Friday, September 18, 2020

UC Davis Hospice: Bringing Comfort and Smiles to Hospice Patients During COVID-19

Even during a public health crisis, hospice and palliative care professionals rise to the challenge of providing compassionate, person-centered care in the community. UC Davis Hospice shares how their outreach to the community led to new resources and comforting, personal touches for their patients. 

When COVID-19 precautions shut down our in-person volunteer program, UC Davis Hospice began looking for creative ways to provide comfort and smiles to our patients. With our hospice volunteers busy making cards and offering telephonic support to patients, we expanded our reach to the community to offer ways they could help support UC Davis Hospice. The response we have received from the community has been truly amazing.

Erin Bjork, Hospice Volunteer Coordinator and mom of two teenagers, knew that many high school students needed virtual ways to fulfill community service hours during this time of COVID-19 restrictions. After reaching out to several local high schools, over 20 students responded wanting to help. The students quickly got to work making cloth face masks, homemade cards, care packages of comfort items, COVID-19 safety kits, and fleece tie blankets. Our patients have been so grateful and touched to receive these items from our local teens. Andrew Condrin, a high school senior who made fleece tie blankets and care packages, said “I didn’t know much about hospice care at first, but during my project, I learned how hospice helps give patients a peaceful death. I’m glad I could donate to a good cause that comforts people during the end of their lives.” 

High school students delivering care packages

By further networking within the Sacramento community and on, UC Davis Hospice has received donations of fidget blankets for dementia patients, custom bracelets with inspirational sayings, and cloth face masks. An organization called Alice’s Embrace reached out at the beginning of the pandemic to offer beautiful, hand-knit blankets for our hospice patients. We have given out more than 60 Alice’s Embrace blankets to our patients, who have been so grateful to receive these handmade gifts.

Social worker Tiffany delivering Alice’s Embrace blankets

A community member also donated several handmade hospital gowns in beautiful patterns and colors for our hospice patients. “Patients and families love the gowns!” said Tiffany Pulsipher, hospice social worker. “We had a patient who did not want to be in anything else during her time here. This is such a great way to both keep the patients comfortable and to allow the family to have something very special and personal to take home. The gowns and Alice’s Embrace blankets are an important touch that inpatient hospice can provide.”

Another special touch that UC Davis provides is through our partnership with The Petal Connection. The Petal Connection donates lovely floral bouquets twice per month to UC Davis Hospice. The staff love the smiles and joy that these flowers bring to the hospice patients. 

Petal Connection flowers being delivered to UC Davis Hospice

In the middle of the pandemic, hospice nurse Deborah Watson earned the prestigious Daisy Award for Extraordinary Nurses for her development of the inpatient hospice program, becoming the face of compassion and caring for this new program. Our inpatient hospice team has created “caring bags” filled with goodies and snacks for those on inpatient hospice. Plans are in the works to expand our caring bag offerings to include personal care items, which will help families who are staying in the hospital around the clock to be with their loved ones. The inpatient team will also be launching a handprint project for our patients, providing families with a framed handprint to keep as a memento when their loved one passes.

The engagement and enthusiasm from our staff and community members have been truly inspiring during the pandemic. We are excited to find new ways to further support our patients!

If you would like to share the creative ways your hospice and palliative care team is caring for patients amid the COVID-19 crisis, please send us your photos and stories so you can be featured in the #hapcFacesOfCaring campaign.  


Thursday, September 10, 2020

Gilchrist's Many Faces of Caring

Even during a public health crisis, hospice and palliative care professionals rise to the challenge of providing compassionate, person-centered care in the community. Gilchrist shares how the many members of their interdisciplinary team support each other and their community in times of need. 

The way our teams at Gilchrist deliver care is much different today than a few months ago. There are fewer in-person visits and more virtual ones, and those used to offering a hug or a comforting touch must offer only words instead. 

In addition to their usual care, our staff now have the added responsibility of addressing families’ fear and uncertainty. The work is difficult, but they are pushing past the challenges to do what they are trained to do. Here are just a few of our many Faces of Caring.

Palliative Care for COVID+ Patients
Since March, our palliative care nurse practitioners have been working day in and day out with the COVID-positive nursing home population. They help the residents and their families cope with the illness and the associated losses, as well as their symptoms. They also facilitate difficult and often sad conversations, ultimately helping patients set their goals of care and weigh their medical decisions.

Pictured: Nurse practitioners Tracie Morgan, Amanda Wiese and Esther Schaftel 

Hospice for COVID+ Patients 
Our nurses are continuing to provide vital hospice care to patients and families in their homes, including those with COVID-19. To ensure the safety of both the clinician and the family, a “safety buddy” accompanies each nurse visiting a COVID-19 patient. The safety buddy nurse helps ensure safe and correct donning and doffing of the other nurses’ PPE. 
Pictured: Hospice nurses Delores Williams and Erica D'Alesandro

Inpatient COVID Unit
In addition, Gilchrist opened the only COVID-19 dedicated inpatient hospice unit in Maryland, providing patients with an alternative to a hospital death. This allows patients to die with a loved one by their side while our teams care for their medical, emotional and spiritual needs.

“We are here because our patients need us, and because we made a promise, as nurses, to show up in their time of greatest need,” said Kristin Metzger, a hospice nurse on the unit.
Pictured: Hospice nurses Kristin Metzger and Oksana Horwitz

Hope Through Music
Although the COVID pandemic brings much anxiety, uncertainty, fear and confusion, for some, it offers unexpected opportunities. For one Gilchrist Kids family, music therapy helped two sisters bond with one another and create a unique "soundtrack." While isolated at home after schools closed, big sister Sarah became a regular part of her sister Amanda's music therapy sessions. And so, with the help of the music therapist (and mom and dad), these two sisters recorded favorite songs, piano improvisations, and original music written about everyday life. Now, they will have a memory of 2020 that is filled with love, hope and joy.
Pictured: Pediatric hospice patient Amanda Gonzales with sister, Sarah, and music therapist Lacy Kidwell

Virtual Grief Counseling
Like every other team, grief counselors have shifted to offering virtual services, including grief telehealth by phone or video. They also have organized online virtual support groups and created a Facebook group designed to offer education, support and reassurance to bereaved as they mourn and heal. 

Our grief counselors have found that people need grief services now more than ever. “Grief can be very isolating,” explained grief counselor Carol Hallinan. “Add a pandemic and you have a lot of loneliness. Like most of the world, our counselors have been able to adapt so we can continue to support our bereaved who are now struggling with many kinds of loss. Sometimes, just providing presence for those in mourning, even virtually, can go a long way in the healing process.”
Pictured: Grief counselor Carol Hallinan

Determined to Rise Above
The pandemic has brought out the best in people determined to rise above. Team members have stepped up to overcome challenges they never had to face before. Social worker Kerry Riggs sums up the collective feeling of many at Gilchrist: “Working on the emotional frontlines for families of patients, this has been some of the most challenging, exhausting and also rewarding work of my 24-year career,” she said. “I can't wait until the time when I can offer a comforting touch or hug to our patients and their families.” 

If you would like to share the creative ways your hospice and palliative care team is caring for patients amid the COVID-19 crisis, please send us your photos and stories so you can be featured in the #hapcFacesOfCaring campaign.  


Friday, September 4, 2020

Repaying the Favor: Recognizing a Veteran Volunteer

Even during a public health crisis, hospice and palliative care professionals rise to the challenge of providing compassionate, person-centered care in the community. Heart 'n Home Hospice shares how they were able to safely and respectfully honor one of their Veteran patients, who was also one of their Veteran volunteers. 

On a beautiful summer morning, surrounded by the pine trees of La Pine, Oregon, we had the great
pleasure to honor local Veteran Dan Henry for his service to our country. Dan was a bagpiper for the Oregon Army National Guard for 9 years. Dan, deservingly, is very proud of serving his country through the Army National Guard.

Dan was recognized in a Veteran Pinning Ceremony presented by the Heart ‘n Home Hospice team. Not only is Dan a patient with Heart ‘n Home, but for many years he was a Heart ‘n Home Volunteer through the local Band of Brothers chapter. Together with the Band of Brothers, which is a local Veteran organization, Heart ‘n Home works towards honoring all Veterans in the community.

Taking this time to recognize Dan, in this special ceremony, was made more meaningful because of his previous involvement in recognizing other Veterans. Dan, as a member of the Band of Brothers and a Volunteer with Heart ‘n Home, has helped at numerous Veteran Pinnings. He also proudly volunteered to serve in his community before he became ill. Because he has given so much of his time in service of others, it was a pleasure to take this time to honor him.

Decked out in his full kilt and uniform, Dan stood proud for a photo. “Not only does Dan have stories about his time in the Guard and as a local firefighter, but his uniform itself tells a proud story of service, honor, and loyalty,” Heart ‘n Home Care Navigator Mandy Putzier said. For example, the kilt he dons is his family tartan, and the bear hackle on his hat was awarded by the Clan Buchanan of Willamette Valley Bagpipe Association due to his abilities as a bagpipe player.

Dan’s family attended the ceremony which honored his service. Unfortunately, with COVID-19 restrictions his fellow Volunteers and Band of Brothers were unable to attend, but we’re sure they would have if possible.

With each part of his uniform in place, Dan humbly accepted a card from the whole hospice team and a certificate is presented to him. Along with the certificate, an American flag pin was pinned to his lapel by Mandy. He was comforted by his RN, Case Manager Billy, and his daughter Jennifer as he shed tears of honor. Heart ‘n Home employees Russell, Elizabeth, and Billy also took part in the presentation. Then, Dan stood with Executive Director Diana and saluted the flag.

Two patriotic pillowcases were also presented to Dan. They were sewn with care by Mandy. Many people in the La Pine area have a great love for quilting and sewing. These pillowcases not only provide comfortable place to lay his head, but will serve as a daily reminder of our appreciation of Dan’s service.

Heart ‘n Home proudly honors not only our Veteran patients, but all Veterans. It was truly our pleasure to recognize someone so dear to us. Dan has done his part to recognize many other Veterans, we were happy to return the favor.

“Dan is pretty special to our team so it means a lot to us that we can do this for him,” Mandy said. “A picture can tell a thousand words…and in Dan’s case the picture of him in his kilt receiving his Veteran certificate, presented by his Heart ‘n Home care team, surrounded by his family tells a lifetime of stories.”


If you would like to share the creative ways your hospice and palliative care team is caring for patients amid the COVID-19 crisis, please send us your photos and stories so you can be featured in the #hapcFacesOfCaring campaign.  


Friday, August 21, 2020

Hoffmann Hospice’s “Everything is Going to be OK” Campaign

Even during a public health crisis, hospice and palliative care professionals rise to the challenge of providing compassionate, person-centered care in the community. Tami Varner, Development Assistant at Hoffmann Hospice in Bakersfield, CA, shares how they have used a public awareness campaign to spread positive messages and support community groups and businesses. 


Each of us has faced challenges and daily changes to our life that can leave us feeling a little lost. Sometimes a few words can make all the difference in someone’s day. When the pandemic began, we all felt immediately impacted and questioned how we could make a difference. The answer for us was one message of hope at a time. That inspired Hoffmann Hospice to create our “Everything is Going to be OK” campaign. 


In March, we created and began taking orders for our “Everything is Going to be OK” yard signs. The yard signs quickly caught on and spread throughout our community. To date, we’ve sold over 4,000 yard signs. We partnered with a local hat company and created hats and face coverings, so each order of those products supported a non-profit and a local business. We also just began taking orders for shirts. This was our first opportunity to pivot our fundraising strategy toward reaching out to donors virtually through social media, email, and texting. 


The impact the campaign has had on our community has been truly inspirational. There are entire neighborhoods with signs displayed on every yard. One local teacher incorporated the campaign in her virtual teachings and went on to write a children’s book, “Once Upon A Time There was COVID-19. A local pizza business has their staff wearing the shirts to encourage them and their customers, and our local KUZZ radio station has joined as ambassadors. The campaign has not only generated funding for our non-profit hospice, it allowed us to keep our staff engaged and working and created positivity in our community. 


If you would like to share the creative ways your hospice and palliative care team is caring for patients amid the COVID-19 crisis, please send us your photos and stories so you can be featured in the #hapcFacesOfCaring campaign.  


Friday, August 14, 2020

Virtual Series Offers Tips to Parents to Help Children Who are Grieving During COVID-19

Even during a public health crisis, hospice and palliative care professionals rise to the challenge of providing compassionate, person-centered care in the community. Hospice & Community Care created a unique way to help families work through the grief and loss children may feel due to COVID-19. 

In July of 2020, Hospice & Community Care of Rock Hill, South Carolina, launched an educational video series entitled Navigating Children’s Grief During Uncertain Times. The series was created with the help of local expert, Sarah Hopkins, MSW, of Winthrop University’s School of Social Work and a former hospice Bereavement Counselor. The videos are hosted by Sarah and discuss how to support children ages 6-12 years old through the many different losses that they may be experiencing due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. These video resources are free to the public and are available on the organization’s website. 

“After our Children’s Grief Camp was canceled in June due to Covid 19, we wanted to find an innovative way to offer support to our community,” says Director of Family Services Jenifer Crawford. “We were thrilled to be able to offer this resource to anyone caring for children during these uncertain times and were fortunate to have our local news channel interview us about the series.”

During the educational series, Sarah discusses how to work with children to accept the reality of the losses that they have faced and offers tips on how to discuss the losses with them. She also shares how to support children as they experience the pain that the losses may have imposed and will discuss what emotional, behavioral and physical symptoms of grief that you may be seeing with your child.  There is information on how to help your children adjust to their new world as they navigate their life during the pandemic.  Ms. Hopkins also offers tools for how to support children through the transition back to education.  The final is a Q&A featuring questions sent in by viewers during the first 5 weeks. 

“As an educator and grandparent of students in our local school districts, I have shared Hospice & Community Care’s video series with everyone who comes in contact with a child including teachers, pediatricians, after school and daycare centers, as well as other parents and grandparents," said Cindy Taubenkimel, Director of ParentSMART and the Sylvia Circle Family Learning Center. "The information presented in the videos certainly helps everyone who is providing care for a child as circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 health emergency are constantly changing. We, as caregivers, must educate ourselves in order to help our community’s youth process their feelings, questions and emotions. I am so appreciative to have a resource to share with caregivers during this uncertain time.”

The video series is available on Hospice & Community Care website.

If you would like to share the creative ways your hospice and palliative care team is caring for patients amid the COVID-19 crisis, please send us your photos and stories so you can be featured in the #hapcFacesOfCaring campaign. 

Friday, August 7, 2020

Hospice and Structural Racism

Don’t go there; please don’t go there, she thought to herself as her patient began to complain about the country going to hell because of Black people. Adding insult to injury, he ignored the obvious fact of her race—to him she was invisible, an “other.” Although hurt and angry she said nothing, knowing her supervisor would tell her, “Well, you know he is demented; we don’t want his family to fire us and choose another hospice.”

Hospice has a long tradition of providing person and family centered care for those who are dying. That’s as it should be. NHPCO’s website statement on structural racism and health inequities commits to eliminating structural racism that creates barriers to care for all. The organization demands “that every life be valued and respected.” Do these same principles apply to hospice service caregivers?

How does a hospice organization prepare and support its employees who experience patient and/or family bigotry (racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia etc. and the intersection of these)? Would supervisors at your workplace respond as the one above? If so, what message is being sent to the hospice worker? Why should the staff suffer racist or other oppressive forms of abuse, in deference to a patient because he is dying?  What is being said about relative worth—about value and respect? And, how is focusing on the bottom line different than arguing slavery was a necessary evil for the sake of the economy? These questions warrant honest conversations.

Hospices are further challenged knowing a client’s preference for hospice caregivers based on race, ethnicity and gender leads to better outcomes and symptom management. Of course it does, don’t we all feel better when we have our way? Those of us who pursue social justice must ask at whose expense. Change will not come without pain, especially for those who assert superiority. Just as confederate flags must come down despite the blow to “southern pride,” the bigoted requests and behaviors of patients/families must not be tolerated. Otherwise, the status quo will remain, and staff on the receiving end of such inhumanity must continue to numb their souls. Is that a fair exchange for better outcomes and symptom management for the patient?

Hospice providers have a moral obligation to equally value the worker by empowering her to respond, “I understand that is how you feel but it’s not my view; please do not say those things to me.” Further, hospices must have clear equity policies that guide decision-making and offer training and support to staff when these inevitable indignities are visited upon them.

Let’s let patients and families know, “Although our hospice strongly supports patient preferences, we will not when they are based on bigotry. Would you like us to refer you elsewhere?”

 Eliminating structural racism requires making difficult decisions.

Robert A. Washington, PhD
Retired Hospice Clinical Director
Washington, DC

Friday, July 31, 2020

Hospice Ensures Patients and Their Beloved Pets are Cared For

Even during a public health crisis, hospice and palliative care professionals rise to the challenge of providing compassionate, person-centered care in the community. Columbus Hospice of Georgia and Alabama exemplifies #hapcFacesofCaring by recognizing the unique bond that many of their patients have with their beloved pets and caring for these pets like they are their own. 

The COVID-19 pandemic brought on many changes for our communities and modifications in the workplace. Columbus Hospice of Georgia and Alabama strived to maintain as much “normal” as possible to our patients and caregivers. Part of this was ensuring that our patients and caregivers continued to receive as much support as we could safely provide during their end of life journey. 

The volunteer services department at Columbus Hospice manages the Pet Peace of Mind Program for patients. The pandemic has brought increased isolation, sadness, and for many, diminished physical contact. One thing that Pet Peace of Mind recognizes is the powerful emotional and physical connection that pets can provide. Columbus Hospice continued to provide Pet Peace of Mind services through the pandemic which in turn impacted the lives of our patients, caregivers, and staff in a positive way.

When COVID-19 precautions first started, there were many efforts made to keep patient care at Columbus Hospice as uninterrupted as possible. Life did not stop, and emergencies still came up - even with patients’ pets. Many veterinarians had to modify how they provided their services. Some had limited scheduling, long waits, and caregivers had to wait in the car while their pets were seen. Ms. Q had 2 dogs and 2 cats, and they all needed care. The patient and caregiver were unable to transport the pets to the vet but with the team efforts of a volunteer, a volunteer coordinator, and a hospice nurse, all animals got the care they needed. The patient was thankful that all her fur babies received care and it decreased some of her stress.

Diamond’s owner had two major things in his life that made being at home alone more comfortable: Diamond and Diamond’s older brother, Buddy, a distinguished, greying 12-year-old black lab. Buddy and Diamond’s dad was a Columbus Hospice patient and he died during the month of May. The patient lived alone, and his only regular companions were Buddy and Diamond.  His caregiver lived out of town and knew very little about either Buddy or Diamond’s history. When the patient died the caregiver was scrambling from two hours away trying to arrange Buddy and Diamond’s future.  PPOM had been supporting the care of Diamond and Buddy while the patient was on Columbus Hospice and was able to provide vet information and history about the dogs to the caregiver. Sadly, Buddy died a few days after his “dad” but PPOM was able to support Buddy staying in the home with the patient until the patient died.  Two-year-old Diamond, however, found a new home with the help of Columbus Hospice and is thriving with his new dad Cheron.  

Diamond and his new dad Cheron.

While the focus of Pet Peace of Mind isn’t about pet therapy, it recognizes the positive impact animals have on humans.  Beethoven, the Columbus Hospice therapy dog, had been visiting a patient regularly for about six months in a nursing home facility prior to the pandemic.  The facility this patient lived in suspended family, friends, or volunteers from visiting patients as a precaution. Volunteer Shannon and Beethoven got creative and did a visit outside a patient’s window on Easter. Shannon said that the smile on the patient’s face when she saw Beethoven through the window was priceless.   

If you would like to share the creative ways your hospice and palliative care team is caring for patients amid the COVID-19 crisis, please send us your photos and stories so you can be featured in the #hapcFacesOfCaring campaign.