Friday, January 29, 2021

The Power of Forgiveness at End of Life

Care Dimensions chaplain Rev. Donna Spencer Collins, M.Div. shares her experience witnessing the importance of forgiveness and peace at the end of life -- both for the person doing the forgiving and the person who is being forgiven.  

On the wall in my living room hangs a banner with this quote:

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”- Mother Teresa

Through a series of unfortunate circumstances, my niece and nephew came to live with us. And not long after, their father was diagnosed with cancer. I had known Steve for 20 years and believed he had done many unforgivable things. Nevertheless, he was homeless with terminal cancer. Although he fell short, he loved his kids. Inviting him to stay with us was the right thing to do.

A few nights before he came, I sat in my living room after everyone had gone to bed and wondered if I was making a big mistake. While I wrestled with the decision, Mother Teresa’s words challenged me. The kids – 11 and 15 years old – and their dad belonged to each other, and we needed to figure out how to bring peace.
 
Anger, then trust
Steve moved in and hated that he had to do this. He was very angry that he was sick. He was angry that he had to come live with us when he did not like us. But the biggest issue he was angry about was that his secret was out in the open, having come to the U.S. illegally in 1973. Because of this, he did not qualify for many medical services. Nevertheless, Hospice of the North Shore (now Care Dimensions) treated this man with compassion and respect. It took him time to trust his hospice team, but the caring and resources he received began to change his demeanor.

A few months after living with us, Steve came into the kitchen and told me that we needed to talk. He said, “You know that banner in the living room facing my bed? I read it every night. And lately I have been wondering about my friend ‘Mario’ (not his real name). We had a big fight a few years ago and have not spoken since. He is like my brother and I realize not forgiving him has kept me away from him. I have no peace because I forgot he belongs to me.”

As Steve spoke, he wept openly and shared the story of their separation. A few days later he decided to go see Mario, who owned a small grocery store. He returned with two big bags of groceries. Smiling from ear to ear, he shouted, “We belong to each other again!”
 
Forgiveness leads to peace

Steve lived with us for 10 months before he passed peacefully surrounded by love. A love that was free to behold because he remembered – then we remembered – that we belonged to each other.

Forgiveness is the pathway to peace and belonging. Steve found his way to peace and belonging by unknowingly meditating on a few simple words.

Forgiveness is not given because someone deserves it. It is given because the offended person is ready to forgive.

Forgiveness is my letting go of my need to punish someone else and my desire to stop carrying around the hurt and anger someone caused me.

I am convinced that forgiveness at end of life can bring healing to the person who is doing the forgiving and to the person who is being forgiven. It can also impact the family and relationships beyond the family circle. Forgiveness demonstrates a precious model to those who are watching how we die.


About the author
Rev. Donna Spencer Collins, M.Div., is Pastor of the Phoenix Rising United Church of Christ in Groveland, MA, and a chaplain with Care Dimensions.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Heart ‘n Home Volunteers Help Fulfill Janice’s Wish


Even during a public health emergency, hospice and palliative care professionals rise to the challenge of providing compassionate, person-centered care in the community. Heart ‘n Home Hospice shares how dedicated volunteers fulfilled a special wish for a patient. 



“Janice Schroeder started doing needlework when she was young. She worked with her grandma, making samplers when she was 12 years old. As time went on, she learned to knit, crochet, and do needlepoint. She believes a person’s hands should be busy. Even now as an 89-year-old, who has trouble seeing and is unable to remember how to “cast on” for knitting, she still fidgets with something in her hands, sometimes just her blanket, but always something,” Janice’s daughter Sue Richard shares.

Sue continues, “She began the Jungle Needlepoint project about 10 years ago. Janice has never done anything halfheartedly, so she purchased the expensive kit, had a needlework table made, and began her project. There was no way Janice could foresee her husband’s need for her constant attention was coming. Her husband, LeRoy, had a degenerative eye disease, as well as other health issues. He passed away, at 97 years old, after 40 years of marriage to Janice, in July 2019. Although she had a few years of working on the project, she just hasn’t been able to find the energy to start on it again.

This needlepoint project has made many moves and has been in Janice’s mind, but still, her body just was not able to continue it. Now, the wonderful Volunteers at Heart ‘n Home have taken on this massive project and have already put countless hours into it. Janice would love to see the project finished before her time is up, but she understands what a big challenge it is to find the time to work on something so time-consuming.”

In September, Janice was able to see the progress being made on the project.

Since then, the faithful Heart ‘n Home Volunteers, have completed her project. Volunteer Jan put in 50 hours of work then passed the project on.


Volunteer LaDonna took over the project and completed it, putting in 150 hours. These two ladies made over 71,000 stitches and put in 200 hours that fulfilled Janice’s wish to have this needlepoint completed so that it could be enjoyed by others.


Once it was completed, Janice’s daughter, Sue, was able to deliver the needlepoint to her mother. Janice was thrilled to see the piece finished. She reminisced about how she bought the kit from a “beautiful shop” in Newport, Oregon. She chose the piece because she liked the birds on it. Sue is going to hang the needlepoint in her mother’s room to enjoy.

Janice’s family is very, very grateful to the volunteers for taking on the needlepoint project, and they appreciate every single person who has put their hearts and souls into it. This is going to be a wonderful heirloom for Janice’s family. Thank you LaDonna and Jan!

You can watch Sue deliver the finished piece to her mother. 

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.  

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Still Time to Order a 2021 NHPCO Webinar Package

Have your educational calendar set for the year!

NHPCO’s 2021 webinars bring you and your staff professional development and education from nationally recognized speakers presenting on the most relevant topics for the field. Invest in your staff and purchase a package today and have your education calendar set for the whole year.  NHPCO webinars are a cost-effective way to maximize learning within your organization.


2021 Topic Tracks

  • Community-Based Palliative Care
  • Clinical
  • Interdisciplinary Team
  • Quality
  • Regulatory and Compliance
  • Supportive Care.

Two webinars are offered each month and the topics are developed with input from providers and our subject matter experts. Titles are currently available for the first half of the year and remaining will be determined based on needs from the field at that time. Being responsive to provider needs and the realities of the current environment is always the goal of our webinars. CE/CME credit is available and may vary depending on webinar topic.

The calendar of 2021 webinars is available online.

All webinars are live from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m., ET or enjoy the recording when it works best for your schedule.

Build Your Library

Add to your organization’s or your individual professional library, a recording of each webinar is included with your webinar purchase giving you or your staff the opportunity to listen to the valuable presentations after the original webinar (please note, CE/CME is only available for participation in the live webinar broadcast and not for those who listen to the recording).

Webinar Pricing and Packages

Included with each webinar purchase is two logins for each webinar and the MP4 recording.

  • 24-Webinar Package:  $999 for members; non-member price is $4,499.
  • Single Track Package (4 webinars):  $175 for members; non-member price is $750.
  • Single Webinars:  $49 for members; non-member price is $199.

Order a 2021 Package Today

For webinar details or to register, visit the webinar section of the NHPCO website.


Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Dr. Powell reflects on all she has seen and the significance of vaccination

Casa de la Luz Associate Medical Director Dr. Rebecca Powell, HMDC received the COVID-19 vaccine and wrote the following to describe the joy, hope and sense of peace that it brought.


As I drive home from my COVID vaccine I’ve finally had a minute to process what this means.

The first time I gowned in my PPE to walk into a patients room dying of COVID it felt unreal. Since that time many months ago, I’ve seen the unthinkable happen as this disease has wreaked havoc on society. I’ve seen death after death, both from COVID and from the isolation it has brought to our community. I’ve seen how hard people have to work to breathe before they take their last breath. I’ve stood in a patient’s room for a few extra minutes as they approach death – I just couldn’t let them die alone. 
 
I’ve also heard arguments as to why the horrors from COVID are fake. I’ve had my patience tested far greater than it has before. I’ve had so many people ask me about whether or not they should get the vaccine it would make your head spin. I’ve had friends and family turn to Dr. Google and try to peddle me their findings. And I’ll be honest, I’ve been pushed to my absolute limit at times. 
 
Today I sit with tears in my eyes and with gratitude in my heart that I’m one step closer to keeping my family safe. I’m a few days away from developing immunity, which will essentially serve as PPE that can’t be accidentally contaminated. I won’t have to worry as much about being the cause of anyone dying from a preventable disease. 
 
I finally see light at the end of a long stretch of darkness. Today I stand grateful for my friends and colleagues who’ve gone into these rooms with me. So many of you reading this have sacrificed so much to put the health and safety of others first. I’m thrilled to be joining the ranks of those who proudly post “I’m vaccinated” pictures. It’s almost over. 
 
Now I can continue to care for you and your family – to help them breathe easier or to sit with them for a little bit longer – but I get to do with less fear and less distraction. Because I’m finally vaccinated. I’m so happy. 
 
So if you want to know my opinion on getting vaccinated: ANYONE and EVERYONE who is eligible should get the vaccine. Could there be side effects? Sure, but nothing is as bad as this horrible disease that is destroying our country. There are likely long term effects of that too. This vaccine has the potential to save millions of lives – our friends and family, our colleagues, maybe even our own. 

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If you would like to share your experience amid the COVID-19 crisis or receiving the vaccine, please send us your photos and stories so you can be featured in the #hapcFacesOfCaring campaign.  
 

Monday, December 21, 2020

Becky's Vaccine Story

NHPCO is pleased to share this piece written by Becky Wilder, volunteer coordinator for Uplifted Care in Bourbonnais, IL. Becky wrote this piece on Thursday, December 17, the day she received her COVID-19 vaccine.

In June of this year, I lost the first person dear to me as a direct result of COVID. 

In August, I lost the second friend to it.

Yesterday, I lost the third -- a very dear friend. No, he was more than a friend, he was family. He was my brother's best friend, my mentor and friend, and my brother from another mother. After several days on a vent, he succumbed yesterday, two days after his 69th birthday.

I've watched so many loved ones who have family in long term care and have been separated from them for months -- unable to hug them, unable to sit with them, unable to just be present. Some of those family members have died alone. On a professional level, as one who manages our 11th Hour program, that's hard for me to hear. As a daughter whose mother died at home in September from natural causes, I cannot fathom having missed her final hours. Thinking of it breaks my heart for those who have had no choice.

I've watched my coworkers for MONTHS putting on layers of PPE, masks, shields, etc. I've watched their weariness, their sadness, their sacrifice. I've heard their stories of going home at night with their faces so red and irritated from the masks that they barely recognize themselves. I've heard them speak of sleeping away from and steering clear overall of their spouses and children to avoid risking exposing someone they love.

This virus is very, very real, and I want to do what I can to respect what so many are going through, and try to not be a catalyst for anyone else getting it. There's a lot of layers to the heartache this virus has caused. So when we got word at work earlier today that one of the local hospitals was giving us the opportunity to get the COVID-19 vaccine, it wasn't even a question. I signed up as soon as we were able, and I got my vaccine at 2:55 p.m. today. It wasn't painful at all. As I sit here now, it is 3:56 p.m. I feel just fine. Like any vaccine I would expect mild symptoms as it gets into my system, but we will see. Still, those symptoms are NOTHING compared to what so many others have been through - and what so many have lost this year as a result of COVID. This is the least I can do.

My hope is that soon the vaccine will be widely available, and that it will be the long, desperately prayed for solution to this pandemic nightmare. I pray that it will protect as it is intended to do, and that no one else will have to be sick with (or die from) this horrible virus.

If you would like to share your experience amid the COVID-19 crisis or receiving the vaccine, please send us your photos and stories so you can be featured in the #hapcFacesOfCaring campaign.  

Friday, December 18, 2020

Heart ‘n Home Hospice Video Series: “Hope for the Holidays”



Even during a public health emergency, hospice and palliative care professionals rise to the challenge of providing compassionate, person-centered care in the community. Kandice Dickinson, Director of Public Relations for Heart ‘n Home Hospice, shares a creative way they met their community’s need for grief support.

Hospice providers are experts in grief and bereavement, and we believe we can be of greater support on a grander scale to many. We realize that with today’s COVID crisis, every person in the world has experienced form of grief – whether that is loss of life, a job, normal routines, and much more.

We recorded our six-part video series with our social workers called “Hope for the Holidays” for all those who have lost someone – especially the medical field professionals, who have lost so many patients to COVID. We hope to shine a light again on how hospice professionals are experts in bereavement and grief and can be a resource to all during this pandemic. We want to help. They can all be found on our YouTube page at www.youtube.com/user/gohospice.

“The holidays are a difficult time for many people and layered with the COVID-19 pandemic, the emotional stress is at a level that none of us can truly imagine.  Due to the restrictions for infection prevention, we wanted to be able to reach individuals who were grieving and struggling in their living rooms or wherever they may be virtually,” said Felicia Comfort, CSWA, social worker at Heart ‘n Home Hospice.

The videos provide coping skills and strategies, and they give people permission to grieve and create new traditions.

“Normally, people are able to be together to grieve and we know this year is very different. We wanted individuals who may be suffering, to know they are not alone and there are ways to help them cope during this holiday season. Our hope would be that they would not feel alone and normalize their feelings,” Felicia said.

At Heart ‘n Home, we are always seeking new and innovative ways to be a definitive leader in hospice care. The creation of a recorded Hope for the Holidays series that would be accessible to everyone is another way to get creative and innovative in a very difficult time.

“My inspiration came from the phrase, ‘Necessity is the mother of invention.’ It is a necessity to deliver services to our communities and given the current environment we are in, this seemed like one innovative way to do so,” said Mandy Putzier, social worker at Heart ‘n Home Hospice.

“My hope is that we can reach people who we are unable to reach due to COVID. But even bigger than COVID is the idea that many people would benefit from this type of support outside of a pandemic. There are many different ways people grieve, so I believe there should be many different ways people have access to grief support. My hope is this will help people now and into the future,” Mandy continued. 

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, December 3, 2020

Hospice and Palliative Care Month Resolution

NHPCO's blog shares a press release from the office of Senator Jacky Rosen.

For Immediate Release: December 3, 2020

Rosen Introduces Bipartisan Resolution Designating November as National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, Resolution Passes Senate

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV), a member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) and the Special Committee on Aging and a co-chair of the Comprehensive Care Caucus, announced her introduction of a bipartisan resolution to honor November as Hospice and Palliative Care Month. The resolution also unanimously passed the U.S. Senate last night. Fellow caucus co-chairs Senators John Barrasso (R-WY), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Deb Fischer (R-NE) are original co-sponsors of this resolution. Observed in November, National Hospice and Palliative Care Month is a time to honor the vital services that hospice and palliative care organizations provide to patients and their families facing serious illnesses and injuries:

“As someone who stepped back from my career to take care of my parents and in-laws as they got older and started to have serious health problems, I understand just how important it is for patients and families to have access to care that is compassionate and comprehensive,” said Senator Rosen. “We know that palliative care helps meet patient needs, and by observing National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, we will be able to give this very real issue the attention that it deserves. I am proud to be joined by my Comprehensive Care Caucus co-chairs to introduce this bipartisan resolution recognizing the importance of palliative care for patients, families, friends, and caregivers.”

BACKGROUND:  Last June, Rosen introduced the bipartisan Provider Training in Palliative Care Act (S.1921) with Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). This legislation would update the National Health Service Corps program to include palliative care medicine as an eligible primary care service.

 Last July, Senators Rosen, Barrasso, Baldwin, and Fischer launched the bipartisan Comprehensive Care Caucus to raise the public’s awareness and promote the availability and benefits of palliative care, while also finding bipartisan solutions to expand access to palliative care services, improve coordinated care, and address issues impacting caregivers. The Caucus’ mission is to work to enhance access to palliative care services and improve the quality of life of millions of Americans managing serious illnesses.

This resolution (S.Res.783) is endorsed by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO), the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care (C-TAC), and the National Partnership for Healthcare and Hospice Innovation.

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In response to this resolution passed by the U.S. Senate, NHPCO President and CEO Edo Banach stated: 

“We thank Senator Rosen for spearheading this resolution passed by the U.S. Senate that recognizes the critically important work done our nation’s hospice and palliative care provider community. President Ronald Reagan first recognized November as National Hospice Month over forty years ago and it’s heartening to see national recognition continue. Hospices have traditionally marked November as a time to celebrate their staff and volunteers and to engage with the communities they serve to increase awareness. It means a great deal to our entire provider community to have this validation of our work from the Senate.”