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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


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.

Patriotic Nights and Supporting the Needs of Cedar Valley Hospice

Patriotic Nights WebWith our sixth annual Nights fundraiser coming up April 1, it’s important to talk about the financial needs of Cedar Valley Hospice and how you can support the agency. Since 1979, Cedar Valley Hospice has been the leader in end-of-life care throughout Northeast Iowa. Even with a growing number of hospices, last year we served nearly 1000 patients along with hundreds more through our grief services and other non-funded programs such as our LINK palliative care and Cedar AIDS Support System (CASS). As a not-for-profit organization, our ability to provide such outstanding services is dependent on financial support from the communities we serve. Our development team and a group of dedicated volunteers on our Friends of Cedar Valley Hospice committee make sure we get the financial support we need. They are responsible for making sure resources are available to cover the gap between needed finances to care for patients and families and the amount of money we are reimbursed by traditional funding sources.

Cedar Valley Hospice also cares for non-insured or under-insured patients which require partial to full coverage by outside sources of income. Our mission is to serve anyone, regardless of their ability to pay. Many donors who support Cedar Valley Hospice designate their gifts to these patients specifically because they recognize the importance of our care being available to anyone in need.

Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance provide the bulk of monies needed to cover patient care. It’s easy to recognize the basic financial needs that cover salaries and other clinical fees, but funds to cover additional services also need to be secured. These additional services include specialized grief services for children and adults, LINK Palliative Care, CASS and the Cedar Valley Hospice Home. Although these programs are not required by mandated hospice regulations, we feel they are necessary to insure the best in overall care of patients and families who choose Cedar Valley Hospice.

When you contribute to Cedar Valley Hospice it is important to know that your gifts support a not-for-profit organization whose primary goal is to provide exceptional care to anyone in need.

There are many ways to give, and we want to provide each of our donors with the vehicle to donate to the area within Cedar Valley Hospice that appeals to them the most. Gifts can always be designated to a specific program or site location if the donor chooses, and our development staff is available to work with individuals to provide giving opportunities that are mutually beneficial.

Ways to Give:

  • When you shop Amazon – choose Amazon Smile for Cedar Valley Hospice
  • Outright gifts of cash
  • Monthly or quarterly electronic funds transfer
  • Pledges (paid out over a period of time)
  • Memorials and Honorariums
  • Corporate Sponsorships
  • Employee matching gift programs
  • In-kind gifts of services or tangible items
  • Real estate gifts
  • Retirement plan gifts
  • Stock transfers
  • Planned gifts such as bequests or life insurance gifts
  • Charitable Remainder Annuity Trusts
  • Charitable Remainder Unitrusts
  • Charitable Gift Annuities
  • Charitable Lead Trust
  • Hosting a third party fundraiser
  • Supporting Cedar Valley Hospice fundraising events

Our next major fundraiser will be held on Friday, April 1 starting at 6 p.m. at Park Place Event Centre in Cedar Falls. Patriotic Nights: Saluting the Mission of Cedar Valley Hospice is a fun way to assist the fundraising efforts of Cedar Valley Hospice. Enjoy a casual night of appetizers, drinks, dinner, silent auction and raffle, short program and dueling pianos! For more information, or to reserve your seat, click here!

For further information on donating to Cedar Valley Hospice, please contact Chris Olds, Development Director, at 319-272-2002 or

Being a Healthy Caregiver

“According to Mayo Clinic, unpaid caregivers provide 80 percent of long-term care in the United States.”

Caring for a loved one is rewarding, but not easy and comes with many types of stress. It’s normal to feel anxious, exhausted or sad. If you are a working caregiver, life can be more difficult trying to balance a job along with your caregiving responsibilities. Many times even if you are at work and not physically there, your thoughts are still on your loved one’s situation.

The demands of caring for someone can be overwhelming and your own health can suffer when you are more focused on your loved one. Remember, if you don’t take care of yourself, sooner or later you won’t be of much use to anyone else.

With the New Year approaching, this is a great time to set goals and resolutions. If you are a caregiver, set goals for yourself that will help you live a healthier, more balanced lifestyle. One of the first things to do is understand the signs of caregiver stress.

A few signs of caregiver stress are:

  • Feeling overwhelmed or constantly worried
  • Feeling tired most of the time
  • Becoming easily irritated or angry
  • Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • Feeling sad
  • Having frequent headaches, bodily pain or other physical problems

Often times caregivers do not ask for help and try to manage everything alone. However, it is important to let others know when you need help or could use a break. The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization shares a few helpful tips and strategies to deal with caregiver stress:

  • Work options. If you are a working caregiver, it is important to discuss your needs with your employer. Telecommuting, flextime, job sharing or rearranging your schedule can help to minimize stress. Increasingly, companies are offering resource materials, counseling and training programs to help caregivers.
  • Ask others to help. You can and should ask other family members to share in caregiving. A family conference can help sort out everyone’s tasks and schedules. Friends and neighbors also may be willing to provide transportation, respite care and help with shopping, household chores or repairs.
  • Take a break from caregiving. Even if it is only 15 or 20 minutes a day, make sure you do something just for you.
  • Exercise. Whether it is a 20 minute walk outside or taking a yoga class, exercising is a great way to take a break, decease stress and enhance your energy.
  • Eat healthy. Your health and nutrition is just as important as your loved ones, so take the time to eat well. If you are having difficulty doing that, ask for help and get others to fix meals for you.
  • Join a support group. Surround yourself with others who understand what you may be going through. A support group can also be a good place to create meaningful friendships.
  • Respite care. If your loved one is on the Cedar Valley Hospice program, respite care at the Hospice Home is an option. Respite care is available at the Hospice Home and all contracted hospitals, as a short-term stay of three to five days. This is available to allow caregivers a temporary break and time to relax.

It is important to take advantage of the many resources and tools available to help you provide care for your loved one. Remember, if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to care for anyone else. For more information on the resources offered to caregivers at Cedar Valley Hospice click here or call 319.272.2002.

Grief and the Holidays

For many people, the holiday season is a special time of year. We often gather with friends and family and enjoy lots of food and good conversation.  For those who are grieving the death of a loved one, the holidays may be a difficult time with feelings of sadness.

Grief is very personal and unique to each person and comes in all different forms. There is no right way to grieve and there is no time limit. No one grieves the same, and the best way you can help is by letting that person know you care.

Here are more suggestions on supporting someone who is grieving, from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization:

  • If he or she wants to talk about the deceased loved one or feelings associated with the loss, LISTEN. Active listening from friends is an important step to helping him or her heal. Don’t worry about being conversational…. just listen.
  • Never tell someone that he or she should be “over it.” Instead, give the person hope that, eventually, he or she will enjoy the holidays again.
  • Donate a gift or money in memory of the person’s loved one. Remind the person that his or her special person is not forgotten.
  • Remind the person you are thinking of him or her and the loved one who died. Cards, phone calls and visits are great ways to stay in touch.
  • Be supportive of the way the person chooses to handle the holidays. Some may wish to follow traditions; others may choose to change their rituals. Remember, there is no right way or wrong way to handle the holidays.

Remember to not be afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing, because showing concern and making an effort will be appreciated.

For those who are grieving, there are a few ways to help you cope with your grief during this time. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Take care of yourself physically. Exercise, eat a well-balanced diet and make sure to get plenty of rest.
  • It’s ok to experience a variety of emotions. No one grieves the same and it’s ok to feel sad and cry, and it’s ok to feel good. These are normal and healthy reactions.
  • Find someone who will listen to you. If you do not have someone you can talk to, Cedar Valley Hospice has grief counseling available at no cost.

For more information on Cedar Valley Hospice grief support services and a list of our grief support groups, call 319.272.2002 or click on one of the links below:

Grief support services

Grief support groups


Preparing for National Hospice & Palliative Care Month

Each year we recognize November as National Hospice and Palliative Care Month. During this time, we encourage those in our communities to increase their understanding and awareness of end-of-life care. There are many misconceptions about hospice and people who don’t understand what it is. At Cedar Valley Hospice, we understand that. We feel honored to be a part of the lives of patients and families during this very intimate time. Hospice and palliative care empowers those facing a life-limiting illness to live as fully as possible, surrounded and supported by family and loved ones. Our staff is there to companion patients on their end-of-life journey, provide support for families and friends to help them understand the dying process. Grief services are also available after the death and are provided at no cost.

During the month of November, we will be at our Waterloo, Independence and Waverly offices providing education on hospice and palliative care. You are invited to come learn more about the services Cedar Valley Hospice provides and the resources available. Come meet the staff, get a flu shot or enjoy some refreshments. Cedar Valley Hospice is the original hospice and will continue to be here setting the standard for excellence in providing comprehensive palliative and end-of-life care to patients and services for those who grieve. Below are the events taking place during November:

-Waterloo Open House, Health Checks & Meet the Staff: Tuesday, November 3, 2015 from 11:00-1:00. Kimball Ridge Center Lobby, 2101 Kimball Ave., Waterloo. We will have cookies and refreshments and will be handing out information. Covenant Wellness Services will be providing free bone density scans and BMI testing.

-Independence Open House, Health Checks & Meet the Staff: Thursday, November 5, 2015 from 11:00-1:00. Cedar Valley Hospice Independence office, 801 First St. E., Independence. We will have cookies and refreshments along with a raffle prize drawing. Sweet Spot will be selling cupcakes and Hartig Drug will offer flu shots for $25 or free with a Medicare card.

-Waverly Open House, Health Checks & Meet the Staff: Wednesday, November 11, 2015 11:30-1:30. Cedar Valley Hospice Waverly Office, 207 20th St. NW, Waverly. We will have cookies and refreshments and a raffle prize drawing. Also, Bremer County Public Health will be offering flu shots for $26 or free with a Medicare card.

Also, as part of the Cedar Valley Hospice Speakers Bureau program, our staff can provide presentations on many topics related to hospice and palliative care, death, dying, grief and more. Presentations are provided at no cost and a way of giving back to those who share in our mission of serving those in need with care and compassion. If you are a part of a community group, church or business and would like to invite us to speak, call us at 319-272-2002. To see a list of topics and descriptions, click here.

We truly believe in our mission, and for 36 years have served thousands of patients and families. Calling hospice can be a difficult decision, but the benefits of hospice care truly make an incredible difference to both the patient and family. To learn more about Cedar Valley Hospice, visit or call 319-272-2002.

Veteran remembers_small

Memorial Day – A Day of Remembrance

Memorial Day is often a time when family gathers and enjoys good company, food and fun. For many, though, Memorial Day has a different meaning. It is a day we remember our loved ones and provides an opportunity to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of our nation, through their military service. Memorial Day can bring up feelings of grief and can be a hard day for those who have experienced the death of a loved one. This is a time we should reach out and comfort them and let them know that we recognize and honor the sacrifice their loved one has made.

Understanding death isn’t easy. When a family has experienced the death of a loved one, each member of the family is affected. How this is perceived and experienced is based on countless factors, including relationship, manner of death, age of the person, cultural beliefs and financial constraints. Other’s grief is such a private and individual experience that it can be nearly impossible to imagine them all.

Simple things you can do to provide support are to understand that everyone grieves differently, especially children.  Remember, there is no wrong way to grieve or a time limit to grief. You can be there for someone grieving by simply listening to what they have to say and being there for support. In honor of Memorial Day, find a way to serve someone in memory of your loved one or do something your loved one enjoyed. No matter what someone is feeling, it is healthy to acknowledge those feelings.

Additionally, Cedar Valley Hospice recognizes Memorial Day as a day of remembrance and understands how it is particularly meaningful to our nation’s Veterans. We believe it is important to show our appreciation to those who served our country and are part of the We Honor Veterans program, a service through the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

Cedar Valley Hospice is here as a resource for anyone in the community that is grieving the death of a loved one, regardless of whether the family member was on our hospice program or not. These services are provided at no cost. For more information on our grief support services or the We Honor Veterans program, visit our website at or call 319.272.2002.




April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day

April 16 is designated as National Healthcare Decisions Day, and we would like to recognize this day by encouraging you to consider your future healthcare decisions. National Healthcare Decisions Day exists to inspire, educate and empower the public and providers about the importance of advance care planning.

What if a sudden, serious illness or accident leaves you unable to breathe on your own, would you want a tube to be placed in your throat to push air into and out of your lungs? How would your general health condition affect this decision?

If you’re diagnosed with a life shortening incurable illness, do you want the focus of your care to be on keeping you comfortable and pain free? Or do you want a combination of life-extending care and comfort care? An advance directive can specify your choices and designate a decision-maker when you are unable to communicate your own wishes.

Advance directive describes two types of legal documents that enable you to document your end-of-life wishes in the event that you are unable to communicate. A living will and healthcare power of attorney are state-specific documents.

Living Will:

A living will allows you to document your wishes concerning medical treatments at the end of life. Before your living will can guide medical decision-making a physician must certify:

  • You are unable to make medical decisions
  • You are in the medical condition specified in the state’s living will law (such as “terminal illness” or “permanent unconsciousness”).

Healthcare Power of Attorney:

A healthcare power of attorney allows you to appoint a person you trust as your healthcare agent who is authorized to make medical decisions on your behalf. Before a healthcare power of attorney goes into effect a person’s physician must conclude that they are unable to make their own medical decisions. In addition:

  • If a person regains the ability to make decisions, the agent cannot continue to act on the person’s behalf.
  • Many states have additional requirements that apply only to decisions about life-sustaining medical treatments, stressing the importance of completing the advance directive for the state in which you will receive care.

Cedar Valley Hospice has copies of advance directives and is able to assist you when it comes to filling out these forms. We also provide presentations on advance care planning at no cost. If you have questions, would like more information or would like to schedule a presentation, please call 319.272.2002.

World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day 2014

World AIDS Day is held on December 1 each year and gives us an opportunity to educate others about HIV and AIDS and how it impacts our communities. It also teaches us how we can respond with care and compassion for those living with this disease, as well as their friends and family. HIV and AIDS is present in our community and together, we can help stop the spread of HIV/AIDS and create an AIDS-free generation.

Did you know?

-According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 1.1 million people living with HIV in the U.S.

-According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, there are 2100 people living with HIV in the state of Iowa and there are 96 people living with HIV in Black Hawk County.

Together we can help stop the spread of HIV/AIDS and create an informed, healthy community that provides acceptance, compassion and support to our neighbors living with HIV and AIDS.

The Cedar AIDS Support System (CASS), a program of Cedar Valley Hospice, provides medical case management and care for persons living with HIV and AIDS and their families. CASS also offers many resources and programs for the communities we serve. Information on CASS is available to anyone, and anyone is able to make a referral. For more information, call 319-272-2437 or visit