My hospice heroes

Posted October 28, 2014 by hpccr
Categories: awareness, end of life, grief, hospice, long-term care, spiritual care

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by Heather Serfass, HPCCR Education and Resource Manager

support_24x7As an Education and Resource Manager for Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region, I am constantly amazed by the compassionate stories I hear about our nurses, social workers, chaplains, and grief counselors.  When asked to compare our services to those of another hospice agency, I often rely on those stories to express why our organization is the best option for end-of-life care in the Charlotte region.  Last week, I learned of a truly moving experience that I feel compelled to share on a broader level.

Anyone who has worked in long-term care can attest that working side-by-side to care for chronically and critically ill patients creates a family-like environment.  You meet people in their time of need and spend some of the worst days and sometimes the best days together.  Most weeks, you spend more time with your co-workers than your family.  In that way, your co-workers become a secondary family.

A week ago, one of our local senior living communities experienced a sudden tragic loss of one of their staff members in the building.  A Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region hospice nurse happened to arrive just as this event was unfolding.  Immediately, she reached out to her team manager for help.  The response she and the community received from HPCCR perfectly displays the way we exceed the expectations of everyone we touch.

Our team chaplain set out directly for the hospital where the staff member was taken, to offer guidance and support to those who had gathered there.  One of our grief counselors and the team social worker raced to the senior living community to further support the nurse who was helping the shocked staff members.  Together, they helped inform the other employees of the dire outcome and made a plan to provide grief support in the coming days.  Although there was nothing our team members could do to prevent or change this awful event, the support they provided throughout that day (and continue to provide today) is remarkable.

Additionally, (and this one really got me) other outside agency representatives were in the building at the time of this tragedy and they did nothing — they just kept going about their day, onto the next patient.  Our entire team, on the other hand, dropped everything to support the community in their time of need.  Because it was the right thing to do.  Because it’s what we do.

Today I have new answers to the questions “Why should I utilize hospice services?’ and “Why HPCCR?”  Today, wholeheartedly, my answers are Caroline Mbugua, Maria Dobbins, Faheema Jones, Butch Branscome, and Beth Brittain, the heroes who rushed to help a grieving community when it was needed most.

The cutest Halloween parade ever

Posted October 22, 2014 by hpccr
Categories: hospice, Hospice & Palliative Care Palmetto Region, long-term care, special events

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by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manager

photo 1

What a face!

I saw Batman last week.  Also, Superman, a couple of bees, a butterfly, a princess, a wide receiver, and a handsome sailor.  It’s October so you know where this is going, don’t you?  Of course.  It was a Halloween costume contest with small, wiggly participants; no different from the ones you see everywhere this time of year.  Except for one thing — these participants all had tails.

I joined a cast of characters at Brookdale Place, an assisted living center in Rock Hill, SC served by our Fort Mill office, Hospice & Palliative Care Palmetto Region.  We were there to entertain the residents with some adorable dogs in even more adorable costumes.  The dogs were able to meet and greet each other in the parking lot beforehand so as to avoid any scuffles inside (which totally worked) and they were all surprisingly well-behaved once show time arrived.

The residents were gathered in the common room, circled around a large open area where, one by one, the dogs displayed their finest.  There was a small panel of judges at the front of the room, taking notes and enthusiastically eyeing each dog as they took their turn being admired.  The residents oohed and aahed and clapped loudly; the dogs strutted around, enjoying the attention.


The winner!

Everyone received a certificate of appreciation for attendance, but winners ultimately had to be chosen (1st, 2nd, and 3rd place).  And then the furry children and their humans had to hurry out the door because the day was not yet done.  They repeated this process three more times over the next several hours, creating a very memorable morning for residents at Brookdale PlaceWhite Oak Manor, Spring Arbor Assisted Living, and HarborChase of Rock Hill.

Batman won at Brookdale Place.  Don’t get me wrong — he was totally deserving of the honor (you could eat him up, he was so cute), but I could have sworn I saw him give an exaggerated wink to one of the judges as he pranced on by.

Check out more pictures from the Halloween parade on our Facebook page!


Veterans helping Veterans

Posted October 16, 2014 by hpccr
Categories: caregiving, end of life, hospice, Veterans, volunteering

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by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manager

vets helping vetsDo you know who truly understands Veterans?  The answer is easy: other Veterans.  That’s why HPCCR is in the process of recruiting Veterans to help the patients under our care who could probably use their help the most — their fellow military comrades.

Watching Veterans interact is like watching a TV show in a different language; you can tell what the emotions are, but you’re not sure what they’re saying.  They have their own body language, their own speech patterns, and their own terminology.  If you’re a member of this unique society, you understand.  If you’re not, you watch with a mixture of awe and appreciation, instantly realizing that Veterans have a bond that goes much deeper than outward appearance.

That’s why this program is so valuable. The HPCCR Veteran-to-Veteran Volunteer Program will pair recruited Veteran volunteers with hospice patients who have served in the military. The volunteers then have the opportunity to relate and connect with these patients who share similar military backgrounds, creating a safe environment for sharing experiences. Our patients can talk to someone who truly understands their emotions; someone who’s been in their shoes and likely felt the same confusing combination of fear, frustration, pride, excitement, and elation that comes with serving in the military.

Veterans can help hospice patients in many ways — listening to their stories, helping them understand their benefits, assisting in replacing lost medals, providing transportation, and advocating for them in hospice team meetings.  More importantly, these volunteers validate the experiences of patients.  They offer much-needed recognition of a crucial time in the patient’s life.  They honor the sacrifice that these hospice patients made to protect the freedom of their country.

Veteran volunteers will be matched as closely as possible by specific branch or duty.  They will receive special training, similar to traditional organizational volunteer training, but with some extra emphasis on the needs of Veterans.  They will shadow other volunteers visiting Veteran hospice patients and will be allowed to ask questions and “debrief”.  Veteran volunteers have the unique opportunity to interact with patients who may have previously been unreachable.

If you are a Veteran who has time to help a fellow soldier, please contact Crystal England at 704.335.3578 or find out more about the program at

Chanel No. 5

Posted October 8, 2014 by hpccr
Categories: awareness, blog, cancer, caregiving, hospice

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by Phyllis Zellmer, HPCCR patient

Chanel No 5There are certain chemo drugs that prevent a patient from using fragrant lotions.  I’ve learned all about the non-fragrant products and decided to lend my considerable consumer influence to champion Aveeno.  This product is great for those undergoing any type of medical treatment that has you scouring the aisles of Rite Aid while scratching your back, butt, and legs at the same time.  You will not look like Jennifer Aniston after two-weeks usage but your skin will repair itself.

All this being said was not to minimize how much a woman desires her fragrant lotions.  My son exclaimed, “My God, Mom has her own Bath & Body Works store in this drawer!  And there is more upstairs.”  Nonsense.  I only buy some of my favorites products online during their closeout sales.

It is just awful to have a favorite signature fragrance, like Clean Cotton, only to wake up one day and discover the marketing department of Bath & Body Works has decided to slightly change the formula to appeal to a wider audience.  This really translated into “not to just old ladies.” So the newer fragrance became Sea Island Cotton.  I even checked out the ingredients to make sure this savvy consumer was not being ripped off.

During my third year of chemo, my friend, who I call the “Elizabeth Taylor Look-Alike”, gave me a bottle of Channel No. 5 lotion.  Oh my gosh, one sniff of that fragrance and it was as if the Sea Islands had fallen to the bottom of the ocean.

Unfortunately, I was on Gemzar which meant I could use only non-fragrant lotions, avoid sun, yada, yada, yada.  I dutifully did all the right things while the pink bottle of Channel stood haugh­tily in the fancy storage caddy next to my tub. Every month or so, the dust would get wiped off the black cap and I’d think, “Could I use that now?” Then those nasty side effects would appear just from trying Sea Island Cotton again, so my Channel went back to collecting dust.

One of the things that hospice does is provide help for every conceivable comfort that can be reasonably managed.  This includes sending out a CNA to help with bathing if needed.  Sorry to say, that little issue had to be addressed our first hospice week because I was just too weak to stand and wash my own back.  You hate it, but what are you gonna do?  The Lord has sent you some support, so are you going to say, “Nay Lord. I think that I’ll just pass out in the shower and stink for the rest of the day?”

Today when Janee, my CNA, came to help me with my toiletry, things got very aromatic around here.  I have been so nauseous for two days.  In this condition, you get weak and weaker as the malady literally drains you.  Of course, there is a shower seat inside our ample new bathroom but it does not prevent you from falling off the “half-moon” if you are not holding onto something besides a scrubby.  After shower time was over, the drying-off phase of “the lady’s toilet” started.

During the towelling-off time, I sit on a stool and behave like a baby.  I get dried from head to toe before I am allowed to stand.  No matter that Janee could slip and fall in the water we’ve splashed onto the floor, but I digress.  When the patting dry began, I looked over at the basket holding all of the fine toiletries a lady could ever want.  Janee and I eyed that little pink bottle at the same time.

“Miss Phyllis, what do you want to smell like today?” is barely out of her mouth before I lift the dust-covered bottle and ask her opinion of Chanel No. 5.  “Elizabeth Taylor Look-Alike” would have been proud to hear of Janee’s endorsement of this elite fragrance.

Janee dusted off that bottle and started smoothing lotion on my back and arms, and then took a break to gather crushed ice for the nausea, but nothing stopped us from getting that lotion rubbed in from my head to toes.

Our bathroom smelled like a salon and the fragrance followed me as I hiked from the bathroom to the screened porch where I spent the rest of the day admiring how nice I smelled, despite filling up a couple of barf bags.

Isn’t the Lord grand?  It was an absolutely beautiful day.  The Chanel did not camouflage the reality of nausea, but it just did not seem to be as awful as it could have been.

If I could do more. . .

Posted October 1, 2014 by hpccr
Categories: awareness, grief, hospice

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by Carol Anne Lawler, HPCCR Faith Community Liaison

grief helpWhen someone you love dies, it seems the whole world should stop, or at least pause, so that you can take a moment and let the entire world know that your loved one was here.  They were important.  You shared a life together, and you sorely miss their physical presence.

The part of grief I cannot understand is that the world doesn’t stop.  It doesn’t even slow down.

I was reflecting recently that when I learn of the death of a team member’s or a friend’s loved one, I feel compelled to not only send a card, but to make a memorial gift, however small, in their loved one’s name.  I make this gesture because when someone dies, there is a so little I can do for the one(s) that are left behind.  I am left feeling helpless, and at the same time, I want the bereaved to know I am witness to the fact that their loved one was here, and they did make a difference!  Their life mattered.

Again, when someone you love dies, we (your friends) may not be able to give the sort of comfort we would like to give, as everyone’s grief journey must be taken on their own.  One small act of giving a gift in their memory to Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region, or other charity of choice, may silently let you know that others see you, care about your pain, and acknowledge this profound change in your life.  And I honor your journey and honor the memory of your loved one.  If I could do more, I would.

Heartfelt thanks

Posted September 24, 2014 by hpccr
Categories: awareness, fundraising, hospice, Levine & Dickson Hospice House

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by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manager

ABCares checkFolks, we want to thank you for showing us (and when I say us, I mean Levine & Dickson Hospice House – Huntersville) some major love a few weeks ago.  We asked you for your help when we needed votes for the ABCares competition sponsored by Atlantic Bay Mortgage Group and you answered the call.  Well, we didn’t win, but we didn’t lose either.  This week, we were presented with a check for $500.

That amount of money can go pretty far in the not-for-profit world.  Every single donation to our organization allows us to focus on our patients and their families.  It allows us to care for anyone who needs us, regardless of their situation.

As they say, turnabout is fair play.  So thank you for being there for us when we needed you.

Don’t worry, we’ve planned your Saturday

Posted September 18, 2014 by hpccr
Categories: fundraising, hospice, Hospice & Palliative Care Lake Norman, special events

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by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manger

September is always a busy month here at HPCCR.  As you know, we just had our Hit the Brixx 10K / 5K last weekend.  (What a turnout, by the way!  More participants than ever, despite the soul-crushing humidity!)  Well, we’re doubling up on events this weekend because, you know, we like to give you a choice when it comes to supporting our organization.

This weekend, you can either shoot guns (safely) or eat appetizers and drink wine.  Or do both.  Your call.

Bull Shooters Logo_30First up is the Shoot For Joy sporting clay fundraiser, an event hosted by the Mecklenburg Bull Shooters.  It starts at 8am on Saturday morning.  You can shoot clay targets during the morning session, take a break for lunch (and a raffle!) and then shoot again during the afternoon session.  You can go solo or as a team and all shooting levels are welcome!  For more information, visit the event page on our website.

taste of bv words_2013Your other option is our annual Taste of Birkdale, which supports Hospice & Palliative Care Lake Norman.  It starts in the afternoon on Saturday (3pm) and you get to sample entrées from some of Birkdale’s best restaurants and wine from Total Wine.  After you’ve enjoyed those delectable treats, you can feast your eyes on fall’s latest must-haves during the fashion show that starts at 7pm at the fountain.  This evening never disappoints.  Check out the Taste of Birkdale page on our website for all the details.

So there you have it.  We’ve planned your weekend for you.  You’re welcome.



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