Monthly Archives: November 2014

8 Questions to Ask when Looking for a Hospice Provider

Questions to ask when you are searching for a hospice care provider

Finding a quality hospice with the services you desire for yourself or a family member is an important task. You want to be sure your loved one is in the best, most caring hands possible while receiving the services they need.

It’s also important to know that you have a choice in hospice providers no matter what health care system you are using. Here are a few simple questions you can ask to determine which hospice is right for you or your loved one’s care.

Questions to Ask 

  1. Is the hospice provider Medicare certified?
    • Most hospices are certified by Medicare and are therefore required to follow Medicare rules and regulations. This is important if you wish to receive hospice care as part of your Medicare/Medicaid benefit.
  2. Is the hospice a for-profit or not-for-profit organization?
    • Whether or not the organization is not-for-profit or for-profit, may be important for you and your family. Cedar Valley Hospice is a mission-driven, not-for-profit organization and puts our patients and families at the forefront of every decision we make.
  3. How long has the hospice been operating in the community?
    • Since 1979, Cedar Valley Hospice has been providing care to patients and their families in the community, regardless of diagnosis or inability to pay.
  4. What additional services does the hospice provide?
    • All hospices are required to provide expert medical care, emotional and spiritual care, medicines, medical supplies and equipment volunteers and grief support after the death of a loved one. Cedar Valley Hospice goes above and beyond to provide these services and also has the Eucalyptus Tree, children’s grief program, LINK – our palliative care program, and the Cedar AIDS Support System, a program providing medical case management, care and support to those living with HIV/AIDS and their families.
  5. How are services provided after normal hours?
    • Our hospice staff can be contacted 24 hours a day, seven days a week should a problem or concern arise or if hospice services are wanted.
  6. Does the hospice offer a facility to provide short-term inpatient care, and where is it located?
    • Cedar Valley Hospice offers the area’s only Hospice Home. This is a six-bedroom facility that offers care 24/7. Short-term patient stays (typically 3-5 days) provide pain and symptom management or other skilled nursing needs. Patients may also visit the Hospice Home for respite care.This stay provides family members temporary relief from caregiving or time to attend out-of-town functions.
  7. What services are provided by volunteers?
    • Cedar Valley Hospice Volunteers have many different roles that include patient and family support, grief support and working with children. Others help at the Hospice Home or at different events held throughout the year. Volunteers at Cedar Valley Hospice go through a 16-hour training before starting.
  8. How much does hospice care cost and is it covered by insurance?
    • Cedar valley Hospice care is available to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay. Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurance companies cover the cost of hospice services. Community contributions and a sliding fee scale for some programs of Cedar Valley Hospice cover costs for those who can’t pay.

Why You Should Choose Cedar Valley Hospice

At Cedar Valley Hospice, our programs are comprehensive and include services not only for the patient, but for their family members and friends as well.  In addition to providing hospice care, Cedar Valley Hospice provides grief services for anyone in the community grieving the loss of a loved one, with a program specifically for grieving children. Other programs include the Cedar AIDS Support System (CASS), that provides medical case management and care and support for those living with HIV/AIDS and their families, and LINK – a program that provides supportive care to those individuals and families facing a life threatening illness and not eligible or ready for hospice services.

“Compassionate care” is a way of living and working every day at Cedar Valley Hospice.  If you or your loved one needs hospice services, call Cedar Valley Hospice today at 319.272.2202 or 800.617.1972.

Air Force veteran helps patients, families as Cedar Valley Hospice volunteer

Al Berns has the gift of gab. Al Berns- CVH vet volunteer

As a Cedar Valley Hospice patient family volunteer, Al’s vivacious personality makes for the perfect recipe to brighten a patient’s day.  Not only is he a great communicator but he knows how to listen, which he says, has truly allowed him to feel rewarded as a volunteer.

On a recent fall morning, Al sees a passerby picking small tomatoes off a plant in the courtyard of an assisted living facility near the Cedar Valley Hospice Home.  And although she is a total stranger, within 10 minutes, he’s completely captivated the octogenarian’s attention with stories of the past. He leans in closer to listen to her share some her life’s most precious moments.  The sheer joy on both of their faces after a casual goodbye isn’t something either will forget anytime soon.

It’s easy to see why so many hospice patients and families enjoy Al’s company. During his time as a Cedar Valley Hospice volunteer, he’s connected with so many on a special level during a difficult time in their lives.

“You really get to know how people truly feel about things,” Al says. “They may not have a lot of inhibitions at that time and I think I’m really helping them by listening. A lot of times, we really connect.”

Not sure where to attribute his outgoingness, he talks of his childhood growing up in the small town of West Union. Al was one of eight children in the Berns family, and if he wanted something he had to speak up. But it wasn’t until after high school, when he joined the military, that Al felt his character truly become strengthened.

In January 1965, at the beginning of the Vietnam War, he joined the Air Force. There were “plenty of recruits going in,” says Al. “They came from all over.”

At 20 years old, he admits he was impressionable, but his curiosity never stopped him from sparking up a conversation. Whether it was an Oregon boy who rode in rodeos or a New York City kid, he quickly became everyone’s friend. After basic training, he was stationed stateside, where he worked in ground/air communications.  The three years and eight months he spent in the military prepared him well for life, he says.

Soon after his stint in the service, he went on to work for the phone company for 30 years in Waterloo and in Independence.

“I’ve always wanted to give back to the community and my way, at that time, was being a talker,” says Al. “But one of the keys to communications is being a good listener and getting someone to open up.”

So after he retired in 2002, Al began volunteering with the Veterans Administration. Soon after that, his good friend, Bob, mentioned how meaningful it was for him to volunteer with Cedar Valley Hospice. Having seen how much his neighbor benefited from the program, Al wanted to be a part of “doing a lot of good for people.”

Since he started at the Independence location over a decade ago, he’s helped dozens of families through their end of-of-life journey.

“I do whatever I can to help, whether it’s talking, playing cards or if they need to go somewhere,” says Al. I think a lot of people don’t know how much support they can get from Cedar Valley Hospice. It’s a very trying time and families really do need it then.”

One of Al’s most memorable patients was a Vietnam Veteran who was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.

“Most people at this point don’t have any inhibitions of not saying anything,” Al adds. “But some of these guys are such tough old birds and don’t want to open up.”

One day, Al got a call to take Earl to Iowa City for an appointment. Al put on his best conversation smile, but Earl was fighting it.

“He’s a case I’m still working on,” Al laughs. “But I tell you, when he did open up, he felt better. I’m so glad we could make a connection.”

More than the connections he’s made with patients, Al appreciates the honesty of the people he’s helped and the relationships he’s developed.

“I’ve learned so much about life and myself from these families and I’m so grateful Cedar Valley Hospice is available for families to help guide them through the process,” Al adds.

In September, Al was honored by the Hospice & Palliative Care Association of Iowa (HCPAI) as a valued volunteer. It’s obvious to those who know Al, that his greatest joy is giving back to help others.

“Cedar Valley Hospice is a very valuable program and I’m so glad to be a part of it,” says Al.

To learn more about Cedar Valley Hospice, or if you’re interested in becoming a volunteer, call 319.272.2002 or visit