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Serving One Who Served:
Community funding lets VNA provide for those who need it most

VNA Hospice Care provides for hundreds of patients throughout North Texas every year. In the Denton area alone, VNA Ann’s Haven provided hospice for more than 150 patients last year. Most of our patients are eligible for Medicare and the excellent hospice coverage it provides. Some are not.

“Our community-funded cases are some of the most powerful, and most rewarding,” said VNA Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer Krystal Alvarado. “These are good people caught in what seems like an impossible situation, with no place to turn. The community funding that lets us care for them through this journey can perform miracles.”

VNA had 116 such cases last year, of patients who required community funding to pay for Hospice Care. In December, VNA provided hospice for John Anderson, a Hickory Creek Police Sergeant in his late 30s, husband and father of three. Too young by far to be eligible for Medicare, John never expected hospice coverage to be something he needed. He never expected the cancer that attacked him. He fought a losing battle against it for three years, fitting in endless treatments around his busy work schedule, staying on the job to help his wife support their young family.

“He gave it a good fight,” said his widow Amy Anderson. “He did chemo, then put on his uniform and went to work. He didn’t want to miss a day.”

Eventually, he simply couldn’t keep working. As the cancer grew, he needed more and more care that his wife, who had to keep working to care for their family, couldn’t provide. The day before Thanksgiving 2014, his doctors told him there was nothing more they could do. From that point, his condition worsened rapidly, and within a few weeks, Amy knew she needed help. “We knew he was going fast, and I just wasn’t able to care for him anymore,” Amy said. That’s when she reached out to VNA. Thanks to community support, VNA was able to help. VNA’s Barb Nealon, RN, worked together with a team of experienced doctors, nurses, hospice aides, social workers and chaplains to oversee his care. “We were able to relieve the family’s stress,” Barb said. “With the support they received they were able to deal with what was happening as a family. And they were able to be there for him at the end. What we often see in cases that require community funding is a patient who needs more and more care, like John, but their partner has to keep working to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads. We can come and relieve that stress. We’ve helped feed families and even repair homes so the patient can die with dignity where they’re most comfortable. Community funding helps us provide for people with nowhere else to turn at the end of their lives.”

John spent the last week of his life with VNA Hospice Care.

“All the VNA nurses came in and talked to us,” Amy said. “They were literally like part of the family from the start. When I started to break down, they comforted me. They weren’t outsiders at all. They talked to me at length about what to expect. I was well-informed by VNA by the time his Hospice Care began. I knew what to expect.”

A month after the doctors told John there was nothing more they could do, just after Christmas on Dec. 28, Amy knew the end was near. “On the last day of his life, VNA Hospice Care was there to help,” Amy said. “John wasn’t aware any more, but they talked me through to the end and told me what to expect as the end came. I was able to get everyone there who wanted to be there for the end.”

Though John lost his courageous battle against cancer, he was able to pass with dignity, and his family was able to be by his side at the end.

“VNA Hospice Care was amazing,” Amy said. “They took such a load off of me. I could concentrate on John and our family in the last days of his life. They held my hand, walked with me, reassured me. I didn’t feel any pressure, or any worries about his care. No words can describe how much it meant to me.”