Jerry Klaverweiden, a former United Methodist minister, recently took over as administrator of Helping Hands Hospice. The local hospice provides free care and support to the dying and their loved ones in Quay County and surrounding areas.
“The central core of what hospice is all about is ‘No human should have to die alone in pain,’” said Klaverweiden. “We use a multitude of ways to deal with pain. We are able to keep our clients relatively pain-free and ensure that their fear is diminished. Our staff members try to show our clients that death is a natural part of living.”
The Helping Hands staff consists of seven paid employees and 20-30 volunteers. Diana Beck, R.N., is the director of nursing. She said approaching death can awaken a lifetime of unresolved issues for the dying person and family members. “Our primary task is to prepare our clients for death,” said Beck. “and we continue to work with the family members for one year after the client has died. We work with all issues surrounding death.” Beck said fathers who are dying often must come to grips with not having let their loved ones know how much they really loved them during their lifetime. “It is not easy for a man to say, ‘I love you,’” said Beck, “Facing death, a person can live a lifetime in 30 minutes. People can be altered in a short period of time. There is healing in tears.”
Beck said the hospice staff is able to contact distant family members to relay last messages from the dying. She said death is often harder on the family members. “I worked with one male client who did not want to see his wife crying, but the wife really needed to cry. We were able to tell her that if she needed to cry to go ahead and cry,” said Beck. “We also were able to let the man know how important it was for him to allow his wife to cry.”
Beck said hospice volunteers teach the dying how to die.
“We walk them through and kind of practice what happens in the dying process so they don’t panic,” she said. “If a person has decided to die at home we teach the family not to panic if, for instance, they see their loved one has stopped breathing.” When it comes to terminally-ill children, Beck said the dying process is usually harder on the family members. “It’s easier for the dying child because children have fewer pre-conceived notions as to what death is,” she said. “They are not as afraid. Often, the children help the parents and the staff.”
The issues dying people are concerned with are varied and often touch family members. Klaverweiden recalls one dying woman’s wish that no other woman touch her prized blue china collection. “She said she didn’t care if her husband remarried, but she did not want another woman touching her china, said Klaverweiden. “I suggested she give her china to her daughter. Her daughter became emotionally unglued when her mother offered her the china. The daughter was not coming to grips with having to give up her mother.” Klaverweiden said that Helping Hands is always in need of volunteers. “We want volunteers to come and learn with us and help us,” he said. “We will find something for them to do, and we can train them how to visit with individuals.”