Hospice providers make patients feel like family

Social worker witnesses compassion in her own grandmother’s care

Hospice providers make patients feel like family

When a loved one enters hospice care, lots of emotions come with them.

It’s only natural for feelings of uncertainty or fear to creep in. For Jessica Lappegard, those feelings are familiar.

Her grandmother Deloris McDonald faced multiple recurrences of colon cancer throughout her life. At 93, her cancer returned, and she entered the Sanford Hospice Centennial Cottage in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in January of 2024.

Seeing an old student and friend

There were of course those feelings of fear and uncertainty entering The Cottage. One thing neither McDonald nor Lappegard were uncertain over, though, was the skilled care McDonald would receive.

Because, as it turns out, McDonald herself had trained one of the nurses who would be caring for her in hospice.

McDonald was an instructor at Southeast Technical College. She taught the licensed practical nurse program. One of her former students is a current Sanford Hospice LPN Dana Painter-Ward.

Painter-Ward was McDonald’s LPN while she was in hospice.

“When I walked into work that day, I saw her name up on our census board and I thought to myself, ‘I know that name.’ When I went into the room, of course everything came back,” she recollected.

Seeing care from both sides

Lappegard is currently a social worker at the Sanford Hospice Centennial Cottage. She was hired after her grandmother passed away.

She said she’s gotten to see the level of care and attention residents receive from providers from both sides: as a family member of a resident, and as a provider herself.

“As a family member of a patient, we one hundred percent felt like we were part of a family here and we were allowed and accepted to do as we chose for however long we wanted to be with my grandma,” she said.

“As a staff member, we are a team. That’s what makes skilled care special. We all want what’s best for our patients and we want them to feel cared for and loved until their last days,” she added.

Making time for patients and families

Painter-Ward said there is something truly beautiful about getting to care for a patient during their final days.

“I get very close to my patients and their families. I’m very comfortable talking to them about their journey. We talk about dragonflies, butterflies, cardinals.

“Recently, someone passed, and we were cleaning a room, and there was a cardinal at the window. I get shivers now thinking about that, that person is there watching us,” she said.

This kind of attention and care helped make the passing of Lappegard’s grandmother just a little easier, she said.

“We were all very pleased and extremely satisfied with the last few days with my grandma here,” said Lappegard.

She said there are a lot of misconceptions about hospice care, and that she can’t say enough about the care her family received.

“Hospice isn’t the last few days of life necessarily. It could be weeks or months. It could be even longer. It’s really about making whatever time you have left very special.”

Learn more

Posted In Hospice, Nursing and Nursing Support, Senior Services, Sioux Falls