Rubber Ducky Race supports hospice care and families

By Tamera Manzanares

Ruth Rose Hutton was a fighter. As she aged, multiple falls compromised her independence, but her spirit endured. She always seemed to recover, surprising her doctors and family, who were grateful to have her in their lives until her death at age 87. A longtime Yampa Valley resident, Ruth’s late-life journey took her to The Haven Assisted Living Facility then Casey’s Pond, where injuries and illness eventually overcame her drive to get better.

Her daughter, Annette Zuber of Hayden, asked Northwest Colorado Health’s hospice team to help care for Ruth in her final weeks. Zuber didn’t expect the difference that support would make for both her mother and family. “Almost immediately it was a load off me to have the extra help, love and care for mom,” she said. “It was a huge relief, and helped me so much emotionally.”

Zuber’s experience is echoed among many families who have benefitted from hospice. Northwest Colorado Health has provided end-of-life care to hundreds of patients and families, regardless of insurance coverage or their ability to pay. This is possible due to donations and fundraisers such as the Rubber Ducky Race taking place Aug. 3 at the Moffat County Hot Air Balloon Festival in Craig and Aug. 25 at Old Town Hot Springs in Steamboat Springs.

Hospice nurses and medical staff help monitor patients’ health and medications to ensure they are comfortable. In the process, they develop close, personal connections with patients and their families. “There wasn’t a single person with hospice who didn’t give my mother love,” Zuber said.

Compassionate support of social workers, bereavement care staff and volunteers strengthen trust and ensure a patient’s physical, emotional and spiritual needs are addressed so they may experience their final days peacefully and with dignity.

Ruth’s family was by her side when she died last February. Hospice nurse Emily Henderson and JoAnne Grace, spiritual care and bereavement coordinator, were there to provide support, despite the blizzard raging outside. Grace performed a final blessing after Ruth’s passing. A touching and intimate experience, it gave Zuber closure during that difficult, yet special, time. “Mom’s exit was beautiful, and that was a big part of it,” she said.

Tickets for the Rubber Ducky Race in Craig or Steamboat Springs are $10 and support Northwest Colorado Health’s Hospice and Palliative Care program. Ticket holders of the fastest ducks win cash prizes (you don’t need to be present to win). Get your tickets online HERE.

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