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Hospice welcomes new director

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Posted: Saturday, December 15, 2012 6:00 am

SPEARFISH — Providing hospice care is vital to a community, and because of the generous support for the program, patients in the Northern Hills area are in good hands. 

After 18 years as director of Hospice of the Northern Hills, Mavis Jewitt has made a career decision to support the program in a different capacity. After some careful thought, she requested to go back to being a health care nurse so she could spend more quality time with her patients, all of whom she cares a great deal for.

“This is something that I have desired to do for a long time,” she said. “I’m so happy.”

In mid-November, Jewitt was replaced by Carla Van-Dyke, who moved to Spearfish from Aberdeen where she was a nursing manager for home care, hospice and palliative care for 24 years. 

“I love what I do, and my husband and I are excited to be here because we’ve always loved the Black Hills and it was our dream to live here,” Van-Dyke said. 

Jewitt said Van-Dyke brings a great gift to the table. 

“I wanted to care for the patients more, and now I know that all of the rest of the responsibilities will be taken care of,” she said. 

As director, Van-Dyke will be responsible for complying with the hospice care guidelines and regulations, managing the day-to-day operations, while making sure that the staff and volunteers at Hospice of the Northern Hills provide compassionate care for terminally-ill patients, who are suffering from an end-stage disease process, and limited life expectancy.

Hospice of the Northern Hills provides care every single hour of every single day to patients in Belle Fourche, Sturgis, Deadwood, Lead, Newell, Vale, Fruitdale and Nemo. 

The Northern Hills Hospice program is a branch of the Regional Health Hospice Care program that was formed in 1997. At that time, the staff included two nurses, a chaplain and a social worker. The first year, Jewitt said there were no more than 15 patients who received hospice care, but it just continued to grow year after year. Services are available to people of all ages, and services can take place in the home, in an assisted living center, nursing home or in a hospice facility. 

This year alone, Hospice of the Northern Hills provided much-needed care to more than 160 patients, and since its inception more than 2,000 patients have benefitted from the program. 

One of the main goals of hospice is to do everything possible to meet the needs and care for people who don’t have a way to pay. It’s also important for hospice to have the resources to go into someone’s home and be able to sooth the pain and suffering they are experiencing, whether it’s physical or emotional. 

“When we come in and care for the patient and work with their physician and it’s absolutely amazing that nearly every single time, the next day the patient improves dramatically, and they have a sense of hope that wasn’t there before,” said Van-Dyke. 

Jewitt said she has been asked several times over the years about how she is able to continue to provide hospice care.

“I always said ‘how can you not’ because to me hospice is not about dying; it’s about living for the rest of your life,” she said. “We bring an incredible amount of relief to families, and hospice has never asked for anything that I am not willing to give.” 

Jewitt has been in patient care for 41 years, 38 of which she worked as a nurse. 

She added that the one thing that has always struck her, is the fact that many people don’t know that comprehensive hospice care exists in these communities. Sometimes, Jewitt said, it’s because families do not know that Medicare covers the cost of hospice care, which means the patients have already paid for it, so why not take advantage. She also said that hospice care costs are covered by Medicaid or by private insurance companies. But, for patients who do not have a reimbursement source, the care is provided by funds that have been donated to hospice foundations.

Jewitt said because of the generous donations and continued support from this community, not one single patient has ever had to pay for hospice care. 

“There is so much support for hospice in the Northern Hills; it’s just phenomenal,” she said. “This is what keeps us going, and this is what gives us strength.” 

When a home care health nurse with hospice enters a home, the first thing they do is manage their pain. Afterward, they explain the options that are available to them, and suddenly the patient and their family are overcome with relief. Jewitt said that most people don’t plan, or prepare for the end of their life. Because of that, they are filled with anxiety caused by the fear of the unknown. 

“This is the part of life they don’t know and can’t understand,” she said. 

Van-Dyke said taking family dynamics into account is key to caring for a patient. 

“We do everything we can to help the patient’s support systems by helping them prepare for the loss of their loved one,” she said.  “Just by listening, we can provide incredible relief for families.” 

Because Regional Health is supported by charitable donations from individuals, businesses and foundations, anyone wishing to support Hospice of the Northern Hills can call the Rapid City Hospital Foundation at 719-5840.  

Another option is to attend the 16th annual Hospice Ball, which will be held on Saturday, March 3, 2013 at the Spearfish Holiday Inn and Convention Center. This is the program’s largest fundraiser.

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