By Anna Jauhola
Kittson County Hospice continues to look toward the future with a new administrator, consistent income and strong support from volunteers and the area communities.
The hospice board held its annual meeting on Friday, Feb. 25. They recently hired Macyn Lofstrom, RN, as a paid administrator for the program. For the last 18 years, Patti Swanson, RN, has volunteered her time as administrator, but decided to step back from that role.
“Transitioning back to a paid administrator is not a new concept at all,” said Swanson, who is also president of the hospice board. “In our first 20 years of existence, we paid an administrator. Then at the time, it was called a director, to conduct our program.”
So to factor in an administrator salary, the board will look at how things operate over the next few months and then figure the budget.
“We can’t determine an exact amount of administrative costs for our 2022 budget at this time,” she said. “We usually do it at this meeting, but we just can’t this year.”
In the meantime, the board will keep in mind a few factors as they develop the budget.
To be a licensed hospice in Minnesota, there must be two paid employees – Teresa Clay is the administrative coordinator and now Lofstrom as administrator. During Swanson’s donated administrative time, the organization offered hourly wages to the volunteer nurses and licensed social workers to cover that requirement, Swanson said. That is still offered, with a small increase this year.
Swanson added that administrative costs will likely decrease as Lofstrom is a registered nurse and able to admit patients. Usually, when a patient was admitted, they’d have to call in a volunteer nurse. Lofstrom will also then provide much of the patient care, depending on the number of patients. This was common with previous paid administrators who were nurses as well, Swanson said.
She used Sandy Wilson as an example, who was administrator for five years and also a registered nurse.
As Lofstrom grows into her administrative duties, Clay will also begin to reduce her hours.
“There’s got to be a transition. When Sandy was our director, she did most of the patient care, fundraising, records, and more,” Swanson said.
Lofstrom has volunteered as a nurse with hospice for the last seven years. This spring, she’s graduating from Minnesota State University Moorhead with a bachelor’s degree in nursing.
Plus, with the help of a scholarship, she is taking the test in March to become a certified hospice and palliative care nurse.
“I started as a music therapist and a nurses’ aide for hospice,” Lofstrom said. “I’m very passionate about hospice care. My family had a very wonderful experience with hospice. My granddad was able to pass away the way he wanted to thanks to Kittson County Hospice. So I’ve always wanted to be a hospice nurse. I just feel like I need to give that wonderful experience we had back to the people in Kittson County.”
Although Lofstrom was only a year old when her grandfather, David Lundberg, died with dignity through hospice care, she heard about the experience from family and found it comforting.
“It’s just such a wonderful, supportive, loving culture brought to the family,” she said of hospice.
Lofstrom’s path almost took her toward education as she wanted to be an English teacher. But during her high school at Tri-County in Karlstad, she began working as a nurses’ and activities’ aide at the nursing home, she fell in love with caring for people.
As she settles into her new role as administrator of hospice, she’s looking forward to further promoting the program and helping not only the patients, but their families as well. While she is young, Lofstrom hopes to prove she is more than qualified and able to tackle the tasks ahead of her.
“I’d like to thank the hospice board for giving me this opportunity and the people of Kittson County and their continued support. It’s very appreciated,” she said.
Kittson County Hospice saw an increase in its donations in 2021 to bring its total income to $53,149.02, Swanson said. However, expenses and salaries increased as well. Patient care, medications, supplies, COVID supplies and professional memberships cost $8,147.36. Hourly wages for nurses and social workers, administration salary and taxes increase by about $7,000. Total expenses were $60,316.28 for 2021.
Swanson reminded the board that hospice offers hourly wages to its volunteer nurses and social workers, along with mileage reimbursement, which is a part of the organization’s total expenses. She said some of them submit their hours and mileage, and some do not.
On average, Kittson County Hospice serves four patients per year. In 2021, they helped three patients, each of whom died while in hospice care. They cared for one for 10 days, another for 20 days and the third for 127 days.
Also during the year, the volunteer base decreased by three people, leaving hospice with 30 professional volunteers. They are looking for volunteers in the Karlstad community and in the Humboldt/Lancaster/Lake Bronson area. Their biggest need is RNs
“Keep in mind the cost of business has increased; rules, regulations and requirements have increased dramatically, which increased our administrative costs,” Swanson said. “We continue to depend on the support of Kittson County and beyond. And we pledge to continue to be as efficient as possible with our donated funds and continue to focus on providing the best end-of-life care possible with no charge.”
By Anna Jauhola