Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
Hospice of Washington County may not be the only hospice agency in Washington County, but the organization’s Executive Director Katrina Altenhofent wants people to know that it is “the only local, not-for-profit hospice agency that has served this area proudly for over 30 years.”
The agency, while based in Washington, serves seven counties — Washington, Jefferson, Henry, Keokuk, Louisa, Muscatine and Johnson counties.
“We receive our funding through insurance reimbursements, memorials and various fundraisers that we hold,” Altenhofent said. “We are not a county agency and do not receive any county funds or tax dollars.”
Hospice of Washington County provides services above what the Medicare hospice service benefit requires, Altenhofent added.
“We are not required to provide massage or music therapies, but we do so at no cost to the patient or family,” she said. “We provide nursing services more than once a week.
“Our services are 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.”
Altenhofent said that there are many misconceptions people have about hospice care.
“Often, people hear the word ‘hospice’ and they think their loved one is passing away within the next 24 to 48 hours,” she said. “People think of us as the Grim Reaper in purple coming to your door. That’s not what we want.”
She explained that, at the end of life, people have choices.
“We want to make sure that, at the end of life, the wishes that you’ve spelled out, we honor those wishes,” she said. “We have individuals who have our hospice services who want to go and sit by a beach one more time or go to visit a loved one or go to a graduation.
“We make sure we make those arrangements for the individual to be able to do and travel as they need.”
She added that a diagnosis that means a referral to hospice does not mean that all of a sudden a person has to be bed-bound and can’t enjoy their last days.
“It means you have an extra set of hands, eyes and ears to help you in that journey,” she said. “We want to make sure that at the end of your life, the way you’ve lived your life is the way we provide your end of life.”
Altenhofent said that another misconception is that people can’t leave hospice.
While in hospice, patients can’t seek curative treatments, but they can decide to leave hospice if they decide to seek that kind of treatment.
“You can be admitted and discharged from hospice if you so choose,” she said. “We can put hospice on pause, while you go do your thing. We’ll be here when you’re ready to come back on services.”
The agency will soon be breaking ground on a new facility, which will be added onto the north side of the current building at 948 E. 11th St. in Washington.
“We’ll be putting up a 6,500-square-foot office that will have a conference room we hope to utilize as a public education room,” Altenhofent said. “We will also have our staff offices and supply and storage area. We will have an on-call suite for the staff members who are on call.”
They have been raising money for the project for about three years.
“We’re hoping to gain more donations so we don’t have to pay off as big a loan,” Altenhofent said.