The Visiting Nurses Association of Porter County has been providing medical care to patients of Northwest Indiana for over 40 years. Founded in 1970 by a group of dedicated nurses, the VNA is a local leader in healthcare with services in Porter, LaPorte, Lake, and even Jasper and Starke counties. Part of VNA’s mission is to “provide compassionate and individualized home and hospice care”. The dedicated staff and volunteers of the VNA are a significant resource to the community they serve.
Many area residents may be familiar with the VNA hospice center building on Valley Drive in Valparaiso. But, as Vice President of Development Maria Galka points out, hospice care is much more than the center itself. “Hospice isn’t a place. Most hospice care takes place in the patients’ home, which is part of the goal. Only about 10% of our patients are in the hospice center,” she explains. “Most are elsewhere, living in assisted living situations or with family.”
Hospice care is a multi-faceted approach to help patients in their final stage of life. Services provided include pain relief and symptom control, as well as a community of support with on-site social workers, nurses, doctors, spiritual advisors, and volunteers. “When someone is terminally ill, hospice is a wonderful way to help them and their family spend that final bit of time with some comfort,” says Galka. “We are able to bring together a lot of resources to provide the support patients need during that difficult time.”
Volunteers are truly an asset to the VNA hospice program and they fulfill a variety of roles. Peg Murphy has been a volunteer Chaplain at the center on and off for ten years. As a retired RN, she enjoys being able to spend time with patients again. “It’s nice being with them for their last journey on earth…it’s very humbling,” she says.
Another volunteer, Lynda Krueger, makes greeting cards using her own resources, then sells them at the hospice center with 100% of the proceeds going to the VNA Phoenix Center, an initiative which helps children through the grieving process. Other volunteers bake, crochet, work at the front desk, and spend time conversing with and comforting patients so that families are able to take a break from their role as caregivers.
Over the past couple of years, VNA hospice has created an initiative through the We Honor Veterans program. This program works to identify hospice patients who have served in the military and recognize them for their service. “This program has been really, really well received,” says Galka. Some veterans may feel more comfortable speaking about their experiences with volunteers. Others may simply appreciate the recognition of their time in service. “The beauty of the program and overall hospice care is that we let them (the patients) guide and have control.”
The collection of resources available through VNA, as well as their dedicated staff and volunteers, makes it an invaluable part of our community. “We think that VNA hospice is one of the best kept secrets in Northwest Indiana,” says Galka. “We really strive to help terminally ill patients meet their goals whatever they are.” To learn more about the center or become at volunteer through the VNA visit their website at http://www.vnaportercounty.org.