How an apron can help the brain

Posted August 27, 2014 by hpccr
Categories: hospice, dementia, end of life, awareness

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by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manager

aprons 08 14

Three generous sewers from Queen of Apostles Church in Belmont who have been making aprons, (l to r): Eleanor Urby, Alison Nolting, and Lynn Spada. Not pictured is Judy Kubacki who has also worked tirelessly to make fidget aprons.

In my kitchen I have about seven or eight aprons hanging from a peg on the wall.  They’ve been there so long that I barely notice them.  I pull one or two of them out during the holidays (when I start baking like a crazy person), but for the most part, the simple concept of an apron doesn’t occupy any space in my brain.  But now I have a new appreciation for aprons because, with a few simple modifications, I know that they are capable of much, much more than just clothing protection when cooking.  They can actually benefit the brain.

People are often surprised to learn that nearly 20% of HPCCR hospice patients in 2013 had some form of dementia.  No one really thinks of dementia as causing death but as cells die in the brain, many functions in the body begin to shut down as well.

Watching a loved one succumb to dementia or Alzheimer’s disease is especially stressful. Communication becomes difficult and eventually moves to nearly impossible.  Family and friends are anxious to make connections, but have no idea how.  And they feel helpless looking for something to soothe the restlessness that often accompanies dementia.

Enter the fidget apron.

We’ve written about the fidget apron before.  Last year, we asked for community members to help out by making one (or donating the fabric) to contribute to our goal of 300 aprons for dementia patients in Charlotte and surrounding areas.  Well, we’d like your help again.

A few generous souls (who also happen to be wonderful sewers) at Queen of Apostles Catholic Church in Belmont are currently making fidget aprons for HPCCR.  And our clinical staff members are swiping those aprons for dementia patients as fast as they come off the sewing machines.  In fact, there’s a waiting list.

That’s because these aprons are very soothing to patients with dementia.  They have pockets as well as maneuverable items affixed to them to keep restless hands busy.  And when the hands are busy, the patient is calmer and slightly more open to communication.  It’s no wonder the aprons are in such demand.

You can help by donating cloth for an apron or by donating some of the fun items that get sewn onto the apron: fur, fringe, large buttons, beads, keys, nylon cord, and zippers (to name just a few).  So far, the women at Queen of Apostles Catholic Church have been spending their own money to buy the materials for the aprons and, as you can imagine, that slightly hinders the process a bit.  I can’t imagine how many they could make if they had the materials already purchased and readily available at their fingertips. . .

So consider helping out.  Buy some fabric or some fringe and donate it to this very worthy cause.  We have a staff member at HPCCR, Cheryl Fleming, who is a parishoner of Queen of Apostles Catholic Church and would be happy to help coordinate the drop off or pick up of your donation.

Me, I’ve got my eye on a few of those aprons hanging on the peg in my kitchen.  I certainly don’t need all of them, especially knowing how much they could help our patients.  And I’m sure a few of them would look even cuter with some fur and fringe.  And maybe a few buttons.

We need you

Posted August 19, 2014 by hpccr
Categories: awareness, blog, hospice, Levine & Dickson Hospice House

Tags: , , ,

by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manager

ABCaresYou like this blog, right?  We offer heartwarming, good-for-the-soul stories on a weekly basis, don’t we?  Plus, we throw in some funny from time to time too.  And we do this over and over again, week after week, asking for nothing in return.

Until now.

Now we need your help.  Our very own Levine & Dickson Hospice House – Huntersville has been nominated for Atlantic Bay Mortgage Group’s community outreach program – ABCares.  This means that we have the chance to have $2,500 donated to our organization.  I repeat — $2,500.  But here’s where your part comes in; the amount of money we receive depends on the number of votes we get between now and Friday, August 29th at noon.  Votes from you.

Here’s what you can do:

  • You can vote every single day at (click the ABCares Tab to vote) or at on their webpage.  (If you access the Facebook page, you’ll need to “like” the page before you can vote.)
  • Send this link to your family and friends so they too can vote daily for LDHH-H.
  • Post on all your social media outlets (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc) with the #ABCares and the voting link and/or

The winner will be announced at the end of the day on Friday, August 29th.  We will be on pins and needles until that time, hoping that our votes and your votes are enough to put us at the top.

Folks, with your help, I think we have a really good shot at winning.  But we’ve got some serious work to do.  There are four other very worthy organizations vying for the money and so far, most of them have more votes than we do.  You can change that.  Go out and vote!  Every day!  Plus, you can vote with your smart phone separately from your computer, meaning that you can technically vote TWICE a day.  Do it.

I’d say we owe you one, but after all the awesome content you’ve enjoyed here over the past few years, wouldn’t you say we’re even?

Seriously, thank you for your help.  Let’s do this.



Thank you, Mrs. Doubtfire

Posted August 13, 2014 by hpccr
Categories: awareness, end of life, grief, hospice

Tags: , ,

by Larry Dawalt, HPCCR Senior Director of Spiritual & Grief Care Services 

robin williamsMy favorite barista at Starbucks was subdued and solemn this morning as she quietly asked if I had heard about the death of Robin Williams.

Her grief was sincere and genuine as was the grief of dozens of my Facebook friends who had taken to social media Monday night to express their feelings of shock, disbelief, numbness, and loss.  I share those feelings and am experiencing a dark wave of loss today, not unlike what overcame me at the loss of Whitney Houston, Heath Ledger, Corey Monteith, Phillips Seymour Hoffman, Maya Angelou and other celebrities that I knew, but did not know.

Why do we grieve celebrities?  I think John James and Russell Friedman of The Grief Recovery Institute said it well when they wrote that, “Unresolved grief is about undelivered communications of an emotional nature.”

What that means to me is that I didn’t get to say “thank you” for the smiles, laughter, thoughts, and even tears that Robin Williams brought me through his roles; and I didn’t get to provide any words of comfort for his real-life sorrow and pain.

One day after the tragic death of Dale Earnhardt in 2001, I remember a television reporter asking me how we get over this and move on.  My answer then is my answer this morning — we don’t get over it today or tomorrow or the next day.  But our sense of loss can eventually become mixed with gratitude as we think about the happiness and joy we experienced from that person.

So today, with a genuine Dr. Sean Maguire (Good Will Hunting) hug, I say thank you to Mork from Ork (Mork and Mindy), T.S. Garp (The World According to Garp), Vladimir Ivanov (Moscow on the Hudson), Adrian Cronauer (Good Morning, Vietnam), John Keating (Dead Poets Society), Dr. Malcolm Sayer (Awakenings), Parry (The Fisher King), Peter Pan (Hook, Back to Neverland), Dr. Kosevich (Nine Months), Alan Parrish (Jumanji), Armand Goldman (The Birdcage), Professor Philip Brainard (Flubber), Hunter Adams (Patch Adams), Tom Dobbs (Man of the Year), Wizard Wallace (August Rush), Reverend Frank (License to Wed), and all the others characters that made Robin Williams a household name.

And closing my eyes, I hear the precious words of Mrs. Doubtfire to Katie McCormick at the end of the movie: “If there’s love, dear… those are the ties that bind, and you’ll have a family in your heart, forever.  All my love to you, poppet… you’re going to be all right… bye-bye.”

Thank you, Robin Williams… bye-bye.

A match made in heaven

Posted August 6, 2014 by hpccr
Categories: awareness, end of life, hospice, long-term care, volunteering

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by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manager

Ellen and Vera have a lot in common, a love of NC State is just one of them!

Ellen and Vera have many things in common.  A love of NC State is just one of them!

Some things are just meant to be.  And isn’t it great when you find yourself in one of those situations where you realize there is a higher power at work, arranging some of the details of your life?

That’s what happened with Ellen Seale, HPCCR volunteer, when she went to visit Vera for the very first time.  Vera is a Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region patient at an assisted living facility in south Charlotte.  When Ellen walked into Vera’s room for the first time, she noticed a lot of red.  Wolfpack red.  She saw pictures strewn around the room of people (from babies to adults) wearing NC State gear.  Naturally, Ellen asked Vera what her connection was to NC State.  Turns out, Vera’s son graduated from the school.  And what a coincidence — Ellen’s daughter did too!  In fact, Ellen’s daughter has multiple degrees from NC State and was recently the recipient of a lifetime award given to notable alumni.

So right off the bat, they had a lot in common.  Both Vera and Ellen avidly follow NC State sports teams.  And they now catch as many games together on TV as possible.  But that’s not all they have in common.  Their birthdays are just days apart.  In fact, Ellen’s very first visit with Vera happened on Vera’s birthday.

Ellen has been visiting Vera since October of last year.  And she rarely shows up empty-handed.  Vera is a big fan of milkshakes and — another coincidence — there’s a Cookout right across the street from Vera’s facility.  So Ellen makes a stop there before almost every visit and comes armed with a mint chocolate chip milkshake, which delights Vera to no end.  (As it should.  Have you had a Cookout milkshake?  If not, I recommend you go there immediately.  It is heaven in a Styrofoam cup.  You’re welcome.)

It is so gratifying when we see our hospice patients living their lives to the fullest.  And we are proud to be able to offer them new and rewarding relationships (through our amazing volunteers) that enhance their lives even more.  I’m imagining Vera decked in Wolfpack gear, watching a game, and sipping a milkshake with Ellen beside her.  A match literally made in heaven (because again, that higher power thing is obviously at work here, don’t you think?)  And I also imagine that, as far as Vera’s concerned, it doesn’t get much better than that.





Tales of an iPad

Posted July 31, 2014 by hpccr
Categories: awareness, dementia, end of life, hospice

Tags: , , ,

by Susan Anderson, HPCCR Social Worker

Editor’s Note: A couple of years ago, a social worker at HPCCR found that she could get many of her formerly unresponsive dementia patients to engage with her if she brought her iPad to their visits.  And just like that, an entire organizational program was created around using iPads with dementia patients.  Realizing both the success and the potential of the program, what quickly followed was an effort to raise money to purchase iPads for all HPCCR social workers.  While many of them are fortunate to have one, there are still others — like Susan Anderson — who share one with another social worker.  Our fundraising efforts continue; if you are interested in learning more about supporting this worthwhile program, visit the dementia care page on our website, or contact our Development Department at 704.375.0100.  Meanwhile, let Susan’s stories below awe and inspire you! 

iPad users enlargedMrs. E
Mrs. E is a 96 year-old dementia patient who lives at home.  She is bedbound but does enjoy occasionally sitting up in her wheelchair.  As with all dementia patients, Mrs. E has better days than others but she recently went through a difficult time of not responding well.  She was sleeping almost all the time and our team thought this was her final decline; that she was transitioning.  One day I went to see her and I found her lying peacefully in bed, eyes closed, and unresponsive to touch or sound.  I took the iPad (that I share with another social worker) and pulled up some of Mrs. E’s favorite music (which happens to be the Gaithers) on YouTube.  I played several selections but then chose one of her favorites called No More Nights.  When I played it, I watched an incredible transformation in her responsiveness.  I could tell she could hear the music as she began to move about and raise her hand up into the air.  She even cracked her eyes open.

Since then, Mrs E has rebounded a bit and now sits up in her wheelchair for some of my visits.  When I bring the iPad, it is quite delightful to see her respond to it.  I still play her favorite music but now she looks at the iPad, pokes at the picture of the people singing, and tries to figure out how the video works.  She is interactive and appears to enjoy the music very much.  Even in the darkest recesses of this disease, I have seen music touch the soul of our patients. Sometimes, music is the only thing that will reach a dementia patient when they are not responding and speaking any longer.

Mr. W
Mr. W had a diagnosis of lung cancer and was my patient for several weeks.  The patient was originally from the Virgin Islands and was homeless there, suffering from bi-polar disorder and OCD.  As a result of these mental health disorders, my visits with Mr. W were very difficult.  Quite often he was in a manic phase and visits were rambling and challenging.  I decided to take my shared iPad one day following a long discussion with the MD and RN regarding additional medication changes to address the manic phases.  When I entered the home, the patient was less manic and was able to have a sit down visit for the first time.

I brought out the iPad and Mr. W’s son-in-law and I sat with him on the couch.  I pulled up some wonderful photos of the Virgin Islands, specifically of St. Thomas where he, his daughter, and son-in-law are originally from.  At first he was not very interested in the pictures, but as I continued to continued to scroll through them, I landed on a photo that was an aerial view of the island.  All of a sudden, he pointed to the picture and said, “There’s my home I grew up in.”  He was now fully engaged, and his son-in-law was as well.  His son-in-law started pointing out houses saying, “There’s my parents home; there’s my cousin’s home; there’s my aunt’s home.”  From this picture, I learned all about Mr. W’s life.  He told me about the bay at St. Thomas and how he had almost drowned there as a boy.  Hearing this story helped me understand how such a traumatic experience had caused him to be afraid to die.

Shortly after that visit, Mr. W died peacefully.  I was able to provide some supportive counseling during the next week and brought the patient’s life to a close in a peaceful and dignified way — because of great team work and a one-time session of reminisce therapy using an iPad.

Mrs. S
Mrs. S is an 87 year-old patient with a diagnosis of dementia. The patient has no ability to have meaningful conversation, babbling but alert during my visits.  I tried for many weeks to find some connection to her.  One day, I brought my iPad and engaged the patient with music therapy.  I struggled to find a piece of music she might enjoy but then I landed on a classical version of Amazing Grace.  Up until this song, the patient would look at the iPad but had no interaction with it.  I started the song and within a few seconds, the patient became totally engaged and kept saying, “How beautiful!”  I played it a second time and, believe it or not, she began to sing the words and sang the first verse all the way through.  The caregiver was absolutely amazed at this! (As was I!)  This was possible only because of the iPad.

Mrs. G
Mrs. G is an elderly patient who does not have dementia but is house-bound.  She is particularly fond of gospel music.  Because she is not able to leave her house very often to get to church, I started playing gospel music on the iPad.  Mrs. G has enjoyed it so much that she now expects it when I come to visit.  She absolutely beams from ear to ear as soon as she starts to hear the music; it’s very therapeutic.  Unfortunately, I share the iPad with another social worker and don’t always have it with me on my visits.  But since Mrs. G expects it, she gets it!  Sometimes I have to use my phone (which will do in a pinch), but it’s always a joy when the iPad is available.


Posted July 25, 2014 by hpccr
Categories: awareness, fundraising, hospice, Hospice & Palliative Care Lincoln County

Tags: , , ,

by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manager

pancakesPancakes are delicious.  And I’m pretty sure there aren’t many people who could argue that point.  What’s not to like about crisp-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside, warm circles of utter delightfulness??  Who would turn down a nice, tall stack of pancakes with butter and syrup dripping off the edges?  (If you would, I don’t want to hear it.  You’re warped in the head.)  My mouth is watering just thinking about it. . . .

So if you like pancakes and you like a good cause, then we’ve got the perfect event for you!  This Saturday, from 8-11am in Lincolnton at Fatz Café (1430 East Main Street), you can come out to the Short Stacks For Big Change Pancake Breakfast where you can indulge your pancake craving to your heart’s delight.  For a mere $8 (This is for adults.  It will be $5 for kids eight and under), you can eat a ton (three pancakes, sausage, bacon, orange slices, and a beverage) and you’ll feel great knowing that the proceeds will support our newly renovated and expanded Hospice & Palliative Care Lincoln County (HPCLC) office on Dontia Drive.

Want more incentive?  The Timken Foundation has promised to match every single dollar we raise for this new building.  That means that when you buy a ticket for $8, it’s like making a donation of $16!  Truly a win-win!  So bring your whole family out tomorrow to eat pancakes (and the fixin’s!) and show your support for Hospice & Palliative Care Lincoln County.  Oh, and any of you warped-in-the-head pancake haters out there don’t have to come.  We don’t feel like arguing with you.


Pancake haters need not attend, but we will take your donation (you know, because it will be matched)!  Visit the donation page on our website and choose Hospice & Palliative Care Lincoln County in the designation drop down menu.  Many thanks to the Timken Foundation for matching every gift made to the HPCLC building project until July 31.  For more information about the pancake breakfast, contact Julia Moore at 704.602.0903.

The last few weeks

Posted July 16, 2014 by hpccr
Categories: awareness, caregiving, dementia, end of life, hospice

Tags: , , ,

by Joel Saperstein, loving husband and caregiver

Editor’s note: Several weeks ago, I received a letter in the mail from Mr. Saperstein.  It was a beautiful testimonial to his late wife who passed away under our care.  You can read their love story and his letter here.  Then, not much later, I received another letter  from him describing the daily caretaking routine with his beloved Marsha as her disease progressed.  He eloquently captures the beauty and heartbreak of caring for a loved one with dementia and Alzheimer’s.

hummingbird soloThe last few weeks of Marsha’s life was a moving, heartbreaking learning experience for me.  Her dementia / Alzheimer’s had taken complete control of her mind and body.  Even so, she searched for beauty everywhere.

I would prop her up onto three pillows.  She would watch with child-like fascination as the sun’s golden ribbons streamed through the window and settled on the bed cover.  She reached out to touch the light.  “It is beautiful,” she would say.  Everything we encountered every day was new and magical to her.  Hummingbirds darting around the feeder brought a smile to her face.  Ants running up and down the fencepost were accepted as just part of life, and shouldn’t be hurt.  Every part of nature was new and wondrous.  It was like discovering life for the very first time.

Her circulation was failing, and she was chilled.  Her hands were cold.  I would take and hold her hands to keep them warm.  She would look directly into my eyes.  I would look into her watery, green eyes.  Her eyes used to glisten below her beautiful red hair.  She would force herself to stroke my face.  “You are beautiful,” she would say.  Then wide-eyed, frightened, she would stare into a void.  “They are coming for me.  They want me to go with them,” she would say.  “Do you want to go with them?” I asked.  “No,” she said.  “Then you don’t have to go,” I assured her.  Satisfied with what I said, she lay back, closed her eyes and was at peace.  Still holding her hands, I stayed with her and let her sleep.


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