BUSINESS PROFILE: Knute Nelson Hospice
A family’s journey -- from grief to healing
By GET Creative, a division of USA TODAY
When you walk down the aisle with your partner and vow to honor each other until death do you part, it’s hard to ever imagine what that day might look like. In a video made shortly before his passing, Bob Fagen said, “We’ve always been together for 62 years, and I’ll tell ya I would not be the same without her.” His voice trembled with emotion as he spoke about his wife, Sandy. “I get a little choked up once in a while.”
In 2019, the Fagens made the decision to move into senior living at Grand Arbor by Knute Nelson. They had found that taking care of their home had become a challenge and they wanted to focus on being together.
When Bob’s health started to decline, however, they truly discovered the peace of mind that a continuum of care provides, from short-term rehab to enhanced assisted living, memory care, and eventually hospice.
“We chose Knute Nelson Hospice thanks to a social worker who was in contact with my mom and dad – she exuded a welcoming feeling,” said Connie Spanswick, the couple’s daughter. “I think we all had fears, just because we hear the word ‘hospice.’ But we knew that dad wanted comfort care.”
Providing comfort through hospice
After getting COVID-19 in 2020, Bob struggled to recover.
“My dad was placed in the Knute Nelson Care Center for short term rehab, trying to get him stronger so he could possibly join mom in independent living again. But that was not the case,” said Spanswick. Instead, he moved into enhanced assisted living at Knute Nelson. After a routine assessment, it was determined he needed memory care.
“After mom and I had moved him into memory care, then he was on hospice services and got to meet Sara, the therapeutic musician; Amy, the social worker; Deb and Denise, the spiritual care team and all the beautiful nurses and aides,” said Spanswick. “We just couldn’t see us making any other choice.”
For Bob and his family, hospice took care of his everyday needs — spiritual, emotional, and physical. They showed an incredible level of professionalism, but more importantly, made hospice feel personal.
“It was just a wonderful experience and it’s the closest thing to heaven I believe that we’ll get to before we’re there ourselves,” said Spanswick.
Of course, there were difficult times.
“When you hear hospice, it is scary because you know that dying is coming closer. But to be honest, hospice is such an amazing gift,” she said. “The day before my dad passed, his room was filled with all of his loved ones, as well as Sara and Amy. And Deb and Denise were both there from spiritual care. We all were surrounding his bed. That was a magical moment for me.”
Caring for those left behind
After Bob passed away, hospice addressed the needs of his loved ones with 13 months of bereavement services.
“I have to say that is where my life changed,” said Spanswick. She and her mom took a grief class with several other people. “Every time you’re in this grief group, it’s another extended family, plus it gives you tools on how to deal and how to cope, as well as how to heal.”
Through her experience, Spanswick discovered she had something to give others in her situation. Five months after losing her father, she joined Knute Nelson as a spiritual care provider. “I used to be a corrections officer over in Todd County, and never in a million years would I think I would go from corrections to hospice spiritual care. And here I am,” she said.
“How I made the change from the corrections officer to here was completely a God moment. I am honored and humbled. I get to be with people as they walk very close to heaven.”
Now, she is with other families in their final moments. “I completely believe that my dad had something to do with this moment — with my heart and soul I know that my dad is very proud of me doing the spiritual care that I’m doing today.”
To learn more about Knute Nelson Hospice, visit knutenelson.org/hospice or call (320) 288-1334.
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