ALS patient finds comfort and care in Serenity Suites

Candace Frohlich a resident at Good Samaritan Society - Sunset Drive in Mandan, North Dakota smiling at the camera.

Looking out the window from her new home at Good Samaritan Society – Sunset Drive in Mandan, North Dakota, Candace Frohlich is taking in what she describes as her “dream view.”

“I look out over the west and the sunrise and sunsets are gorgeous. The rolling hills of prairie, I’ve lived here all my life, but this is just my dream to look out the window and see this,” Candace says.

Always wanting a little house on the prairie, the 59-year-old finally has it but under unfortunate circumstances.

“It’s just been a long, long road,” Candace says about her journey to hospice care.

Candace lives in the long-term care center’s Serenity Suite. Serenity Suites are a joint venture between Good Samaritan Society locations and Sanford Hospice.

Advancing to ALS

In late 2019, after years of struggling physically and not knowing exactly why, Candace was finally diagnosed with primary lateral sclerosis.

“By April of 2020, I was already advancing to ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). My speech and my swallowing is going to go first,” the mother and grandmother says.

Candace’s ALS continues to advance. Speaking is a challenge and she’s struggling physically. After consulting with her doctor and family, she made the decision to enter hospice.

“It felt to me at least like a pretty big blindside,” Alicia Rouser, Candace’s daughter, says. “I was not expecting that. I think when you think of hospice, you think they’re on their death bed and it is weeks until their death. It was very shocking.”

One of her primary caregivers until recently, Alicia says her mom’s timeline is unknown. What is known is how dangerous it was for Candace to be living by herself in her previous apartment.

“She’s alone a lot. She’s falling a lot. She needs that care. Hospice made sense. I think to everyone involved it was more of a relief than anything knowing that she’s going to be taken care of and have people that know what they’re doing taking care of her,” Alicia says.

'Living life to the fullest still'

Society administrator Kelly VanderVorste says in addition to Society staff providing Candace care, meals and other services, Sanford Hospice nurses also check in regularly. The collaboration showcases the value of having an integrated health system.

“The hospice suite here, you’re getting 24-hour care and there’s always somebody there. You’re just a call away from anybody walking in,” Kelly says.

Kelly adds that at the same time, “it still gives you the privacy of being at home. It gives you a great view and a great atmosphere.”

“(Candace) always has a smile on her face. For being in the situation she is, she’s a go-getter still. She’s definitely not giving up and she’s living life to the fullest still.”

With the help of family and friends, Candace has made the suite her home. It's big enough to entertain Alicia, her husband Caleb and their little kids Jethro and Luya. It’s also filled with decorations using many items from her previous apartment.

“Everyone comments on how homey it is,” Candace says. “I was comfortable here that first week but now it’s really my home.”

“Everyone is so pleasant. Of course, the faith-based (care) is really important to me.”

'In the best possible space that she can be'

Alicia and her children, ages 3 and 1, stopped by recently to trick or treat at Candace’s place and were the talk of the building.

“It just helps my family with young kids just be able to enjoy time with her now instead of feeling so worried,” Alicia says.

“She’s in the best possible space that she can be. As a daughter who has often felt like I should take on that responsibility or that somehow falls on me, to know that there’s people and a place that’s taking care of her and doing it in such a gracious and joyful way, I’m just grateful.”

Hesitant about nursing homes at first, Candace now feels privileged to be living at the Society.

“A couple years ago I said, no, I want to die in my apartment,” Candace says.

She says the staff’s “kindness is real, and they do have compassion. They joke around with me. They see that I’m a positive person. I try to look at the positive. There’s always something to be thankful for. Right now, I’m so thankful that I’m here.

“I’m ready. I know where I’m going. I know God’s with me.”

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