A BLESSING WHEN DEALING WITH DEATH
Stroeing family finds Quiet Oaks Hospice House
by Carol Moorman, Staff Writer
Melrose–Gathered around Sylvester “Ves” Stroeing’s bed, loved ones, a doctor and nurse prayed the rosary as Ves
passed away on Dec. 13. It was a peaceful death, as Ves laid in his bed at Quiet Oaks Hospice House in rural St. Augusta, a hospice and respite facility where Ves was taken to from his Park View Care Center apartment in Melrose four days earlier. The comfort care he and his family received during those four short days is something they will never forget.
“Dad’s end of life experience was really great,” said daughter Lori Ann Pohlmann. In early February some of Ves’ children and spouses, Glenn Stroeing of Alexandria, Kathy and Ken Luethmers of Freeport, Lori Ann and Mike Pohlmann of Melrose and Lisa and Garron Orton of Foley, visited in the Pohlmann’s Melrose home about their Quiet Oak’s experiences. Not able to be there were their siblings John and wife Sharon Stroeing of New Ulm and Amy Stroeing of Sauk Centre, and Glenn’s wife Bev.
They experienced fi rst-hand how Quiet Oaks Hospice House staff allowed Ves to live his remaining days in peace and calm as they focused on providing comfort to him and his family, allowing him to die with dignity. “I’m a fi rm believer that everyone should die like that,” said Lisa.
There was laughter and tears as Ves’ family talked about their father’s life. “A very social person,” is how daughter Kathy describes their dad. “He enjoyed making people laugh and smile.” “And helping people,” adds Glenn. Born in St. Martin Township, Ves spent most of his life in Freeport, other than the nine years he worked at Whirlpool in St. Paul. He and wife Anna Mae (Wensmann) purchased a house in Freeport, where Ves lived for 54 years. He took over his father-in-law’s business as a Standard Oil bulk agent, retiring in 1985.
After Anna Mae passed away on April 5, 2000, after 48 years of marriage, he kept busy, putzing around at home. In May of 2015 it was his decision to move into Park View Care Center in Melrose, wanting to be around people. “He didn’t want to spend another lonely winter,” said Glenn. Selling his house to Kathy and Ken meant he could still go there to visit.
“He said he could still call it home,” said Lori Ann. “The only diff erence was he could drive across the lawn to get to his garden. He would never have driven over it when he lived here,” said Ken, smiling.
Around fi ve years earlier, Ves started suff ering from kidney failure, each functioning at 20
percent. “And he chose not to do dialysis,” said Kathy. “He said that’s not living,” said Lisa. “And he just sucked it up.” Kathy said what he didn’t let on to his family was how serious his health situation was. Last August his “blood pressure crashed,”
said Lori Ann. But that didn’t deter him from celebrating his 92nd birthday on Nov. 7 at Schiffl er’s Liquor. From there his health deteriorated fast. Lori Ann said their dad “joked his way through his issues,” as he tried to remain as independent as possible. “It was very hard when he didn’t drive any more,” said Kathy. Lori Ann said CentraCare staff Trudy Hoppe and Karen Wensmann had talked to her about hospice care and provided the family with information.
“We were very open to it, and we talked to dad and he wasn’t very receptive,” said Kathy. Lori Ann explained his reasoning was because he thought it would be like when he was on homecare and wasn’t allowed to go out of his apartment. “We explained to him that they would just be helping him, and he wouldn’t be trapped in his apartment,” said Kathy. Family members assisted with Ves’ needs. In November a family meeting was held. They decided to utilize the services of Centra- Care Hospice based out of St. Cloud, while he was in his apartment Family took turns caring for him 24 hours a day. He became more agitated and family worried about over- medicating him.
“I knew we were on a slippery slope,” said Kathy, tearing up. Talk about him going into the nursing home was also discussed and after checking into that, they found the nursing home was full. Then they heard about Quiet Oaks Hospice House. “A CentraCare Hospice nurse said, ‘I think you guys would like Quiet Oaks Hospice House. It’s very peaceful,’” said Lori Ann.
At Quiet Oaks, a team of staff experts, including a medical director and nursing staff , tend to the needs of their patients. Many volunteers help meet the needs of residents and their families. It is a private pay facility, where residents receive hospice care from staff and local hospice agencies. The costs for these services, including visits from hospice staff , medication and medical equipment are typically covered by Medicare or private insurance. The daily fee includes nursing care, support services and room and board. Not one to spend his money “willy-nilly” as Kathy puts it, they knew a decision had to be made that would make their dad comfortable.
Lori Ann said they included their dad in the discussion about moving him to the hospice house.
At that point we knew that was what he needed,” said Kathy.
“Then we had to fi nd out if they had room,” said Lori Ann.
Thankfully, there was room at Quiet Oaks. “And we went from being his caregiver to being his family again,” said Kathy. “They told us, ‘We are
here, so you can be his kids,’’” said Glenn, adding, “They even had rooms for us to stay in.”
End of life care
On Thursday, Dec. 10, Ves was moved to Quiet Oaks, admittedly a few tears shed from family members who accompanied him. Family was encouraged to enjoy a meal while staff got Ves acclimated in his room. “Meatloaf, mashed potatoes. It was our fi rst real meal since we started caring for dad,” said Lori Ann, adding that that cooks volunteer their services, like many of the people there. Once in their dad’s room, they found he was immediately comfortable, with a familiar smirk on his face.
“He was so much more relaxed as soon as he got into that bed,” said Lori Ann.
At 6-feet-tall, and deadweight as one family member put it, it was the simple things provided, like a bed that was long enough for Ves and seeing him in his own clothes versus a hospital gown, that put them at ease that they had make
the right decision. “And then they had things like music and a DVD player,” said Lisa. Although their dad wasn’t one to especially like music, he did seemed more relaxed when music was on, Glenn said.
“It’s all about peace and calming,” said Kathy. Lori Ann talks about the time she was with their niece in the diningroom where there was a piano and asked staff if her niece could play the piano.
“They said yes, and she played a Christmas song,” said Lori Ann.
Lisa talks about Quiet Oak’s home-like setting, with a pool table, games and puzzles available to families in the lower level.
“And right outside dad’s window were bird feeders and a bird bath,” said Lisa. “You never knew what kind of wildlife you’d see.” Kathy said on one of the counters was a basket with rosaries and prayer books. “And the bad thing was there was a candy bowl in every nook and cranny,” said Lisa. “It was very homey, very welcoming,” adds Lori Ann.
And most importantly, their dad was being cared for. “We were struggling, not being able to make him comfortable, and when he went to Quiet Oaks we didn’t have to worry about things like his medications,” said Kathy. “Hospice truly is comfort care,” said Lori
Ann. Family took turns spending days and nights with Ves. “You slept with one eye open,” said Lisa. Kathy said help from their spouses was amazing. “They helped us with a lot,” she said, tearing up.
“This is where dad needed to be, for him Staff were available to assist with Ves’ needs. Kathy recalls the morning of Sunday, Dec. 13, when the on-staff physician came to see Ves.
“He said it wouldn’t be long now and I should call my family,” said Kathy. Following phone calls from Lisa, 30 minutes later family, and Ves’ friend Rosie Pundsack, arrived. At the suggestion of the doctor, they gathered close to his bed, and Rosie suggested
they say the rosary. And Ves passed away peacefully.
“His death was pretty beautiful,” said Lisa, with all of them, including grandchildren, still praying the rosary around his bed.
“Both the doctor and nurse stayed in the room saying the rosary with us,” said Lori Ann.
Family was allowed to remain in the room with Ves as long as they wished, as staff was there to comfort them. “Within 20 minutes after dad passed away, they came in the room and asked if we wanted a warm cookie,” said Lisa.
Staff called Patton- Schad Funeral Home to let them know he had passed away. Family helped place Ves’ body onto the gurney when Linda Holm from Patton- Schad arrived to take Ves’ body to the funeral home. Knowing they provided their dad with the best care possible as he passed from this world into the next, is a comfort to the Stroeing family.
Quiet Oaks is a place they will never forget. They encourage other families to utilize this facility for their loved ones who are dealing with death.
Kathy said she’d like to go back to Quiet Oaks to visit when the fl owers are blooming.
“And we could walk through the woods,” said Glenn, with Ken adding, “And it’s dinner time.” Three months after their dad passed away Lori Ann visited Quiet Oaks on March 1, when she received hugs and words of comfort. “The hospice house was truly amazing,” she concluded.