Archive for the ‘advocacy’ category

Happy Nurses Week

May 9, 2016

by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manager

keep calm hug a nurseBet you didn’t know that we are smack dab in the middle of a whole week recognizing nurses in our country. It begins each year on May 6 and ends on May 12, Florence Nightingale’s birthday. Very fitting, indeed, to end the week recognizing the founder of modern nursing.

I often use this “stage” to to declare how awesome our nurses are. And this week I’m going to do it again. Because their hearts are made of gold; pure sunshine runs through their veins. Their patience is legendary and their expertise extraordinary. They are selfless, tireless, and fearless.

Hospice nurses are veritable jacks of all trades. They are independent, they think on their feet, and their knowledge is amazingly comprehensive. And on top of that, they are kind, empathetic, and soothing. They are the total package.

Hospice nurses are often likened to angels, an appropriate comparison in my opinion.  They intervene when our patients and families are at their most vulnerable, right when they think they will drown in obligation and pain. Then nurses lift them up, cradle them in their arms, and restore their fragile faith in humanity.

So a heartfelt thank you to nurses everywhere. And to our HPCCR nurses, we want you to know that your dedication has helped make us who we are. You are so often the face of HPCCR.  And because of you, it’s shining bright.

Comfort without being asked

April 19, 2016

by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manager

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Ollie

I met the sweetest volunteer the other week. He had truly soul-searching eyes and an uncanny ability to know exactly what patients needed from him, including how he could comfort them, without being asked.

His name was Ollie and he was an eight-year old Labradoodle.

National Volunteer Week was last week and HPCCR made special efforts to recognize the amazing men and women who offer their time and love to the individuals (and their families) under our care. But what about the animals who do the same thing for our organization? It’s definitely harder to show our appreciation. But I think they know; they must certainly feel the intense adoration coming their way from everyone who meets them.

Pet therapy dogs are brilliant. Ollie knows the difference between when he can “be a dog” when it’s time to “go to work”. His owner, Robin, in fact uses those very words (“It’s time to go to work, Ollie!”) when she’s ready to load up and head to Levine & Dickson Hospice House at Southminster, where you can find them each Wednesday afternoon.

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Ollie and his owner, Robin

Robin told me some amazing stories. But one of them really resonated with me and almost brought me to tears. She told me about the time when, after a patient had died, the family (who had particularly loved Ollie) requested that he participate in the ceremonial procession of walking behind the body to the waiting vehicle outside. This family had a long tradition of waving as they said goodbye and they all wanted to wave one last time to their loved one. As the vehicle drove away, all of the family members were waving and crying. Then they turned and looked down (in shock) to see Ollie lift his paw as well. Robin was not surprised. “He totally gets it. You don’t have to say anything.”

Ollie seems to sense when and where the patients need him. He’s been known to jump up on beds but he can also tell when lying on the floor next to them is the best way to offer comfort. He’s always calm, always full of love, and he never fails to bring a smile to at least one face in the room.

I watched Ollie in action that day. We entered the room and, I tell you, the entire mood shifted. Faces lit up, questions were asked about him, and stories were offered up about their own dogs. There was hardly a second when a hand was not on Ollie’s head or stroking his unbelievably soft ears.

And when it was time to go, he knew that too. He moved on to the next room, ready to offer exactly the kind of comfort they needed. Without being asked.

For more information about pet therapy or volunteering with Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region, visit our website, hpccr.org or call us at 704.375.0100.

 

 

The power in one word

April 13, 2016

by Carol Anne Lawler, HPCCR Faith Community Educator

one word imageOne of the benefits of being the Faith Community Educator for Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region is the privilege of presenting information to faith communities and other groups about some aspect of end-of-life care. We often say we can’t ‘add years to your life’, but we can ‘add life to your years’. To that end, I developed a Healthy Aging presentation to do just that! My goal is to communicate how our mind, body, and spirit are all connected and when we do one thing it affects the other aspects of our lives as well. I have experienced this connection first-hand and would like to share a few observations.

In 2015, I had the opportunity to attend the School of the Spirit that consists of four retreats over the course of the year to deepen and expand the participants’ spiritual life. One of the practices is called Centering Prayer. In this form of meditation, rather than focus on the breath or on using a mantra, each person chooses a ‘sacred word’ that is said when one’s thoughts begin to veer off course. The word is used as a gentle reminder to return one’s mind and energies to meditate. The sacred word effectively reminds me of what I know to be true.

Not only has the power of a single word been helpful in my spiritual life, my body has witnessed the power of a single word as well. Let me explain. Since our children have become adults and are now living on their own, my husband and I have more time to pursue activities that are of interest. We can frequently be seen at the Dowd YMCA taking a cycle or ‘spin’ class, as it is called, most Saturday mornings and/or Thursday evenings. When the instructor wants to motivate the class to go faster, she will say the word PUSH! Because of my competitive spirit (even with myself), I began saying PUSH…PUSH… PUSH…(to myself of course), and to my amazement, I watch my speed increase. If, by saying a single word, I can help align my spirit to reflect my values and increase my peddle speed on my stationary bike, what can you and I accomplish with a single action toward what is good?

I am reminded of a quote I heard when I was just 16 years old. (My long-term memory serves me well.) I was taking the classroom part of Driver’s Education in the summer and our instructor wrote these words on the blackboard:“I am but one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something….and by the grace of God, I will do the one thing I can do.” I am convinced; there is at least one thing you and I can do to add healing to the world. The recipe for change, then, is this: change a word + change an action = positive results!

When I was young I long sought the answers to life’s important issues. Now that I am older, I am convinced that asking the right questions holds the key to what matters most.

Here are few questions for consideration: How have I loved this hour? Whom have I helped? How have I lived my principles? As we move into spring may we remember the power of a single word and the strength of a single action can not only add life to our years, it can add new life to our world.

The above article will be published in the summer edition of All About Seniors, a comprehensive resource and referral directory available in North and South Carolina for older adults, caregivers, and healthcare professionals.

Thank you, docs!

March 30, 2016

by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manager

DocDay_logo_2016Today is National Doctors’ Day.

You might not know it, but we have thirteen doctors on our staff at HPCCR. They are not all full-time, but they are fully dedicated to our mission — all the time.

Our doctors have a personal reason for being here. Some have made end-of-life care a career for many years. 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. Their presence brings peace of mind to patients and their loved ones.

So our message today is simple. To our HPCCR doctors and all other doctors caring for patients, thank you. Thank you for your dedication to the fragile human beings who depend on you. And thank you for offering your knowledge and expertise to provide relief. We certainly owe you — full-time, all the time.

Have a compassionate conversation with us

March 24, 2016

by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manager

NHDD day image“I wish I’d known about hospice sooner.”

We hear that sentence all the time. And we understand why — it’s a topic that most people don’t learn about (nor want to learn about) until they have to. Let’s face it. No one looks forward to talking about end of life. But it doesn’t have to be so hard, especially if you let us help you.

Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region will be hosting two special events next week, designed to make you more comfortable talking about end of life and what your wishes are concerning it. We’re holding these events to recognize National Healthcare Decisions Day which takes place each year on April 16 (the day specifically chosen because it falls right after tax day and we all know what Benjamin Franklin said about death and taxes. . . .)

The seminars are entitled Compassionate Conversations: It Always Seems Too Early, Until It’s Too Late, and we’ll be hosting them on Tuesday, March 29 (at Levine & Dickson Hospice House – Huntersville) and Thursday, March 31 (at the Philip L. Van Every Learning Resource Center). Both will begin at 6:15pm and last until 8:15 and to entice you to come, we’re having delicious appetizers and offering expert commentary from our extremely experienced nurse practitioner, Beth Martin, and our esteemed Medical Director, Dr. Robert Smith.

The two of them will explore a bunch of different tough and thought-provoking questions such as “How do I begin a conversation with a loved one or physician about healthcare planning?”; “What does it mean to do ‘everything’ possible during a healthcare crisis?”; and “What are the benefits and burdens of nutrition and ventilators at end of life?”

We encourage you to come to one of these events. See, if you have the conversation with us, then you can feel confident having the conversation with the people who matter most to you. Which ultimately would allow you to avoid having the conversation that begins with, “I wish I’d known about hospice sooner.”

There is no cost to attend these seminars, but you must pre-register. To do so, email Louise Giusto at giustoL@hpccr.org. For more information about the Compassionate Conversations seminars, you can contact Carol Anne Lawler at lawlerC@hpccr.org.

 

Going “home”

March 17, 2016

by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manager

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Zahyra Alvarez

What is home to you? Is it where you were born? Where you grew up? Or where you’ve lived the longest?

Or is home less of a place and more of a concept? Home could be wherever your spouse is. Or your children. Or your beloved pooch.

But it can be more complicated than that. Because often, it’s a combination of those things — places and people. That’s certainly the case for one of our patients, Zahyra Alvarez.

Zahyra was born in Honduras but came to the United States over 20 years ago with her husband and two children. They originally settled in California but they made their way to North Carolina and that’s where they’ve stayed.

Zahyra is 57 years old and Charlotte is home now. She lives with her daughter, Paola, and two adorable grandchildren. Her son is nearby in Salisbury and her sister is just up the road in Hendersonville.

But so many of her family are still in Honduras, including her mom whose 85th birthday is on Saturday. Zahyra is one of nine children (five girls, four boys) raised by this strong woman. NINE children and she did it all on her own. Not surprisingly, there will be a big birthday celebration to honor the matron of the family. In Honduras, of course.

Zahyra hasn’t been back to visit in almost two years, but she didn’t want to miss the festivities. It would be the first time in a while that all nine siblings would be together with their mother.

Making the trip is easier said than done, especially as a hospice patient. She recovered fairly well after recently having a kidney removed but her strength has been compromised. And she managed to catch pneumonia last week.

Then there’s the expense.

Flying internationally has never been cheap and when you have medical costs on top of everything else, money doesn’t exactly pop up from beneath couch cushions. Zahyra mentioned to her social worker, Allison, that she was planning to sell some crafts she’d made (she’s extremely creative) to raise money for airfare. But Allison had a better idea.

Allison suggested that HPCCR use the family fund to cover the cost of the tickets. The family fund is a reserve of money (funded largely by employee participation) used to help patients cover a particular cost that is extremely important. In the past we’ve used it for various reasons — winter clothing, a suit for a funeral, appliances, or bug extermination.

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Zahyra’s daughter and eight-month-old granddaughter

This time we’re using it for tickets. Zahyra is leaving tomorrow, along with her sister, to fly to Honduras for two weeks to celebrate her mother’s birthday and spend time with her family. HPCCR is sending her “home”.

I use the quotations intentionally. Because after speaking with Zahyra, she made it clear that North Carolina is her physical home; she loves it here and told me that she doesn’t necessarily miss Honduras. But I can tell the old saying holds true for her: home is where the heart is. And here’s the rub. Her heart is with her family, but her family is in two separate places.

So she’s leaving home for “home”. Leaving her children and grandchildren in Charlotte for her mother and siblings in Honduras. And she’s doing it with a smile on her face and one of the most positive attitudes I’ve seen in any HPCCR patient.

When I asked Zahyra how she felt about everything coming together the way it did she told me, “Nothing is coincidence. I have angels because God has sent me a lot of them.” Many of those angels are in her hospice care team, the individuals who are making sure she’s in the best shape possible to travel. And certainly one of them is her social worker Allison, who erased the worry of raising money for two tickets to Central America.

As for the rest of the angels? May they stay close to Zahyra in every place she calls “home”, all the way until she reaches her heavenly one.