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‘Knute Nelson is like our family’

Park Rapids couple has been able to stay at home thanks to Knute Nelson Home Care

“Times are not always easy. They are very trying. They are very difficult. But you have to be positive. Life is too short,” said Cheri Kangas.

When Cheri Kangas was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), she and her husband, Ray, faced challenges that they had not faced before. Thanks to the help of Knute Nelson Home Care, they have been able to overcome those challenges and remain living in their home in Park Rapids. Contributed photo

Life used to seem so simple for Cheri and Ray Kangas, of Park Rapids. They spent their time raising three children, running a construction business, racing snowmobiles, canoeing down the Crow Wing River and enjoying their passion for classic cars.

Then life changed when Cheri was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and the body.

Cheri quickly learned about the challenges of living with MS and how things could rapidly result in a trip to the emergency room. On one occasion, while transferring out of an exercise chair into her wheelchair, Cheri realized that her parking brake on her wheelchair was not applied. Before she was able to do anything about it, the chair went down the hill, forcing Cheri to the ground, which resulted in a very painful broken hip.

After many months of recovery in a facility, Cheri could return home to her family and the comforts of her own home. Unfortunately, that summer Cheri suffered another fall and this time fractured her right femur and left tibia. Surgery was required, but thankfully she was able to recover at home with the help of home care services.

“That is when we got on with Knute Nelson Home Care. I couldn’t be happier,” said Cheri. “People don’t want to admit that they need the help. It is hard. It is hard to recognize and say that you do need help.”

Knute Nelson Home Care and Hospice serves 29 counties in central Minnesota. The Knute Nelson Home Care team provides personalized health care to individuals in their home where services are tailored to meet the needs of each individual and are provided on a one-to-one basis. These services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“Having the option of staying home has been great. It is a big deal,” she said. “After I have spent so much time in the hospital, I don’t want to go back. Our house is so nice. It is all on one level. It is so convenient. We have done so much to try and make it better. We realized after being in several other facilities, we just want to stay home.”

Cheri and Ray met with a Knute Nelson Home Care physical therapist who was very helpful in providing suggestions on how to improve their daily activities. Skilled nursing care is provided by a registered nurse (RN), who is able to manage Cheri’s overall condition. Cheri also works with home care aides to help with daily activities, like showering and exercises.

Ray and Cheri are very supportive of each other — working together, taking care of each other and simply looking out for one another. Ray said that couples must have the will to make it work through the good and the bad. Ray said that a spouse or caregiver needs to be willing to take advice and learn how they can help their loved ones. He recognized that home care would not always be available so he had to learn how to assist Cheri in her day-to-day needs. Cheri agreed, saying “You have to rely on the person, your caregiver. He does so good.”

“Being in the construction business, you have journeymen and you have apprentices, and being with Knute Nelson, it is like they are all journeymen. This is really helpful. They share a lot of tips with me for what to do better. Aspects like nursing type cares, transfers, safety and exercises,” said Ray.

The Kangas’ experience with Knute Nelson Home Care has been successful because they are willing to learn, and Knute Nelson is willing to teach, said Ray. He called the entire experience a “win-win” situation.

“The added benefit is that we can stay home together. We did not want to pack up and leave. We designed and built our house so Cheri can stay on one level. She can go out onto the deck, she can go into the garage, and she can go out the front door,” said Ray.

Ray said he values a positive attitude and cherishes each day together. He and Cheri focus on finding something positive out of each day rather than being negative.

“I always tell Cheri when she has a blue day that this is a 5-star hotel. I then ask, ‘What can I do to make your day better?’” he said.

Communication is very important to Ray and Cheri. In fact, they credit their successful marriage to open communication. There is no “his” or “hers,” only “ours.” With smiles, Ray and Cheri share that during their relationship, they always talk about helping their spouse to the end, and they are doing exactly that.

Ray and Cheri Kangas, of Park Rapids, have been able to stay in their home despite the challenges of Cheri’s MS diagnosis thanks to the help of Knute Nelson Home Care. The Kangas’ are pictured with their dog. Contributed photo

Cheri shared that the greatest thing that you can do is believe that there are good people out there that can help you, like Knute Nelson. “They always come with a positive attitude and that makes it easier for us too. We are not dreading the day they come, we look forward to it.”

“Knute Nelson is like our family. We look forward to them coming. They really are like family,” said Cheri.

Together, Ray and Cheri share that their hope in sharing their story is that Knute Nelson can help more people just the way they have been helped. They give these tips: Never, never go to bed angry or ill feeling; enjoy each day to its fullest; and no matter how tough things are, sort them out.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.” said Cheri. “Contact the professionals for help and they will help guide you in the right direction. When we called Knute Nelson, they knew exactly what we needed.”

This year, Ray and Cheri celebrated their 50th Valentine’s Day together. Their next celebration will come on May 1, when they celebrate 46 years of marriage.

To learn more about Knute Nelson Home Care, contact the Knute Nelson, call the numbers listed above.

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