Donor’s Gift to Hospice Comes from the Heart
Omer Voss, Sr., and his wife Annabelle
To have loved ones suddenly in need of in-home, nursing home or hospice care is difficult enough all on its own. But when the caregiving family members live out of town, the myriad decisions that must be made during the crisis within a short time frame can present even more challenges and add to an already stressful situation.
Omer Voss, Jr., lives in San Francisco, and his sister, Jerrol, lives in Switzerland. They became integral care decision makers for their parents who lived in Wilmette when both began to have health issues. “In times of crisis with short time frames to network and find good care, who can a family reach out to?” asked Omer. “The disconnect and confusion add even more stress to a family’s situation.”
Luckily, his mother Annabelle and father Omer, Sr., were patients of NorthShore Evanston Hospital. But at first, the family did not know that NorthShore had a Hospice program or the spectrum of care offered under NorthShore Home and Hospice Services.
“We had several situations with their health that required immediate decisions on care,” said Voss. Omer, Sr., needed stents. Annabelle had a stroke, and later a heart problem. Then his father needed infusions, and later developed heart failure.
Two years later, it became clear that his mother required hospice care but wanted to stay in her home. “Fortunately, that’s when we happened upon NorthShore Home and Hospice Services, which was wonderful,” says Voss. “The social worker explored our needs, far-flung situation, and suggested resources, not only at NorthShore.”
Once decisions were made, NorthShore provided the care that helped the siblings navigate the situation. “They arranged for equipment like oxygen, a bed and a wheelchair, and knew everything to do. NorthShore was helpful, knowledgeable and understanding, and did everything they could to help—from excellent in-home visits to arranging for a wonderful sitter while caregivers did household errands,” said Voss. Annabelle died in her home in 2009, at age 91.
A year later, Omer, Sr., had worsening health problems. On the eve of being released from another healthcare system, he learned he would need daily skilled nursing or outpatient treatments that his own in-home caregivers could not provide.
In desperation late in the day, Voss, Jr., called a NorthShore contact from Annabelle’s prior team. “Within an hour, she understood our needs, made phone calls, explored insurance, and we found a solution: NorthShore Skokie Hospital’s unit was open on weekends,” he said. “My contact was wonderful, responsive, caring and concerned. NorthShore stepped up to help navigate a medical situation—even when neither parent was in their immediate care. That experience later triggered our desire to support resources for such navigation and crisis help.”
Sometime later, Omer, Sr., was hospitalized with congestive heart failure, which prevented him from returning home. Expecting to go on another search for a nursing home, the family discovered that NorthShore had a Hospice Unit in Evanston Hospital that was convenient and appropriate for their father’s care. “Again, the Hospice staff rallied with ideas, counsel and plans and, once my father was admitted to the wing, they were very caring and quick to learn about his and our family’s situation,” said Voss. Omer, Sr., passed away in 2012 at age 95 as a patient in the Hospice Unit.
Voss and his sister were very grateful for NorthShore’s help to navigate the care system, in and outside of a direct relationship. They appreciated the attentive in-home visits and attention their parents received, as well as the personal acceptance and responsiveness to desperate questions.
As a result, they presented NorthShore with a very generous gift from their parents’ Omer G. Voss Family Foundation to establish a fund that will continue the vital work of NorthShore’s Home and Hospice Services, and to expand resources in cases where families need help navigating the system. “We expect the fund to provide for and respond to the needs of patients and their families in times of crisis,” said Voss.
“We are so grateful for the kind donation from the Voss Family,” said Mike Marschke, MD, Director of Hospice and Palliative Care at NorthShore. “This will allow us to start up a program new to NorthShore. We will be able to provide guidance and care to patients with serious illness who have not quite been entered into our Hospice program. We hope this will fill a large need for some of our patients.”
If you would like more information about NorthShore’s Home and Hospice Services, please call John Hanson, PhD, at 224.364.7208.