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Chilly runners highlight Help for Health event
Runners dressed warmly for the start of Saturday's 5K run. Photo by Wayne Nicholls

Chilly runners highlight Help for Health event

Nov 11, 2012 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

The Help for Health Hospice Home in Riverton held its annual Round-Up for Remembrance 5K Walk/Run Saturday morning.

Families, community members and staff braved cold weather to participate in the event to celebrate National Hospice month and to remember those who have benefited from hospice care at the end of life.

"We're here to support our community," said Laura Toppenberg, a registered nurse and executive director at the hospice home.

Toppenberg said the not-for-profit organization was started by and made for Fremont County residents. A ballot question approved by voters raised the funds to construct the facility several years ago.

Aside from helping patients who are diagnosed with a terminal illness, the home also provides counseling services for family members of a current or former hospice patient. Help for Health vans also take cancer patients from Riverton to Casper daily for radiation treatment, Help for Health president Mary Margaret Stockton said.

Hospice care also is available in a patient's home.

"We treat the entire family," Toppenberg said. "Our core services provide a medical director, nurses, spiritual support, social work and assess the individual needs."

Services are provided to family members in preparation of the loss of a loved one and for up to 13 months after the family member passes.

The facility has eight beds and has served about 50 families this year. Toppenberg said the hospice home takes any patients regardless of their insurance coverage -- "as long as their diagnosis deems them as terminally ill."

In a report released in 2011 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in 2007 there were about 7.6 million people receiving care from a community center, most of the 65 and older.

Primary diagnoses for hospice patients are diabetes, heart disease and congestive heart failure.

Riverton resident Linda Bebout is grateful for the services she and her husband, Dick, who was diagnosed with cancer, received at the center before his death recently.

"Their services were exceptional. Any questions, any needs, they would follow up," Bebout said.

She said skilled nurses visited their home several times a week as her husband's illness worsened, and volunteers would also come by to give the caregiver some time off.

She said that even though her daughter told her what to expect, she thought she could do it alone. Soon she found out she couldn't.

Bebout said the biggest advantage was that the nurses would visit her husband at home, check for any symptoms, call the doctor's office if necessary and order and pick up medication from the pharmacy.

"They were the eyes and ears of the doctor. They would fill in as necessary," Bebout said.

She said she was very appreciative of the immediate help she received.

The American Hospice Foundation, a non-profit organization, says the counseling process is essential before, during and after a death because it can provide closure and a healing process to the family members and patients. Hospice care also can make it easier for family members to complete any final tasks, say their final goodbyes, or attend to family problems.

"We have a team that does that," Toppenberg said, adding that several other services are offered free of charge.

AHF also advises that instead of trying to avoid going through the grief, "The best thing you can do for yourself is to work through grief and express your feelings."

The AHF website, Americanhospice.org, provides additional resources to learn how to deal with the grieving process and points out some key advice for friends or relatives such as:

1. Continue your daily health routine with regular meals, activities and rest.

2. Isolating yourself is not good. Join a support group that will help you share the feelings others may also be going through.

3. Crying can be helpful. Expressing your feelings with family members or keeping a journal can help.

4. Find a new hobby or past time. Keep in mind that grieving can take a while.

5. Seek additional professional help if you feel your grief is interfering with your job, marriage or any other relationships with others.

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