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The importance of caregiving

November 10, 2011
By KELLY FOSNESS - DMG writer ( , The Daily Mining Gazette

CALUMET - As part of National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, home health care aides are receiving special recognition for the important services they provide in the community.

"They're a very big part of our organization," said Wanda Kolb, division administrator for Aspirus Keweenaw Home Health and Hospice. "We like to recognize that and let them know how very special they are to us and to our clients."

Kolb said Aspirus Keweenaw Home Health and Hospice celebrates National Hospice and Palliative Care Month every November. During that time, a special week is set aside specifically for the home care aides and this year, she said, it's the week of Nov. 13.

Article Photos

Kelly Fosness/Daily Mining Gazette
Aspirus Keweenaw Home Health and Hospice staff meet in the conference room Tuesday afternoon. Division Administrator Wanda Kolb, at the far right end of the table, said the agency is celebrating National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, recognizing the many home care aides for their service.

"What we normally do is we take our aides out to lunch one day," she said. "We've done a variety of things over the years but basically we like to recognize the fact that this is our month, so to speak."

Kolb has an extensive background in home health care, dating back to 1988.

In 1989, Kolb and Diane Tiberg opened what was then known as Keweenaw Home Nursing and Hospice and Keweenaw Home Services.

"The difference between the two organizations is one provides skilled care," she explained. "The company is Medicare certified. It's now called Aspirus Keweenaw Home Health and Hospice. When we say we're Medicare certified, it means that Medicare qualifies us as an organization that can bill a third-party payer for our skilled services."

Aspirus Keweenaw Home Health and Hospice provides skilled nursing in the home, as well as, physical and occupational therapy, and speech therapy, Kolb said.

Social work aides are also provided.

"We go into the home and we provide some skilled service that a physician is asking us to go and provide," she said.

For example, nurses will go into the home and do wound care, intravenous therapy, or teach a new diabetic how to give their insulin.

"Or, prehaps a therapist will go in after someone has a total knee replacement and do physical therapy, or, an occupational therapist might work with a patient who's had a stroke to teach them how to use adaptive devices so they can live independently in their home," Kolb continued. "Then our aides in that company provide services to help people with activities of daily living that they normally would do for themselves if they could but they can't."

In addition to home care, Kolb said they also provide hospice care for the terminally ill, their families and caregivers.

"It's a very special type of care because it's a team approach to caring for a patient," she said. "People who are in hospice have everything from nurses, therapists, aides, social work, spiritual care, (and) bereavement care for the family."

In the months following the death of a loved one, Kolb said the staff continues to help family members through the grieving process through their bereavement program.

"There's a lot of different services that are available through home care and hospice," she said.

Switching gears, Kolb said their private duty company, Aspirus Keweenaw Home Services provides a more basic type of care.

For example, aides may go into the home and assist with house cleaning, meal preparation or grocery shopping.

"Most often we see elderly patients in that private duty company," Kolb said. "We're helping them do the things they would have normally done for themselves but they can't anymore. We're helping them so they can stay in their home for as long as possible."

While Kolb has worked in various capacities of home health care, she said what she's enjoyed the most is working one on one with patients.

"You can focus your attention entirely on them," she said. "You do develop a rapport with them and although it's a professional relationship, you certainly do offer more than just clinical care."

Oftentimes when people are homebound, they don't get to see a lot of people during the day, she said.

"They don't have the opportunity to get out and so a visit from a home health aide, nurse or their therapist, really is looked forward to."

Kolb said between the two companies, they employ about 90 people and are able to provide services in Houghton, Keweenaw, Baraga, Gogebic, and more recently, Ontonagon, counties.

"Our largest service area is Houghton and Keweenaw counties," she said. "We just started providing services in Ontonagon."

Kolb said home health and hospice services are available to anyone who thinks they may need them. There are some qualifications that have to be met in order for Medicare or private insurances to pay, however, she said people are welcome to call Aspirus Keweenaw Home Health and Hospice and inquire.

"We're happy to go out and make a visit to see if they qualify for services," Kolb said.

Although most of their referrals come from hospitals and physicians, Kolb said referrals sometimes come from a concerned neighbor or child who lives out of the area.

"If there's any question at all as to whether somebody qualifies, they should call us," she said. "We're happy to assist them. That's what we're here for."

For more information, call Aspirus Keweenaw Home Health and Hospice at 337-5700, 800-594-7503 or visit



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