Common values, common mission

Posted June 30, 2015 by hpccr
Categories: communities of faith, education, end of life, Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region, religion, spiritual care

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by Carol Anne Lawler, HPCCR Faith Community Educator

summer campProgressive Baptist Church on West Avenue in Charlotte is a true friend of our organization.  Their pastor, affectionately called Pastor Mack, invited me to speak at their Wednesday night Bible study earlier this year.  I clearly remember the evening, as it had just begun to snow, and they wouldn’t even consider canceling the meeting!  They also hosted a “lunch ‘n’ learn” for us in March, a community-wide seminar entitled “What Hospice Can Do for You”, and one of the seminar’s participants recently became a hospice volunteer.

Just yesterday, I happened to be in the neighborhood, so I thought I’d stop by and say hello.  Precious, Pastor Mack’s daughter, church administrator, and now camp director, invited me next door to the recreation center, and I was most surprised at what I saw.  Progressive Baptist has opened its doors to the community and has organized a camp for 125 children, ages 4 to 17, Monday-Friday from 9am-5 pm for all nine weeks of the summer!  Although the cost to attend the camp is minimal, the skills the children are learning will be with them for a lifetime.

This week’s theme is selfishness.  They are learning what it is, how to minimize it, and how to cultivate generosity.  In addition to instruction, playing games, and participating in classes, they also receive breakfast, lunch, and snacks.  The children of west Charlotte are being well-taken care of by this caring faith community.

Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region is proud to have an association with Progressive Baptist Church.  They remind us of the importance of living out one’s values in thought, word, and deed.  From the beginning of life to life’s end, Progressive Baptist believes in making a difference among the lives around them and also understands the importance of compassionate end-of-life care.

Our mutual relationship reminds me of what drives Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region.  Among our core values: we hold the delivery of quality compassionate patient and client services as our highest calling; we act with integrity and dependability, and follow through in all aspects of our work.  Our relationship with Progressive Baptist Church deepens our own mission and values and continues to highlight the importance of a shared partnership that affects those we are privileged to serve.

We’re way past floppy disks

Posted June 25, 2015 by hpccr
Categories: awareness, dementia, hospice

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by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manager

8-inch-floppyIt’s amazing to me that my kids are going to grow up not knowing what it’s like to live in a non-digital world.  I still remember when my dad brought home our very first (enormous) computer and we used floppy disks to run programs on it.  Floppy disks back then were, in fact, floppy — you had to be careful not to get fingerprints or dust on them lest they become completely useless.  It took ages to boot that computer up, yet we were mesmerized by graphics made up of only dashes, periods, and letters.

Nowadays, you give a 18-month old an iPhone and they will hand it back to you an hour later with six new apps, an updated screen background, and a witty post on your Facebook page.

Yes, technology has come a very long way.  But it certainly has its advantages. And we’ve seen some of them here at HPCCR.

It started several years ago when a former employee (a social worker) began taking her iPad with her on visits.  She downloaded a few apps she thought would resonate with her dementia patients, given their interests and backgrounds.  Well, the results were simply awesome.  Formerly non-responsive patients talked, sang, or moved their fingers over the iPad when enticed by the device.  It was as if a long-lost part of their brain, previously sleeping, had suddenly woken up.  Families watched in amazement as their loved ones regained some of their old, well-loved personality, if only for a few minutes.

Thanks to this innovative social worker, we realized how impactful technology could be with our dementia patients.  And now in 2015, all HPCCR social workers have iPads.  Having this tool has opened up a world of options to build relationships with patients who struggle to communicate.  The ones who seem like they’re not there.  The ones with family members who desperately miss them and would cherish even a few moments with the mom or dad or grandparent they used to know.

That’s why these stories make me so happy.  Connections are being made here on so many different levels — social worker to patient, patient to their past, patient to their present, family members to loved ones.  These visits are true gifts; snippets of time to hold on to when the veil falls back down and silence returns.

So here are just a few of the stories I’ve heard recently.  I plan to keep sharing them as they come to me, by the way, in case these aren’t enough to fill up your “good feelings” reservoir.  So be on the lookout.

Amazing Grace
“Mrs. H can’t really speak.  Her words are usually mumbled and no one can understand her.  One day I showed her the kaleidoscope app on the iPad.  She had difficulty at first using her finger to move the picture.  But then, as the colors would change, she started to hum Amazing Grace using the colors she was seeing as the words of the song.  So I then played Amazing Grace for her on the iPad and she just closed her eyes and listened while tears formed in her eyes.”

Hello Central, Give Me Heaven
“A patient’s husband told me his wife wasn’t really talking one day.  I asked if there was anything that would help me connect to her, such as a favorite song.  He said she used to really like Hello Central, Give Me Heaven by June Carter’s grandmother, Maybelle Carter.  I pulled up the song on my iPad, along with a picture of Maybelle Carter.  The patient took the iPad from me and sang every word.  When I told her daughter what had happened, she couldn’t believe it.”

Helping families too
“I was visiting a patient one day at an independent living community.  As I was going into the building, a gentleman approached me.  He said, “I know you.  You took care of my mom.”  He gave me her name and it triggered my memory.  He then said, “I knew it was you.  You’re the one who brought that iPad and you would play music for her each visit.”  I was so amazed because he chased me down in the parking lot to say thank you for doing that for his mom.  I always knew using the iPad was important for our patients but I learned that day it leaves a lasting impression on our families too.”

All I can say is thank goodness for technology and iPads.  And thank goodness for the breakthroughs our social workers have been able to make with these ingenious, small devices.  Without them, our social workers would be lugging horrendously large computers and dusty floppy disks on their patient visits.  Who knows how often those things would break down?  And then they’d have to find an 18-month old to fix them.

For more information about our specialized dementia program, visit hpccr.org or call us at 704.375.0100. 

Thank you, CNAs!

Posted June 17, 2015 by hpccr
Categories: advocacy, awareness, caregiving, end of life, hospice

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by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manager

certified-nursing-assistant-emblemWe are in the midst of National Nursing Assistant Week and here at HPCCR, we want to sincerely thank our certified nursing assistants (CNAs) who consistently provide superior care to our patients and families.

Having the role of CNA in a hospice organization is an enormous responsibility and very tough job.  Nursing assistants must care for those who are confined to a bed, so they must possess physical strength to lift and maneuver the patient.  They must be compassionate listeners and have emotional depth because they are often the first ones to hear about pain and other insecurities.  Most importantly, they must truly care about their patients and their work.  And our CNAs manage to excel in all of these categories, regardless of whether they are tired, have worked a long shift, or are carrying a larger-than-normal caseload.  They offer the same exceptional care, day in and day out, and they do it with smiles on their faces and love in their hearts.

So this week, we honor all certified nursing assistants, those that we proudly claim as our own and the many others in this vast healthcare field.  If you know a CNA, please thank them and take the opportunity to tell them how important their work is.  A little bit of appreciation goes a long way.  And this week, no one is more deserving.

Matchmaking

Posted June 11, 2015 by hpccr
Categories: awareness, fundraising, hospice, volunteering

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by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manager

matchmakerIs it just me or does life just seem to get crazier and busier as you get older?  I mean, I thought I was busy when I was in college — classes and studying and socializing — and then I thought I was really busy after college.  First job and all of that.  But then marriage and kids came along and now I desperately miss those days when all those classes and studying and all that socializing was what wore me out.  Oh, how times have changed!  Nowadays, every minute seems spoken for, every day planned to the nth degree.

Do you feel the same way?  Do you find yourself wishing you had time to cross off some of those items on your “meaningful things I’m going to do to make the world a better place” list?  Lucky for you, I’ve got a solution.

If you can’t donate your time, you can help HPCCR out in another way.  Here’s how: we have been included in program started by Share Charlotte to help out local not-for-profits.  The organizations create a wish list on Amazon (you can find ours on our Share Charlotte profile) and local do-gooders (that’s you) purchase items off the list to have them delivered right to our door.  Pretty great idea, right?  It’s a win-win.  We need the merchandise and you can feel good knowing that you have helped us out in a meaningful way.

What’s more, HPCCR is the Share Charlotte not-for-profit of the week!  They’ve been tweeting about us, writing articles about us, and generally making us feel all warm and fuzzy and very loved.

You should check us out; we’ve got great things on our wish list.  Fun items for the activity bags handed out to kids who visit our hospice houses, aromatherapy oils, iPads, fidget aprons for patients, snacks for our hospice houses and more!  To give you multiple options of price points, we created a varied list.  You can spend as little as $2 and as much as $500 (man, those iPads aren’t cheap!)  Any and all items are truly appreciated and will help us give our patients and their families an even better hospice experience.  And that’s what really matters.

So here’s an idea: how about we play matchmaker?  Let’s get your “meaningful things I’m going to do to make the world a better place” list together with our Amazon wish list and see what happens.  Who knows?  It could very well be the start of a beautiful relationship.

Visit our profile on Share Charlotte to see our Amazon wish list and also to learn about volunteer opportunities at HPCCR!

A teacher of doing things correctly

Posted June 3, 2015 by hpccr
Categories: hospice, Levine & Dickson Hospice House, volunteering

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by Erin Branham, HPCCR Volunteer

Hildegard Kappler

Hildegard Kappler

Her thick, white hair glistened like a sheet of satin. Almost as if ironed in place, every lock was as straight as rain yet appeared soft to the touch like a freshly fallen patch of snow.

You couldn’t help but notice Mrs. Hildegard Kappler’s hair. Even as she laid peacefully in her bed at Levine & Dickson Hospice House – Huntersville, Mrs. Kappler’s hair told the story of a debonair woman. A woman to whom presentation and order were really large matters. A woman who conveyed sophistication without the trappings of fine jewelry and demanded respect without uttering a word.

Mrs. Kappler’s grandson, Chris, welcomed me into the presence of a woman I would soon learn was every bit as remarkable as my first impressions foretold. Chris was eager to tell me stories about his grandmother – or “Oma,” the German word for grandmother – as her four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren affectionately called her. Over the next two hours, I was captivated by Chris’s accounts of her many accomplishments that became even more noteworthy in the humble context of where and when Mrs. Kappler’s story began.

Mrs. Kappler immigrated to the United States from Germany in 1931 when she was just thirteen. She and her mother passed through Ellis Island, and as it would turn out, so would Mrs. Kappler’s eventual husband, Hermann, also from Germany. The families were united by a common purpose – leaving a homeland they no longer recognized due to Nazi occupation. “Oma’s father didn’t like the way the SS officers looked at the young German girls,” recalled Chris.

I was transported to a place and time I’d only read about in history books, imagining young Hildegard, perhaps donning a traditional dirndl dress, setting her eyes for the first time on America’s shores alongside other immigrants hailing from Hungary, Ireland, or Poland. Some escaping fear and persecution, others famine and poverty. What must have it been like, I pondered, for Hildegard as she entered New York Harbor, spellbound by the massive statue and her mighty, outstretched lamp. A sight so breathtaking it overtook even memories of the dank and dreary conditions she endured along the arduous, seaborne journey. This girl, who had survived the chaos and confusion of Ellis Island, was the very same woman before me. Now so angelically quiet. So still. So serene.

Mrs. Kappler would remain in New York City, as Chris went on to explain, where she became a successful seamstress, even sewing formal gowns for “Miss America” and other beauty pageant contestants on her beloved Singer sewing machine. Her husband, a tool and die maker by trade, was enlisted to read German U-boat blueprints to assist in America’s war efforts. Though Mrs. Kappler and husband never forgot their Germanic roots and culture, they were fiercely dedicated to the United States and would go on to live what could be described as a prototype of the American dream.

That dream, as Chris’ story unfolded, was full of blessings but was not without its struggles. Mrs. Kappler, by then the mother of two young sons, followed her husband’s career with Niemand Industries to Statesville, North Carolina, leaving behind both city life and her sewing business. Entrepreneurial by nature, Mrs. Kappler not only continued making clothes for her family but also became a licensed real estate broker and local business owner. “A woman ahead of her time,” I recalled thinking. As I would later learn in conversation with her younger son, Doug, Mrs. Kappler even dabbled in stock trading, keeping a friendly competition with her husband on whose picks yielded a better performance.

In 1970, Mr. and Mrs. Kappler lost their eldest son, Chris’s father, in an auto accident at the hands of a drunk driver. Ever the matriarch, Mrs. Kappler assumed the mantle of responsibility for her family. “She held us all together,” praised Chris of his Oma, the affection, love, and admiration he had for her shining through as he recounted each cherished memory. Many of those memories were formed at Oma’s house around the dinner table. At Mrs. Kappler’s insistence, family meals were always formal affairs, with the sterling silver flatware placed in the exact order of its use. “Oma’s a stickler for doing things right,” said Chris, chuckling, while I grinned envisioning Oma, dressed to the nines, aghast upon discovering a misplaced salad fork. If it’s possible to know you’d get along with someone from mere stories, I knew at that moment Mrs. Kappler and I would have agreed on many things. “A woman after my own ‘Type A’ heart,” I shared.

As Chris described Mrs. Kappler’s later years, a picture emerged of a woman as compassionate as she was courageous. With her Christian faith as her guide, Mrs. Kappler cared selflessly for her husband as his health declined, just as she had done in earlier years for her mother and stepfather. Her final years were spent in a senior living community in the town of Davidson, which is where my husband and I lived for nearly seven years. I did not believe that commonality to be mere coincidence.

The day after my visit, I received a call notifying me of Mrs. Kappler’s passing. I was comforted in knowing that her transition had been eased by the wonderful care the staff at Levine & Dickson Hospice House – Huntersville provided. This volunteer experience has left an indelible impression on my heart, not just because of the exceptional woman Mrs. Kappler was but because of the full and abundant life I experienced in that room. To equate hospice solely with death, I have discovered in the near year I have spent volunteering with this wonderful organization, is to miss much of the mission. Yes, hospice care is about easing the dying process, but it’s equally about celebrating the lives of those we are fortunate enough to encounter, whether it is only for one evening like I did with Mrs. Kappler, or for weeks or many months. I will forever remain indebted to Mrs. Kappler for imparting this important lesson. Fittingly, her obituary reads, “a strict but caring mother, and a teacher of doing things correctly.”

Before I left the hospice house that cold, November evening, Chris and I each took Mrs. Kappler’s hand to pray. I entreated God to comfort His faithful servant of 96 years and our sweet Oma, as I had quickly grown comfortable calling her, while caressing the same hair I had earlier admired. It still looked perfect. I have a feeling Mrs. Kappler wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Using our gifts

Posted May 28, 2015 by hpccr
Categories: end of life, hospice, planned giving

Tags: , ,

by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manager

Bill@WindowGRYSCLcrop

Artist Bill Ward at work

Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region received a very welcome surprise a few months ago when we learned that we had been included in the will of painter William “Bill” Ward.  It was an unexpected blessing because Bill was not under the care of HPCCR when he died.  And while it took us a while to get to the bottom of this story, his generous gesture let us know that someone he loved dearly must have benefited from hospice.  What’s more, it clearly made an impact on him.

Bill never married nor had children. But he had a very close relationship with his grandniece, Mary Frances Lawing, because of their joint love of art. For many years, Bill taught art to elementary and middle school students and throughout his life he was a prolific painter.  Modest to a fault, he never had an art show of his own or sold any of his creations.  He constantly practiced, however, taking inspiration from some of his favorite artists – Matisse, Picasso, and other post-impressionist painters.

IMG_0148

One of Bill Ward’s pieces

When Bill died, he left all of his tangible property to Mary and dictated that, once liquidated, the proceeds should be donated to HPCCR.  Bill had painted hundreds of pieces in various mediums – oils, acrylics, pastels, and watercolors.  He had also crafted some sculptures and even built several pieces of furniture.

Bill originally came to Charlotte at the request of his sister Edith (Mary’s grandmother) and he lived with her until she passed away in 1993.  Turns out Edith was cared for by Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region. Bill was deeply touched by the experience; he was especially moved by the compassion the care team showed his sister and the rest of his family.

Because of Bill’s artistic gift, he was able to give HPCCR an amazing financial gift.  And we can pass his gift forward, in the form of exceptional of end-of-life care, to those who need us most.  A beautiful blessing indeed.

Want to ensure that future generations will benefit from hospice care? Contact Pam Janowicz Gray at 704.335.4324 to learn more about planned giving.

Light From Within

Posted May 21, 2015 by hpccr
Categories: awareness, grief, hospice, Levine & Dickson Hospice House at Southminster

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by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manager

Jinna's stained glass

“Light from Within” by Janet Blanchard

Sometimes the most dangerous battlefields are the ones in our heads.  Even those of us with the sunniest dispositions get sad occasionally, weighed down by negative thoughts and vicious self-doubt.  Our darkness struggles against our light and if we’re lucky, the light wins.  If we work hard to squash the darkness, the light from within will continue to shine, refusing to be extinguished.  It will peek through all our layers, starting from the absolute core, and illuminate our soul all the way to the outer edge of our skin.  It’s no easy feat to keep that light shining, day in and day out.  Some of us struggle more than others.

Like Jinna.  Jinna had battled depression throughout her seventyish years.  So much so that she and her friend Mimi made a pact: they would check in with each other every day and if one hadn’t heard from the other, a visit would be made to ensure everything was okay.  One morning, Mimi didn’t hear from her friend so she went to Jinna’s house around lunchtime that day.  That’s when Mimi learned that Jinna had lost the battle to depression.  She had extinguished her light.

You may be wondering what this has to do with hospice.  I’ll tell you.  Jinna was a knitter and she had yarn.  Lots of it.  Nineteen trash bags full of yarn, in fact, stashed around her house.  Expensive, indulgent yarn in gorgeous colors from exotic places like Peru, Italy, and Norway.  Yarn made from all kinds of materials like bamboo, silk, cashmere, and wool.  Yarn that would make unbelievable prayer shawls for hospice patients.  At our hospice houses.  You see the connection.

Kathleen Tarr, Prayer Shawl Ministry Coordinator from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte was called and asked if her group would like the yarn.  Kathleen, a weaver herself, immediately accepted and gathered the enormous bounty.  After sorting it by color, she called in her knitters to claim their prizes.  Each took enough yarn to make four to six prayer shawls, somewhere between 2,500 to 10,000 yards of yarn.  They then sold the leftover yarn online, raising a modest amount of money.  But they didn’t know what they would do with the proceeds.

Turns out we had the perfect solution.

When Kathleen met with Jane Mitchell, our chaplain at Levine & Dickson Hospice House at Southminster, their talk turned to the small chapel located there.  Kathleen asked Jane how our plans were progressing, knowing our desire to make the multi-faith space calm and inviting.  Jane mentioned that we were still looking for a piece of artwork, a final touch to bring all of those peaceful elements together.

And that’s when all of the pieces fell in place.  Kathleen allotted the money raised from the sale of Jinna’s extra yarn to pay a fantastic artist, Janet Blanchard, to create a piece of artwork for the chapel.  Janet works in stained glass and her creations are simply beautiful.  The only stipulation was that the stained glass piece would be “in memory of Jinna”.  Of course we agreed immediately.  We couldn’t think of a more poignant and meaningful way to recognize the gift that Jinna unknowingly gave us.

We had a dedication ceremony in the chapel this week for the new stained glass panel.  I spent several minutes just staring at the piece.  It is indeed a calming scene, with serene blocks of color swirling and dipping around each other.  But the aspect that stands out the most to me is the sense of security I feel when looking at it.  Maybe because, to me, the swirls of color look like arms bending to cradle a child.  Loving.  Comforting.  Soothing.  And the entire piece is lit from within, creating variations within the deep tones of ambers, purples, reds, and blues.  It’s a perfect match for our chapel, making the space everything we wanted it to be.

It makes me happy to think of this beautiful piece of art living at Levine & Dickson Hospice House at Southminster.  Lit from within, it repels the darkness, something Jinna was ultimately unable to do.  Her internal light has been extinguished, but the glow within this stained glass panel can remain on, keeping Jinna’s memory alive and proving that her struggle was not in vain.  Day in and day out, her soul will peek through the layers of this unique and stunning work of art.

May you rest in peace, Jinna.


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