is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.

There is a lot of history people don?t generally know about this group. Thirty years ago a group of nurses who worked regular full-time jobs decided to start Hospice of Washington County as a committee and worked with hospice patients after they were done working their regular job, executive director Katrina Altenhofen said.

The fact that Hospice of Washington County has been in service for 30 years is amazing to its current staff.

?It?s overwhelming at times,? Altenhofen said. ?It?s exciting and it?s intimidating, because it?s 30 years of history here. I want to make sure we have 30 years more of history here.?

Hospice of Washington County is a nonprofit organization operated in Washington with 15 staff members. They serve a seven-county area that includes Jefferson, Henry, Louisa, Muscatine, Washington, Keokuk and Johnson counties.

?Our primary area is mainly in the Washington community itself and Washington County and I would say next comes Louisa County with the Columbus Junction and then the Fairfield area is another area we have quite a few patients we see,? Altenhofen said.

They will see patients in long-term care facilities, hospitals and at home.

?Whatever that patient and family wishes for their end of life, we try to make sure that happens to the best of our ability,? Altenhofen added.

They have several fundraisers a year, so they don?t have to turn patients away who can?t afford to pay for the services they receive from Hospice of Washington County.

?We make sure that if we have individuals that don?t have any type of insurance or even if they do ? we never send a bill to the family,? Altenhofen said. ?The family is never charged for our services and that?s from the nursing [to] the home health aide [to] the massage therapists, the music therapists ? every part of the team.?

To celebrate its 30th anniversary, Hospice of Washington County has several events scheduled throughout this year.

They kicked off with the annual soup supper in January, marketing director Robyn Harvey-Smith said.

?We have our Compassionate Heart Luncheon [on Feb. 14], which kind of has a new twist to it this year,? she said. ?We?re kind of combining the memorial service we used to do in November with the Compassionate Heart Luncheon.?

March 23, a spring trivia night will be held at the Washington County 4-H building in Washington, and in April volunteer month will be celebrated.

?We have a week ? I believe its the 15th -21st that we celebrate volunteers,? Harvey-Smith said. ?We also do a dinner in which we celebrate them.?

The dinner will be held April 25, she added. Hospice of Washington County currently has 40 volunteers working for them and they are all recognized for their contribution whether it?s washing dishes at the soup supper to reading to a patient, she added.

In May, nurses week is celebrated.

?That starts on the sixth and culminates on the 12th,? Harvey-Smith said. ?Florence Nightingale?s birthday is actually May 12, but we celebrate the nurses throughout the week and hospice wouldn?t be here without our nurses. Let?s just be honest about that ? the nurses are the backbone of our organization. They are out there in the trenches working and we just like to celebrate them.?

Other events scheduled include an Alive After Five May 22, the Short Peterseim Memorial Golf Tournament on June 22 at the Kalona Golf course and the 16th annual quilt raffle at the craft fair in September.

There are other events in the works, but they haven?t been scheduled yet, Harvey-Smith said.

Sheri Dusenbery is a volunteer at Hospice of Washington County. She has volunteered there for 2 1/2 years and wanted to give back to the community. She said she thought Hospice of Washington County was the perfect place to do this at.

?The time has gone quick,? Dusenbery said. ?I have done things from going and reading the Bible to someone to going and watching the Cubs play or a baseball game to going and just sitting with a family.?

A lot of the patients just want someone to sit there and be with them, she added.

?It?s not anything major,? Dusenbery said. ?It?s just letting them know that they?re not there alone.?