Archive for the ‘Levine & Dickson Hospice House’ category

I stepped away from wisdom

May 18, 2016

by Jim Young, LDHH-H volunteer


Volunteer Jim Young

Maybe some of you remember me. But maybe this is the first time you have read anything from this site. The first blog I read from HPCCR brought tears to my eyes, and since then I have cried many times from the words that were written by so many wonderful people – words of honesty, love, and conviction.

Hospice moments are filled with raw and honest emotion. As someone who has stood in those moments countless times, being there can be both rewarding and frustrating. But to be honest, the most frustrating part of hospice for me was the frustration of stepping back – or in my case stepping away from – this wonderful organization.

I volunteered with HPCCR for six years, and in August of last year, my personal plate got rather full. I personally felt I could not commit one hundred percent to a patient assignment, so I stepped away. And in doing so, I stepped away from wisdom.

Wisdom has always inspired my thoughts and my actions, and it was wisdom that always led me to writing about my feelings about hospice. When I left HPCCR, the words left too. This is the first time I have been able to put words to paper, to express the feelings of my heart.

Lately I’ve been feeling that there can be light in death just as in death there can be life.

Allow me to explain. Life in death can mean acceptance to a hopeless outcome, clarity to confusion. Life in death is moving forward, carrying that loved one in your heart.

Light in death is when life simply transitions from a physical presence to a spiritual one. Light in death is finding the peace you are so desperately searching for, the beacon calling you to embrace the joy and the sadness of life meeting death.

I think that is why I’m being called back– to embrace the joy and sadness once again. It was God who led me to HPCCR in the first place, and it is God leading me back there now.

If that isn’t divine wisdom, then tell me what is.

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 For more information about the Compassionate Conversations seminars, you can contact Carol Anne Lawler at


On the road to Lincolnton (another great clinic story)

September 10, 2015

by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manager

(L) Amy Atwell, nurse liaison, and Jessica Hill, nurse practitioner

Amy Atwell (l), nurse liaison, and Jessica Hill, nurse practitioner

I’ve worked in many different companies — a bank, a telecommunications firm, a branding agency — but none of these places afforded me the vast and varied experiences like the ones I’ve had working for a hospice organization.  I’ve been in patient homes, in long-term care communities, clinics, and in hospice houses and I’ve traveled through numerous counties in North and South Carolina to meet families and collect stories.  The opportunities are seemingly everywhere.  That’s not surprising when you take into account the outstanding care we offer our patients; they are usually more than happy to share their experiences with us.

So that’s how I found myself on the road to Lincolnton a few weeks ago, ready to once again put on my listening ears and take notes.  We recently started holding a palliative care clinic at Hospice & Palliative Care Lincoln County (HPCLC) and it was high time for me to check it out.

I’d been to the palliative clinic at Levine & Dickson Hospice House – Huntersville a couple of times before I visited this clinic at HPCLC.  Both experiences were completely eye-opening and wonderfully educational.  But one was very different from the other.  The patients and families I sat with at the hospice house received advice and counseling about maintaining quality of life and accessing support; in Lincolnton, the patients were concerned with quality of life too, but the discussions rotated more around symptom management.  (Disclosure: At LDHH-H, the patients I observed had dementia while the patients in Lincolnton were cancer patients — very different situations and goals of care.)  So, from my observations, the clinic in Lincolnton felt more like a traditional “doctor’s visit” while the clinic at LDHH-H felt more like a counseling session.

There was one thing, though, that both clinics had in common: the clinicians were out-of-this-world fantastic.  In Lincolnton, I met Amy Atwell, nurse liaison, and Jessica Hill, nurse practitioner.  They were both utterly charming and approachable — qualities that (I believe) are crucial for interacting with chronically sick patients.  And what’s more important, it was so very apparent that Amy and Jessica care deeply about their patients.  They do not offer mere lip service; everything they say comes from a blend of engaged mind and passionate heart.  They are both intentional and well-meaning in their actions and the counsel they offer.

I watched them interact with two patients that day.  Both patients were women, both had cancer.  The process was the same with each  —  Amy, the nurse liaison, spoke with the patient first and Jessica would follow up.  Amy counted and documented medications, asked about pain levels, and took vitals.  She asked about their eating habits, took their weight, and made sure they understood the timing of their pain medications.  Obviously very familiar with her patients, she joked with them, was sympathetic, delightfully “bossy”, and wholeheartedly supportive.

Jessica (the NP) would come in after Amy was finished.  She asked more questions of her patients, probing a little deeper into their mental state.  She asked about their anxiety levels, and how their pain was affecting them.  The first patient she saw, Deborah, was still receiving radiation; Jessica gave her tips on how to deal with the side effects.  (“Radiation loves protein,” I heard her say.  Who knew?)  She was able to explain what happens to the body during treatment in a way that made complete sense, using layman’s terms that even I could understand.  Jessica praised Deborah for accomplishments that she’s made since she started coming to the clinic two months ago — staying on top of her pain, and making good food and lifestyle choices.

HPCLC patient Kim with her son, Steven

HPCLC patient Kim with her son, Steven

The second patient that day, Kim, was a true “success” story.  Several months ago, the pain and nausea from her disease and treatment were so bad that she literally couldn’t get out of bed.  But since starting her visits to the clinic in April, her pain and symptoms are under control, she’s been able to eat, and has even gained a few pounds.  When Amy and Jessica saw her, they both had nothing but compliments — Kim had recently cut and colored her hair and, on that day, she had even put on makeup. (Another disclosure: Kim knew she was going to be observed and potentially photographed so she came prepared!)

Kim will be facing a detailed surgery soon and, understandably, had some concerns (I believe the words “dreading it” were used) over what would be happening.  Jessica calmly walked her through the steps of the procedure (again using terms that everyone in the room understood) and I watched as Kim visibly relaxed.  Jessica has an unbelievable knack for explanation.  She doesn’t sugarcoat but she doesn’t make it sound scary either.  She seems to sense the emotions that her patients will experience before they do and, as such, she tailors her words to compensate for those potential fears.  It’s a ministry of sorts that is extremely inspiring to witness.

Kim came to the clinic with her son, Steven.  Steven is Kim’s primary caregiver, sharing his mother’s journey and all the ups and downs that come with cancer treatment.  They both could not say enough good things about the HPCLC clinic and their interactions with Amy and Jessica.  They told me that coming to the clinic is so different from other doctor appointments.  I heard, “They don’t talk down to us here,” and “They spend as much time with us as we need.”

The mindsets and attitudes are just different here, born from a true desire to help combined with personal experience and perspective.  Jessica’s own father has cancer so she has been on both sides of the stethoscope.  She inherently understands the fear of watching a loved one fight this awful disease yet she also has the medical background and the clinical ears to assimilate information.  She acknowledges, though, that assuming the “loved one” role is often much harder than the “nurse practitioner” role.  Therefore, her empathy for her patients is real; her motivation to offer peace of mind is completely true and one hundred percent earnest.

I walked away from our Lincolnton office once again completely impressed with the staff members who work for this organization.  Like so many others I’ve had the fortune to observe, compassion, care, and concern simply radiate from the faces of Amy Atwell and Jessica Hill.  That, along with their dynamic personalities, goes a long way toward disproving the stereotype that “going to the doctor” is stressful and awful.  They had their patients laughing and smiling, a welcome relief (I would imagine) from dealing with cancer day in and day out.  It was truly a sight to behold and an experience that I won’t soon forget.

I’m telling you what.  You just don’t have days like that when you work at a bank.

September stress relievers

September 1, 2015

by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manager

It’s September 1st which means we are looking right down the barrel at Labor Day, the official “end” of summer.  And so begins the days of desperately wearing our white shoes and toting our white purses one last time before we have to pack them away for another nine months.  And listening (once again) to our children bemoan the cruelty of homework.  (Seriously?  Talk to me again when you start college!)  And unwillingly becoming slaves (once again) to their forgotten project deadlines, their inability to remember upcoming tests, and their inherent lack of concern over the stress these aforementioned things cause us.

You know what’s a great stress reducer?  Exercise.

Pedal_the_Park_logo_Tshirt10And we’ve got great exercise options!  If a fun, scenic biking challenge is what you’re looking for, come join us on Labor Day (Monday, September 7) for Pedal The Park.  It boasts two different rides — 30-mile and 60-mile — leaving from Levine & Dickson Hospice House – Huntersville.  Both self-paced rides meander through Mecklenburg and surrounding counties on well-marked courses.  And you’ll have a delicious buffet waiting for you when you finish.

Pedal The Park registration begins at 8am.  The 60-mile ride starts at 9am, and the 30-miler at 9:30.  And there’s even a short family fun ride at 10am.  So you can’t complain that you have limited options.  Visit our page at to register!

HTB2015-NANCYIf Pedaling The Park’s not your thing, you can Hit the Brixx instead.  Meet us at the uptown location of Brixx Pizza (225 E. 6th St.) on Saturday, September 12 for a 10K and / or a 5K.  The 10K starts at 7:45am and the 5K begins at 9am, perfectly timed so you over-achievers can do both races if you so choose.  And the best part?  The pizza and beer waiting for you at the finish line.  It is, without a doubt, the most fun after-race celebration in town!  You can register for Hit the Brixx at

So join us for either or both of these events!  We can’t promise that doing so will make your kids more responsible about homework, tests, and projects but after all the physically demanding stress relief we’re providing, you just might throw away those boarding school brochures.  At least until next year.

Proceeds from Pedal The Park benefit Levine & Dickson Hospice House – Huntersville and proceeds from Hit The Brixx benefit Kids Path®, our pediatric program.  For more information, contact Nancy Cole, Director of Special Events at or call 704.375.0100.

Heartfelt gift

August 5, 2015

by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manager

heart painting for LDHH-HThe painting hangs on the wall at Levine & Dickson Hospice House – Huntersville, a beautiful reminder that love has a constant presence in this special place.  Perhaps it’s an homage to the hearts of the patients who were blessed to call LDHH-H their last home.  Or maybe it captures the kind hearts of the staff who so gently and passionately care for the patients and families inhabiting the rooms.  Most likely, it’s both of these things.

We have Gini Sellers, a Kindergarten teacher at Lincoln Charter School, to thank for the painting.  That’s because a while back, one of Gini’s fellow Kindergarten teachers was going through the process of getting her mother admitted to a local hospice house.  When visiting her mom, this teacher was struck by a painting of hearts she saw there; hearts that were all different sizes, shapes, and colors.  She came back to work and told her coworkers about it and the image stuck in Gini’s mind.

Soon enough, Gini found herself in a similar situation.  Her mother-in-law was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and came under the care of Hospice & Palliative Care Lincoln County in November last year.  When her symptoms could no longer be managed at her home, Gini’s mother-in-law was moved to Levine & Dickson Hospice House – Huntersville.  She passed away there about a week later.

Gini told me that they were expecting the hospice house experience to be terrible; they were frightened of every implication it held.  Instead, she found herself surprised at almost every turn.  She was touched that the staff members were just as concerned about her family’s needs as they were about her mother in law’s.  She was shocked at how hands-on the doctors were.  She was not expecting the environment to be so comfortable and she certainly didn’t think that she would describe the experience as positive.  But it truly was.

Through it all, Gini remembered that heart painting her coworker had told her about.  And an idea began to form.

All of the grade levels at Lincoln Charter School are required to complete a certain number of community service hours each year; the Kindergarten classes must complete five.  Gini thought that creating a heart painting (like the one she’d heard about) for LDHH-H would be the perfect service project to cross off that requirement.

heart painting hanging_LDHH

The heart painting hanging on the wall at LDHH-H

Hearts were drawn on a large canvas and children began painting, choosing the heart they wanted and the color they wished to paint it.  More and more hearts were added as the previous ones dried, creating a multi-layered (and extremely bright) effect.  All 66 Kindergarten students and their three teachers participated in the project.  The art teacher helped add the finishing touches.

The result is a beautiful, happy collage of color and texture with an all-encompassing, all-important theme — love.  It’s the sentiment Gini and her family felt at Levine & Dickson Hospice House – Huntersville, it’s the emotion that drove the creation of this beautiful piece of art, and it’s the strongest feeling we have for those we hold dear.  And this painting portrays exactly where we hold those precious ones — in our hearts.

Special thanks to Gini Sellers and the students at Lincoln Charter School for creating this beautiful painting for LDHH-H.  It is truly a special gift and is most appreciated!

A teacher of doing things correctly

June 3, 2015

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.

Is this my last chance?

April 8, 2015

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.