Goodbye winter, hello Regatta Party!

Posted April 22, 2015 by hpccr
Categories: fundraising, Hospice & Palliative Care Lake Norman, Lake Norman Hospice Regatta, special events

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by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manager

LN Hospice Regatta logo_2015I just saw on Twitter that they got 9.5 inches of snow in some (quite unlucky) areas of Wisconsin yesterday and today. While I feel very sorry for those poor souls who are dragging out the shovels and the snow blowers yet one more time, I can’t help but feel smug.  It’s finally springtime in the Carolinas and we are enjoying some glorious sunshine, bluebird skies, and dry weather.  Each year when we finally get this gorgeous respite, we also get a tingling of anticipation.  You can almost sense something delightfully fun is in your future.  And it is!  The 15th annual Lake Norman Hospice Regatta Party is coming your way on Saturday, May 2!

If you haven’t purchased your tickets to the “best party on the lake”, you still have a chance because we have a few left (which you can find on our website). The Lake Norman Hospice Regatta Party is an upscale evening at The Peninsula Club in Cornelius and it features delicious food, music, games, an inspirational speaker, and a well-stocked cash bar.  You will also enjoy some amazing items up for bid in the live and silent auctions.  And the best part about the auctions?  You can do your bidding online from the comfort of your seat, using only your smart phone and your cunning, cutthroat strategies to get the items that you want.

Need some incentive to get your tickets?  How about a sneak peek into some of the items up for bid?  We’ve got an unbelievable trip to the Napa Valley which includes a 3-night stay at a fabulous resort and a three-hour gourmet dinner for two on the Napa Valley Wine Train.  This trip also includes round-trip coach class airfare for two.  Yeah, you can just go ahead and sign me up for that one.

We’ve also got a week-long stay in a two bedroom condo (which sleeps eights) in Hilton Head.  One week of hanging out on the beach, listening to the waves, and catching up with your friends (who will adore you for inviting them).

Or maybe you just want a quick getaway to the mountains?  We’ve got a one-night stay at a bed & breakfast in Banner Elk.

Plus, we’ve got golf packages, jewelry, nights at the Grove Park Inn, and a ton more.  To put it simply, there are more than enough reasons for you to get your bidding on at this awesome event.  Not to mention it supports a wonderful organization making a huge impact within its community — Hospice & Palliative Care Lake Norman.

The party starts at 6:30pm on Saturday, May 2 at the Peninsula Club in Cornelius.  Tickets are $100, which is a tiny investment in the massive amount of fun you’re going to have, especially if you end up outbidding me for the Napa trip.  Now, if you’re coming here from snowy Wisconsin, we’ll probably let you in for free.  You’ve seriously suffered enough.

A HUGE thanks to our generous presenting sponsors: Huntersville Ford, Kathryn Keele, and Lake Norman Transportation Services, Inc.  We sincerely appreciate your amazing support!

To purchase your Lake Norman Hospice Regatta Party tickets, visit the Shop HPCCR page on our website.  For more information, contact Nancy Cole, HPCCR Director of Special Events.

Ben Franklin was a wise man

Posted April 16, 2015 by hpccr
Categories: advance directives, awareness, education

Tags: , , , , , , ,

by  Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manager

ben franklinBen Franklin very famously said, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”  Given the significance of yesterday and today, I have to say that this quote has never been more appropriate.

So yesterday was tax day.  A nice mid-week treat, right?  Isn’t preparing and filing taxes fun?  Well, for those of you getting a nice refund, the work was worth it.  For those of you writing hefty checks, take comfort in the fact that the holidays are still eight months away.  Plenty of time to start saving up!  And you don’t have to pay the government for another whole year.

But now we move on to the other part of Ben’s quote: the certainty of death. Today, April 16, is National Healthcare Decisions Day.  It’s the day when you have to (well, you really should) think about end of life.  It’s a day nationwide when we ask ourselves some very important (and tough) questions:  Who would you want making important decisions about your healthcare if you couldn’t speak for yourself?  What decisions would you want that person to make?  Do those closest to you know how you feel about life-sustaining procedures?

How did you do on those questions?  Not so well?  Ok, I’m going to ask you a few more.  Do you have a Living Will?  A Healthcare Power of Attorney?  Do you have any idea what a MOST form is?  If your answer to any of these questions is a resounding, “No!”, then you are not alone.  But that’s not necessarily a good thing.

Less than one-third of adults have completed these advance directive documents.  Which means that more than two-thirds of our population are leaving their loved ones unaware of their wishes should something unplanned and catastrophic happen to them.  That’s just not ok.  Advance directives give family and friends peace of mind in the event that the hypothetical becomes reality.  Making the hard decisions now will ultimately be a gift to those who love us.

This all might seem very overwhelming to you, but take comfort in the fact that there are organizations and individuals whose sole purpose is to help you fill out your advance directives.  And there are plenty of websites (including hpccr.org) that not only answer your questions, but also provide contact information for people who would be happy to assist you in any way.

I know the last thing you want to do the day after you pay taxes is to think about your impending death.  But Ben Franklin knew what he was talking about, people.  You can’t avoid death just like you can’t avoid taxes (well, I suppose you can avoid taxes, but there is that pesky jail thing to think about).  Being prepared for both will take away some unnecessary stress and let you focus on the more important things in life.  Like the fact that the holidays are only eight months away.  You should be hearing Christmas carols in Walmart any day now.

Is this my last chance?

Posted April 8, 2015 by hpccr
Categories: advocacy, end of life, Levine & Dickson Hospice House, volunteering

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by Jim Young, HPCCR Volunteer

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have been volunteering for HPCCR for over five years.  Believe me when I tell you that I have personally received a lot more from the experience than I have given.  Recent events in my personal life, however, have me questioning my commitment to this cause that I have never questioned before.  I find myself asking, “Can I keep my commitment to do this anymore?”  Maybe some of you have asked the same question as we all seem to get pulled away from our commitments, and even worse, our personal commitments pull us away from the ones who depend on us to be there.

One of the many lessons I have learned from my time with hospice is that you may only have one chance to interact with a patient or loved one.  You may have only one chance to see a smile, or share the tears of a moment, whether it be happy or sad.  And finally, you may only have one chance to walk with someone special who will teach you about life in just a few steps, or maybe they will teach you what is truly important in the walk of life.  It isn’t their worldly possessions, or the places they have been, or even their accomplishments throughout their lives.  It is the quality in the essence of life, and the people who have shared that essence. It’s an amazing perspective from a place where life meets with death, or a place where life exists but the memories are long gone.

In hospice, time could be the deciding factor in that one chance for a doctor, nurse, or a volunteer to make a positive impact on that patient (or loved one or friend) before death comes — a foe that cannot be defeated, who has no mercy or understanding , a cancerous enemy taking loved ones without warning or reasoning. This is the question I keep asking myself: “Have I had my last chance?”

I hope and pray that all who read this have the same passion I have when it comes to this war that cannot be won.  But I know the battle can be fought without surrender, that we can fight this battle against cancer, dementia, fatigue, despair, sickness, even anger and frustration.  We simply have to offer our commitment to the needs of others, compassion and understanding in the face of confusion and hopelessness, and our love for this wonderful and noble organization in order to step through the fears of death.  Then we can see the life that still shines brightly, the essence of life that evolves into a beacon in the search for peace.

We all have our commitments to our own families, and our own lives, but we also have a commitment to contribute to the good of the world because of the blessings we have each have been graced with.  My faith and my heart will guide my thoughts as I ask God, “Can I have another chance to embrace those on the edge where life meets death?”  I hope and pray I will have that chance.

Docs, we owe you!

Posted March 30, 2015 by hpccr
Categories: advocacy, awareness, end of life, hospice

by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manager

doctors day 2015I’m going to keep this short and sweet today, folks.  Today is all about doctors.  It’s their day, after all.  Yep, it’s National Doctors Day.

We have twelve (!) doctors on our staff at HPCCR.  They are not all full time, but they are 100% dedicated to our mission.  All the time.  As far as we’re concerned, every single one has majored in empathy and done a residency in compassion.

All of our doctors have a personal reason for being here. Some have made end-of-life care a life-long career.  Some have retired from previous careers and are finding a second turn here at HPCCR. Some have had personal experiences with hospice care or palliative medicine and decided that they wanted to be involved in some way.  But they all have one thing in common — a passion for helping patients at end of life.  Our physicians help ease the pain.  Their presence brings peace of mind to patients and their loved ones.

So we have one simple message today.  For our doctors and for doctors around the world.  Thank you for caring.  Thank you for your dedication to the fragile human beings who depend on you.  And thank you for relieving the world of at least some of its suffering.  We certainly owe you one. (Or ten. Well, definitely more than one. You know what we mean.)  Short and sweet, love you all. 

Challenging preconceived notions

Posted March 26, 2015 by hpccr
Categories: awareness, education, end of life, hospice, palliative

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by Everett Warren, UNC School of Medicine, Class of 2016

assumptions eye examI wonder how often it has been said that life is precious.  So often we are inundated with this idea.  Life is fleeting, not guaranteed, short.  What I have come to understand through my experiences with both palliative care and hospice is that what lies on the other side of life is just as precious.  That is, death itself is precious.  In some regards the process of dying demands more respect, honesty, and bravery than that of living.  The amount of audacity it takes for an individual to accept their inevitable fate, decide that comfort is more important than treatment, and approach their last breath with peace is quite possibly the most admirable and beautiful human act I have had the privilege of witnessing.  I do not believe I fully understood this concept prior to my palliative care and hospice experiences, and honestly, I believe this is largely because I was intimidated by the idea of death and having conversations about death, especially the idea of having a conversation about an individual’s death with that individual.

Our society discourages us from thinking about death.  From a very young age we are bombarded with the idea that death is morbid, dark, and off-limits.  This institutionalized mindset that death is taboo is hard to overcome, something I think I found personally challenging about this experience.  I realized that a patient is only going to be as comfortable in discussing their death as you are comfortable in discussing it with him or her.  While spending time with Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region clinicians, I had the privilege of witnessing what I thought would be impossible conversations conducted multiple times with a wide variety of patients from all walks of life.  Each time, I was taken aback at how comfortable not only the physician or nurse was at leading this conversation, but also at how well the patient responded.  Yes, there were definitely patients and family members that were tearful and clearly upset.  Yes, there were moments when the patient would verbalize how unfair the situation was or how angry they were at the circumstances.  Yes, there were moments where it seemed like there was no right way to answer the questions the patient and their family were asking.  However, what was most apparent was that the patient, the patient’s family, and the hospice or palliative care physician were working together as one team with the same goals.  It was truly inspiring to see a physician take on a patient’s situation as their own in such a sincere and empathetic way while being so available for the patient.  I truly saw empathy go beyond what I thought possible during these two short days.  I aspire to live out empathy as a medical student, resident, and physician in the ways in which I saw it manifested during these two days.

Prior to this experience, I can ashamedly say that I really had no clue what exactly hospice or palliative care did, or that they were such different entities.  I had the ignorant misconception that as someone begins to deteriorate and the future is looking grim then that individual should be managed by hospice or palliative care, which basically took care of the patient until they died.  I did not truly understand how important the symptom management or goals of care conversations led by the palliative team were to individuals that were younger or had little chance of dying from their condition.  I had no idea that individuals could graduate from palliative care and go back to living the normal lives they led before they needed the services offered by palliative care.  I didn’t realize that individuals can only be placed under hospice when they only have six months to live based on the natural history of their disease state, and I definitely did not know that even if the individual lives beyond that six-month period, they may remain under the care of hospice by being re-certified.

Attending the interdisciplinary hospice meeting was truly an eye-opening experience.  To see a patient’s care be viewed and planned through so many different lenses and so many different facets challenged all preconceived notions I had that hospice was just some healthcare worker feeding a patient pain medication as they slowly died.  They truly identified the patient’s needs from all angles and offered them an extensive amount of services that I did not even know existed prior to attending the meeting.

Overall, I thought this was an incredible experience.  I would highly recommend it for future students.  It definitely impacted me in ways that I will take with me as a future physician, and I am incredibly grateful to the nurses, social workers, physicians, and most importantly the patients, for allowing me to glimpse the incredible entities that are hospice care and palliative care.

Tucking into the weekend

Posted March 18, 2015 by hpccr
Categories: awareness, end of life, hospice, volunteering

Tags: , ,

by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manager

tucked-inMy nine-year old daughter is, for the most part, fearless.  Always has been. But over the past several months, she’s had a unique uncertainty arise: she balks at spending the night away from home. We’ve been puzzled because, in the past, this type of separation hasn’t been an issue.  But when we probed further, it became clear.  If she’s not in her own bed, Mommy can’t tuck her in at night.

I can’t argue with her.  Is there anything that makes you feel more loved and safe than being tucked into your bed at night?  I think not.

At HPCCR, we wanted our patients to have that safe, comfortable feeling too. So we did something about it.

A few months ago, we started something new that we are calling the Tuck In program.  We are not physically tucking our patients in at night, but we ARE calling them before the weekend rolls around to make sure they have everything they need.  Supplies? Check!  Medications?  Check!  Any other concerns we need to be aware of?

We have a group of volunteers who meet at our office and make these phone calls each Thursday morning.  Our volunteers either talk to the patients themselves or to a caregiver.  If there are needs or concerns, the volunteer then notifies a nurse who can coordinate any care needed.

Being customer-focused is extremely important to us.  Our patients are fragile and their comfort is our utmost concern.  The Tuck In program is just one more way to stay connected to the individuals who depend on us for their care.

It’s a new program so it hasn’t been rolled out yet to all of our home care patients, but it soon will be.  We just need to recruit the right number of volunteers to help us cover everyone and make sure we’ve got a call station prepared.  But the response we’ve received so far has been overwhelmingly positive.  Our patients appreciate the extra touch of concern and their caregivers like the reminder that we are only a phone call away.

Hospice patients are always going to have some fears about the future.  It’s nice to know, then, that we have the ability to provide comfort and peace of mind, especially before the weekend — a time often considered “off the clock” in the healthcare world.  But just like mothers will never ignore the needs of their children, HPCCR is never off the clock when it comes to patients.  Just like my nine-year old, our patients will always be comforted by an extra touch and loving care.  And a tuck in is always welcomed.

If you are interested in volunteering for this program, please give us a call at 704.375.0100 and ask to speak to someone in our Volunteer department.  A nursing background is helpful, but certainly not required, for our Tuck In volunteers.

Party time!

Posted March 10, 2015 by hpccr
Categories: blog, education, end of life, hospice

Tags: , , , , ,

by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manager

?????????????????????????????????????????It’s time to pull out the paper party hats, turn off all the lights, and fire up some candles!  We’ve got a lot to celebrate this week at HPCCR!  If it were up to me, I would have baked a cake (it’s kind of my thing), but the people in my office would have (lovingly) kicked me out the door and locked it firmly behind them.  (Summer is right around the corner, after all!)

Anyway, on to our celebrations.  On Sunday, Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region turned 37 years old.  That might not be old for us humans, but trust me, for a hospice organization, 37 years puts you in the class of “seasoned”, to say the least.

Also, on this very day five years ago (my, how time has flown!) I published the very first post on our blog, Hospice Matters.  Five years.  I actually can’t believe it.

First let’s talk about HPCCR.  We became an organization on March 8, 1978.  But we didn’t take our first patient until November of 1979.  And then we took eight more that year, bringing our total to a whopping count of nine.  Ok, let’s compare.  In 2014, we admitted over 3,000 hospice patients and somewhere between 1,000 to 2,000 palliative patients.  That’s some serious growth, folks.  In fact, since that first patient was admitted back in 1979, our total hospice admissions to date (through December 2014) is over 40,000 patients.  Not to mention the fact that we have grown from serving just Mecklenburg County in NC to now serving 11 counties in North and South Carolina.   That’s just outstanding.  It means that we have touched the lives of over 40,000 families in our large region, showing compassion and exquisite care to each and every one.  Every person in this organization factors into this equation.  Because, ultimately, we are all in it for the same reason.  To make end of life honorable, peaceful, and beautiful.

On to the blog.  I am very proud to say that during the five years that this blog has been published, not one week has gone without a post.  Not one.  This post, in fact, will be our 356th.  Our readership continues to increase as our social media presence grows and, as this blog habitually goes out on Facebook and Twitter, the reach of our blog is several thousand people each week.  Upshot?  Several thousand people know just a little bit more about end-of-life care than they did the week before.  Hospice Matters is a virtual stage with which we educate our community and where we demonstrate the impact of hospice care on real people who have benefited from our services.  These stories honestly write themselves; they are always emotional, sometimes uplifting, occasionally heartbreaking, but always worth reading.  They reflect the very heart of what we do and I am overwhelmingly honored to (so often) be their conduit to the “outside” world.

So in honor of these important “birthdays”, I am going to close my eyes and make a wish.  A wish that hospice care becomes the preferred choice at life’s end, that the fear surrounding death be relinquished, and that our enthusiasm for life continues until the very last beat of our hearts.

Of course, you can’t make a wish without cake. . . .


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