Author Archives: Jennifer Siech

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Cedar Valley Hospice Makes the Difference

What makes a good death? This is a question that many people prefer not to think about in their day-to-day lives.

The answer can vary from person to person, depending on individual personalities, interests and desires. However, for most people, a good death is quite simple. It means being physically comfortable, at peace in your own home surroundings, with your loved ones making memories until the very end. That is the goal of hospice care.

Amy Hamilton Kangas of Waverly has experienced first-hand how hospice made the difference for two of her greatest role models – her grandmother and her mother.

When Amy’s mother, Claudia, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease at 53, it was a shock for their family. Amy and her sister were in their 20s and their brother a junior in high school.

“It was very hard to come to grips with,” says Amy. “Mom always was the organizer, planner and cook so I worried about my dad and my siblings. I wondered what things my brother wouldn’t know/learn because my mom wasn’t able to tell him or teach him.”

Living an hour away at the time, she did her best to help and support her family but in 2004, Amy moved back because the disease was progressing. In 2005, her mom moved into a care facility where she could have around-the-clock care if needed.

Meanwhile, Amy’s grandmother, Lois, also had declining health. Because Amy’s mother was sick herself, she and her sister were Lois’ caregivers.

But when her grandmother needed more hands-on care, they had a discussion about getting help.

“I remember grandma not even hesitating,” said Amy. “She said, ‘Well, then we’re going to have Cedar Valley Hospice.’ She raved about how wonderful their care was when her nephew was at the Hospice Home. She knew that they took care of the entire family and she wanted to lessen the burden on us…and they did.”

Lois was adamant that she wanted to be served at her home. After she was admitted to the Cedar Valley Hospice program, she was assigned her own team of experts who would manage her care at her own residence and provide support for Amy and her sister. They all soon realized that hospice isn’t about dying but living as fully as possible despite old age or a life-limiting illness.

“They provided everything she could have ever needed – medicine, baths, conversation, knowledge,” said Amy. “Plus, she didn’t need us there all the time, so we all could live a little too and have our own privacy.”

For months Cedar Valley Hospice cared for her “like one of their own,” Amy added. “And I knew that I could call anytime and that they would have the answers. Their respite care at the Hospice Home also enabled me to be able to go to work.”

When Lois’ health began to fail after a fall, Cedar Valley Hospice adjusted her care and monitored it – making for a smooth transition into her final stages. In 2009, Lois died at home, peacefully and comfortably.

Eight years later, Amy found herself facing a similar situation, yet this time it was her mother. The Alzheimer’s disease was fully taking over the body, so much so that Amy had received a call to meet her dad at the Emergency Room. Her mother had endured a couple seizures and had a serious infection. This time, it was Amy’s turn to not hesitate.

“We’re going to call Cedar Valley,” Amy said. “Dad wanted to believe that Mom would get better, but she wasn’t responding to the antibiotics, and she hadn’t been fully able to communicate since 2007. So many years ago, I had cried and argued with God. At that point, I just wanted her to be comfortable.”

The doctor agreed with their decision and on Dec. 22, 2015, Cedar Valley Hospice welcomed her into their Hospice Home.

“For us, it was a place where we could all be together and people could come see my mom and dad,” said Amy. “The timing also worked in our favor, because it was Christmas and all of us kids have jobs in education so the home was a place where we could all be together.”

Amy remembers the experience fondly. Trees were decorated in every room, Christmas cookies overflowed and they often enjoyed family dinners in the kitchen/ family room area.

“It was a place that felt like home,” Amy said. “I could use their Solace Room for some quiet time and my kids had places they, too, could go.”

Amy also appreciated that during the holiday, they could still manage their routine and not have to worry.

“I could come home at night and sleep knowing everyone was being taken care of,” she said. “Their staff was so attentive to our needs – all the way up until the end. The last night they even made it possible for my dad to lay down with my mom until she passed. It was very special.”

Although Amy has lost two matriarchs of her family, she was so grateful to have had Cedar Valley Hospice by her family’s side. Hospice enables moments and memories that would otherwise not occur. It is the quality of these final moments, after all, that defines a “good death.”

Cedar Valley Hospice offers hospice care and palliative care programs that help those facing a life-limiting illness at various stages. It’s never too soon to call 319.352.1274 or visit and find out how our experts can help.

Written by: Stephanie Abel-Hohenzy

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Know Your Options!

During the month of November, we worked hard to educate as many people as possible about hospice, palliative care and the choices available when it comes to end-of-life care. You may have seen our posters hanging up or our display at your local Casey’s General Store. We hope this encouraged you to talk with your families this holiday season about the care they would want at the end of life. Cedar Valley Hospice wants you to “Know Your Options” before you are faced with serious healthcare choices. Having this conversation is one of the most important gifts you can give to your family, and the holiday season is the best time to talk about it.

There are so many benefits when you call Cedar Valley Hospice. Enrolling in hospice is choosing to focus on quality of life and focused care. According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, people enrolled in hospice actually live, on average, 29 days longer than those not enrolled. Support is provided is provided to the patient and also the entire family. Our staff is able to comfort families and educate them on the different stages the patient will go through as well as provide the patient with the necessary medications and equipment they may need.

Time we share with our loved ones is never enough. It is so important to become educated today so when the time comes to make critical decisions, you already know your options. By calling Cedar Valley Hospice, you know you will get your questions answered by the experts – who will also help you live each moment of life to the fullest.

Hospice Myth vs Fact2


Moments that Matter – Michelle Walden, RN, CHPN – Admissions Nurse

Michelle Walden

Describe your position with Cedar Valley Hospice:

As an admissions nurse, I meet with patients and families along with a social worker to discuss hospice criteria and admit patients to our program. It involves meeting with patients and families throughout our service area and offering education and support about terminal illnesses.

How does it support the mission of Cedar Valley Hospice?

Cedar Valley Hospice provides the leadership and sets the standard for excellence in delivering comprehensive palliative and end-of-life care to patients and services to those that grieve. I believe my position is important because I provide that initial information and set the foundation for the primary care staff that will be caring for those patients on a day-to-day basis.

What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job? Why?

I am always meeting new people. I think the best part of my job is knowing that I am helping others and seeing the relief from patients and family members when they realize they are not alone in this end-of-life journey.

Share a memorable story of a family or patient that has impacted you:

I had a patient when I was a home care nurse that really touched my heart. He was a physician before retiring and I had worked with him years ago. Honestly, I was always intimidated by him. When my visits first started with him as a patient he was trying to give me his own assessment. He would tell me his vital signs before I had a chance to do his assessment. One day, he called because he wanted to tell me he didn’t feel right. I told him I would stop over when I was done at a local nursing home. He told me, “You don’t have to do that.’ I remember telling him that I was going to be gone the next day through the weekend and I needed to know he was okay before I left town. Before I left his house that day, he took my hand and thanked me. I would have done the same thing for any of my patients, but the visit that day created a special rapport between us, which allowed him to fully trust me.

In your opinion, what makes Cedar Valley Hospice stand out above the other hospice providers in the area?

I believe that Cedar Valley Hospice patients are not just a number. Our staff truly cares for each and every one of our patients. I worked with another hospice in the Des Moines area as they cared for both of my parents. It was very difficult for me to stop being a hospice nurse and just be a daughter. I had to try to not question why they did things the way they did them, because it wasn’t the Cedar Valley Hospice way. I have helped patients that have had family members with other hospices and they have shared how much better the care is with Cedar Valley Hospice.


Vet grateful for compassionate care, service to his family

Flag w DillBy Stephanie Abel-Hohenzy

At Cedar Valley Hospice, patients and families receive compassionate and quality care from a team of experts. Each patient’s needs are different, so are their stories. This is especially true for those who have served in the military. Our veterans have done everything asked of them in their mission to serve our country and now as many of them face the end of life, it is our duty to treat them like the heroes they are and care for them with the dignity they deserve.

Kevin Dill, a Waterloo resident and Marine and Army veteran, saw this firsthand when his father, Jack, also a vet, was on our program.

“The day my father passed, I could see in his eyes that he was at peace,” said Dill. “Just watching the unconditional love this group of ladies from Cedar Valley Hospice showed my father was amazing.”

Did you know at Cedar Valley Hospice each patient receives their own personal care team to manage their illness and symptoms? The team includes: a doctor, registered nurse, aide, social worker, spiritual care counselor, music therapist, volunteer and grief counselor. Together they provide 1-on-1 care wherever the patient may reside – at home, a facility or a hospital.

“All their employees have servant hearts,” added Dill. “They never seemed tired or frustrated, regardless of what family they were helping that day.”

Beyond the care and attention, it is also amazing how the perfect quilt makes its way into the hands of a Cedar Valley Hospice patient and how much joy those quilts bring to someone who is ill and to their families that care for them. Many people are surprised to learn 25 percent of all deaths in the United States are Veterans.  A part of honoring veterans is that they each receive a special patriotic lap quilt to keep, made and donated by groups of quilters and volunteers.

Because these heroic Americans deserve recognition for their military service – particularly at the end of life’s journey – Cedar Valley Hospice further made the commitment to become a partner of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s “We Honor Veterans” program.

At Cedar Valley Hospice, a patient’s military service is appreciated and recognized. We are there to listen and support. We can also help connect people with the Veteran’s Administration for benefits or services if eligible. Locally, Dill is just the right contact person for this. As executive director of the Black Hawk County Commission of Veterans Affairs, he makes it his duty to ensure that every veteran is reached so they can receive the benefits they are entitled to. For him, service has always been a way of life, so when it was paid forward with his experience at Cedar Valley Hospice, it has stuck with him.

“The support we received as a family with Cedar Valley Hospice was like no other,” said Dill. “They are really special people.”

For more information on how Cedar Valley Hospice’s team of experts can help your loved one, call 319.272.2002.