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Hospice care provider with office in Hermantown adds dementia specialty

Duluth News-Tribune - 12/30/2019

Dec. 30--A hospice care provider with a presence in Hermantown has stepped up its services for hospice patients who also have Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia.

St. Croix Hospice, a for-profit based in Oakdale, Minn., this month launched what it calls the North Star Dementia Program. Its services are specifically geared toward those with memory loss.

"We serve a lot of dementia patients," said Kinsey Polo, who leads the program in Hermantown. "As a whole, this is a disease that definitely affects not only the patient, but the family. So our main goal is to provide that extra support in this time of need."

To seek to meet that goal, St. Croix's providers have been trained and certified as dementia care specialists through the Milwaukee-based Crisis Prevention Institute, Polo said.

They offer some specific services that not all hospice care providers do, she said, such as music therapy.

"For patients and families, especially with dementia, music seems to stimulate memories, and it seems to be very comforting," Polo said.

St. Croix Hospice has locations in Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas as well as Minnesota. In Minnesota, it covers 75% of the counties, Polo said. It recently opened an office in Grand Rapids, its northernmost outpost.

The Hermantown office covers an area from Two Harbors in the north to Askov in the south, and from Lake Nebagamon in the east to McGregor in the west, she said. Its services are available 24/7. Case managers see clients in private homes and nursing facilities.

For those with Medicare, hospice care is 100% covered, Polo said. Hospice care, intended for the dying, is set up for six months or less, but it can be extended if warranted.

The program comes as the prevalence of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia continues to grow. An estimated 5.8 million Americans have Alzheimer's, according to the Alzheimer's Association, and all but 200,000 of those are 65 and older. Meanwhile, the number of Americans 65 and older is projected to increase from 55 million this year to 88 million by 2050.

In Minnesota, an estimated 94,000 people had Alzheimer's in 2018, a number expected to rise to 120,000 in 2025, again according to the Alzheimer's Association.

Meanwhile, seven out of 10 Americans say they'd prefer to die at home than in a hospital setting, according to a 2017 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

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