Patient Reflection

A+ Hospice Student

After being on the Postville Good Samaritan Board of Directors for 38 years, it was a bittersweet moment when Francis Butikofer, Elgin, walked through those double doors with his family at his side as a patient choosing to spend the rest of his days in the place he held so dearly in his heart.

Francis’ journey began in 2004 when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Undergoing radiation and surgery, he believed himself to be home-free after six years of clean check-ups. However, in fall 2010, Francis heard the devastating news that the prostate cancer had metastasized to his bones, more specifically, his spine. Having radiation to shrink the cancer, Francis’ blood work was never good enough to have chemotherapy.

His daughter, Cyndii Lamphier, remembers, “There was a new treatment called Provenge, and Dad was the first one in Iowa to try it…in fact, he was only the 12th person in the U.S. to have the treatment. Only males with aggressive prostate cancer are candidates. Dad wanted to try anything to fight his cancer. He wasn’t ready to give up yet.”

With three daughters in health care, Lamphier, Wadena; Tami Snyder, Waterloo; and, Valerie Bodensteiner, Marble Rock, the family understood the odds with new treatments; however, they honored their father’s wish to fight in order to spend more time with his wife, Shirley, children and grandchildren. Unfortunately, no matter how much Francis fought his cancer or how strong his will was, eventually, the 79-year old tired.

“We sisters got together to talk about our options and hospice was mentioned,” Lamphier speaks on behalf of her siblings. “We all knew the program and believed in it. When we spoke with Dad’s doctor, we simply told him, ‘We understand and support hospice. So, please let us know when it is time.’ The doctor simply looked at us and said, ‘It’s time now.’”

While the women understood hospice was the best option, Francis knew he had a lot of living left to do and was apprehensive to make the decision. However, after listening to the recommendations by his doctors, daughters and wife, Francis allowed Palmer Hospice, West Union, to be contacted while clearly expressing to those who loved him, “I hear people can flunk hospice!”

Lamphier remembers, “When Palmer Hospice was contacted, Janell McElree, the social worker, was instrumental in those initial conversations with Dad. She spent hours listening to his concerns and explaining the hospice mission. If it wasn’t for her and her compassion, we know Dad wouldn’t have been so cooperative.”

Before calling Palmer Hospice, the family was taking care of their father’s every medical need. However, once hospice came aboard, Lamphier describes how the weight of the world was lifted from their shoulders.

“Palmer Hospice allowed me to be a daughter and NOT a nurse,” she recalls smiling. “That is exactly what Dad needed. Palmer had enough nurses, but Dad only has three daughters and that is what we had to be during this time.”

At the beginning of the process, Palmer Hospice had nurses and aides in the Butikofer home numerous times throughout the week. The family appreciated that their loved one was able to remain in his home where he wanted to be. Coming in to administer pain medications, check vitals, talk about how he was doing and feeling while focusing on the family and their needs as well, Palmer Hospice became part of the family. Soon, Francis took a turn for the worse, and the family knew that Francis needed around-the-clock care, which, due to Francis’ safety and well-being, they were unable to provide at home.

“With two of my sisters living farther away and my mom unable to care for my dad the way he needed, we made a decision as a family that Dad would need to go to Postville Good Sam. Dad understood the reasoning and agreed with it; however, he did not want to go.”

But, on his own terms, one winter day,  Francis walked through the doors of the Postville Good Samaritan Center; the same doors he had walked through a month previous to attend his last board meeting.

Smiling, Lamphier remembers the day, “He was surrounded by friends. Those he considered his second family came to greet him. From residents to staff, Dad had always made an impression at the Good Sam.”

True to Palmer Hospice’s mission, the transition from home to nursing home was seamless for the family. The organization got him in the nursing home immediately and handled all the phone calls, doctors’ orders, medication needs and paperwork allowing the family to help their loved one adjust to the change in his environment.

“Knowing we could transition from home to the nursing home and keep the same hospice nurses and aides really helped with the adjustment during that time as Dad’s anxiety was starting to really show.”

According to the family, in that first month at the nursing home, numerous medication changes were needed to keep their father calm. Regardless of how many medication changes were needed, Palmer Hospice dealt directly with the provider alleviating stress from the family. Regardless, Francis’ pain and anxiety levels continued to increase causing personality changes.

“Dad was always a fun-loving guy who made people laugh. But, toward the end, his personality changed a great deal. Palmer Hospice and Good Sam really went above and beyond to handle these changes. Palmer Hospice came more often and sent respite workers to keep him company from time to time as my siblings and I work and my mom couldn’t do everything. Good Sam residents and staff were amazing keeping Dad distracted with activities too.”

Loving to sing and dance, Francis was often found surrounded by Palmer Hospice and Good Samaritan staff and residents having their very own concert for the man who had made such an impact in so many lives.

“There were numerous times I would go get Dad settled when he was anxious about something and head home. Within an hour, he would be getting upset again, but hospice would handle it and allow our family to rest in between visits.”

Admitting the care of aging, ill parent is exhausting with all the appointments and needs associated, Lamphier appreciated the fact that Palmer Hospice took control of everything in regard to her father’s health.

“The communication between Palmer Hospice and our family was awesome. With all of us in different locations, each of us was kept informed in every aspect of Dad’s care. Without hospice, I know Dad’s care wouldn’t have been as good as it was during his final time.”

And, while Francis didn’t ‘flunk’ hospice as he anticipated, he became a ‘straight A’ student in the subject of living life to the fullest with those who loved him.