Denise Palsgaard has always loved helping people.
The Atwater native went to nursing school to get her degree in registered nursing because of her compassion, and during her training she worked with a home care and hospice nurse.
"I absolutely loved it," said Palsgaard.
After working as an intensive care nurse, Palsgaard decided to devote her life to helping patients nearing the end of their lives. In 1994 she opened her own business, California Home Care and Hospice.
"I saw how important home care and hospice was to both the patient and the family," Palsgaard said.
Palsgaard said her business is the only company in Merced County licensed and certified in both home care and hospice.
The home care end of the business helps people who are recovering from a disease or injury get through their physical therapy and treatment. "There really is no place like home when you aren't feeling well," Palsgaard said. "We treat patients and family with the highest quality of care possible in the dignity of their own home."
The company deploys registered nurses, therapists, licensed vocational nurses, registered nurses, home health aides, social workers and a chaplain to help people get through an injury or illness.
Hospice kicks in when a patient, his family and physician decide the patient is nearing the end of his life. "So many people want to pass away in their own home and we help make that possible," Palsgaard said.
One of the most important issues in hospice is pain management, and Palsgaard said her company works closely with both the patient and the doctor to make sure the patient is comfortable and not in pain. Nurses also make sure the patient is getting the right nutrition and supplements.
It's not just the patient that benefits from hospice, Palsgaard said. "We are here for the family, any time of the day or night," she said. "This is where our social worker and chaplain come in."
Palsgaard said her employees are on call 24 hours a day, and will go to a patient's home even if it's just to comfort and reassure a patient.
"We are here to help the patient in their last hours, and to make sure the family is also taken care of," Palsgaard said.
As newspaper columnist and actor Robert Benchley once put it, "Death ends a life, not a relationship." That's how Palsgaard sees it too.
Reporter Carol Reiter can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or firstname.lastname@example.org.