No One Dies Alone program now part of Dickinson hospice


Staff Writer

IRON MOUNTAIN – Just like a new baby is welcomed into the world with parents and family close at hand, OSF Home Care Services in Dickinson County has a Hospice program that makes sure that “No One Dies Alone.”

With the program already in place and meeting this need in the Delta County area, it was time to bring it to Dickinson County along with the other facets of the Hospice program.

To begin with, six volunteers have been trained in Dickinson County to be a part of No One Dies Alone (NODA) and one local facility, ManorCare Health Services in Kingsford, is on board to use this service.

The volunteers include Siri Sholten, Kim Smith, Diane Schabo, Karen Scelonge, Joanne Orchard-Dennis and Marge Meyers.

ManorCare in Kingsford has started to use NODA, which is a program that is available to everyone and not just for Hospice patients.

“These people needing the program find themselves at the end of their life alone. It can be for many reasons including some people are literally outliving their families,” said Ilene Kotajarvi, Hospice/NODA volunteer coordinator with OSF Home Care Services.

According to information provided on aging in America, Americans are living longer than previous generations.

Every day in the United States, 6,000 Americans celebrate their 65th birthday and 3,800 celebrate their 85th birthday. Data also shows that America’s seniors now outnumber the entire population of Canada.

With the fact that, on average, two patients die alone each month in nursing homes in America, the NODA program is looking to change that statistic.

This program began after a nurse had met a man at the hospital where she worked in Eugene Ore. The man was very near death and wanted her to stay with him. With six other patients to take care of she said she would return as soon as she had checked on them. But when she returned, he had died.

That event impacted her life and she decided she would make a change – with the first No One Dies Alone program starting in June 2001.

“It began with the vision of one woman and now NODA programs are in place throughout the United States, Europe and Singapore,” Kotajarvi said.

OSF Home Care Services also saw a need for the program in their community and began a NODA program in Delta County in April 2009. And since this time, OSF Hospice NODA volunteers have provided more than 600 hours to serve the dying in Delta County.

In Delta County, NODA began with four facilities and are now in nine facilities plus one in Menominee County. In Dickinson County, the program has started with ManorCare in Kingsford, with the hope to have the program grow to other facilities.

“OSF Home Care Services partners with local health care facilities to provide trained volunteers for situations when someone is in the last hours of life and does not wish to be alone,” Kotajarvi said.

She added that ManorCare has been open to making NODA available to their patients. They have introduced the volunteers to the staff and given them a tour of the facility.

“ManorCare has been just great to work with,” Kotajarvi said.

No nursing skills are needed to be a volunteer – just compassion, caring and dedication. The volunteer needs to commit to at least 2-4 hours a month and be willing to be on call during the time they have chosen.

“We believe that when someone is born, they should be surrounded by love and feel the same way when someone is dying. We do our best to provide that service,” Kotajarvi added.

To be a NODA volunteer, a person must complete an application, submit to an interview, sign a job description, submit to a criminal background check, have a current TB test on file that is provided free of charge, sign a confidentiality statement, complete a two hour orientation, follow the volunteer policies and procedures, and provide availability to the volunteer coordinator.

She said that the NODA volunteers are compassionate companions working with an aging population. And this need is growing with more people living into their 70s, 80s and 100s.

According to Kotajarvi, the program is not intended to take the place of nursing care. The volunteers are trained to sit and offer comfort only. With the facilities it partners with, OSF provides them with a tote bag containing a Bible, rosary and rosary prayer card, book of devotions, CD player and CDs.

Kotajarvi speaks highly of the volunteers involved in Hospice as well as the NODA program in Dickinson County.

“It’s really a calling for the people who decide to become NODA volunteers. Sometimes family members are coming from a distance away and the volunteers stay with the person and fill that gap until someone gets there or they reach the end of their life. The majority of people have family around, but this program fills that need when people are all alone,” she said.

In addition to NODA, the pet companion service is also being made available in Dickinson County with ManorCare in Kingsford also welcoming that program to its facility.

“Having a pet therapy program in our facility has reaped many benefits for our residents,” said Sharri Stachowicz, ADC.

“They have fostered many smiles, lightheartedness and sheer joy for those who participate in the activity. Their visits are always a welcomed and an anticipated event here a ManorCare,” she said.

To learn more about NODA or becoming a Hospice volunteer with OSF Home Care Services, call Kotajarvi at (906) 786-3915.

Linda Lobeck’s e-mail address is