Posted tagged ‘hospice care’

Happy birthday to us!

March 8, 2016

by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manager

38th birthdayIt’s March 8th, a very important day for HPCCR. It’s our birthday (yay!) And, contrary to the way many of us feel about getting older, we absolutely love it.

As of today, we’ve been incorporated for 38 years. That’s a long time! To date we’ve cared for well over 40,000 hospice patients and even more family members. We’ve also offered palliative care to individuals facing life-threatening illness, grief support to countless community members, and educational presentations in venues across our service area. We’ve grown so much — from serving just Mecklenburg County when we first started in 1978 to now serving 11 counties in both North and South Carolina.

And we love getting older because, like fine wine and your favorite pair of jeans, HPCCR just get better with age. Each additional year means more experience. More unique patients to learn from. More outstanding care. It’s confirmation that we are doing our job and supporting our community in the best possible way.

Each person in this organization makes it possible to celebrate March 8 again and again with a sense of pride and accomplishment. Because ultimately, we are all in it for the same reason — to support our patients and the people who love them. To make end of life honorable, peaceful, and beautiful for all of them.

So today we light candles and make a wish. We close our eyes tight and imagine a community where people think about end of life before they have to. We wish for broad acceptance of (and appreciation for) the many benefits of hospice care.

Needless to say, HPCCR will continue to enjoy our March 8ths, getting older and better each year. That may seem like an impossible task, but hey, if George Clooney can do it, so can we.


Party time!

March 10, 2015

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. . . .

An unexpected gift

February 12, 2015

by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manager

The quilt square lovingly made in honor of Shannon's mom, Yvonne.

The quilt square lovingly made in honor of Shannon’s mom, Yvonne.

I do a lot of writing for my job.  And because I do, I typically try to avoid clichés.  It’s not that clichés are bad, it’s just that I feel like I can come up with something on my own to express what I’m trying to say. But today, I’m resorting to a cliché because, well, sometimes a cliché perfectly conveys what it needs to.  So here it is:

Hospice is a gift that keeps on giving.

Yes, I’m sure you’ve heard that phrase a million times about a million other things, but when it comes to hospice care, it’s really true.  And I’ve got a story to prove it.

Shannon Armstrong has been a nurse since 2002; she is currently working toward her Masters in Nursing from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.  Through the course of earning this degree she has been meeting with a Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region nurse practitioner in our Medical Services department.  Well, at one of these meetings, Shannon looked up at the wall of our boardroom and was shocked to see something that she recognized.

It was a quilt square.  Made by her stepfather’s mother to honor the memory of Shannon’s own mother.

Shannon’s mother died in 1993 when Shannon was only 22 years old.  Her mom, Yvonne, was under the care of HPCCR (then called Hospice at Charlotte).  After Yvonne had passed away peacefully, Shannon’s step grandmother made the quilt square and, along with Yvonne’s name, included Shannon’s name and those of her stepfather and siblings.  Shannon had heard that the quilt square had gone to hospice, but she never saw it again.  Until November.  And that’s when she saw it hanging on the wall at the HPCCR office.

Shannon was shocked to see it but, at the same time, incredibly pleased.  She took a picture of the quilt square to send to her family members and she called her stepfather to let him know what she had seen.  Needless to say, he was just as thrilled.

When I talked to Shannon, I asked about her hospice experience with her mother all those years ago.  She had nothing but praise for the nurses who cared for her mom.  She said that the care team members helped her family know what to expect and were completely supportive throughout her mother’s illness.  When she saw the quilt square on the wall, she said that it made her feel like she was in the right place in her life.

You see why the cliché I picked is so appropriate?  The end-of-life care Shannon’s mom received in 1993 was certainly the original gift.  Seeing that quilt square on the wall of the hospice that cared for her mother over twenty years later?  Gift number two.  Being able to see, remember, and take pictures of the meaningful memento lovingly made in honor of Yvonne?  Gift number three.  Being able to share that picture with other family members who also loved Yvonne?  Another one. Seriously, I could go on and on.

Suffice it to say that hospice is a beautiful gift.  A gift that, without a doubt, keeps on giving.  Which is exactly what the cliché says.  And I honestly couldn’t say it any better.

The power of a single red rose

December 17, 2014

by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manager


The single Polaroid from their first wedding

These days, when you hear about someone getting married at 18, you immediately start to calculate the odds.  You ask, “What’s your bet that they’ll make it longer than a few years?”  Let’s be honest, it’s pretty rare.  I mean, you’re technically still a child at 18, right?  I know a lot of 18-year olds who can’t make decisions about dinner plans, much less a life partner.

But then you hear about a couple like Henrietta and Ian Hart.  They got married 45 years ago when Henrietta was just 18.  And it’s gone so well, they decided to do it again.

Here’s why.  Henrietta Hart has been living with cancer under hospice care since October.  She was doing well until a little before Thanksgiving; at that point, the decline seemed to speed up a little.  So Ian decided to make a grand gesture, a declaration of his abiding and true love for her.  He re-proposed.

You’ll need a little back story to help you understand the significance of his proposal.  (But this is also the best part of their love story, so of course I was going to share it anyway.)


The early days of their marriage

Over 45 years ago, when Henrietta met Ian, she was dating someone else.  As Ian got to know her, he was understandably smitten and he began to woo Henrietta in earnest.  One day, during the course of his wooing, Ian gave Henrietta a single red rose.  Well, the boyfriend was not pleased, to say the least.  He was not going to let some newcomer barge in and steal his girlfriend.  So he went out and bought a dozen red roses to dramatically present to his beloved.  A nice gesture, yes, but ultimately ineffective.  Not too long after that, Henrietta and Ian eloped by getting married at the courthouse.  A single Polaroid is all they have to commemorate that romantic day.

Back to present day.  A couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, Henrietta was returning to her room from the bathroom when she came upon a completely unexpected scene.  A single red rose (of course) sat in a vase next to her bed and Ian was standing there, decked out in a suit.  He sweetly asked her to marry him again.  Henrietta, of course, said yes.  They began making plans to have the ceremony at their home on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, which just happened to be the 45th anniversary of their first “walk down the aisle”.

happy couple

The bride and groom today

The big day came.  With their son and grandsons in attendance along with Henrietta’s sister and niece (who made a surprise visit), and a few other close friends to round off the guest list, the ceremony began.  Henrietta and Ian, both elegantly dressed, read personally written vows to each other as a Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region chaplain officiated.  Their words were touchingly beautiful and sincere.  Ian, in fact, was overcome with tears as he read his vows to his bride, “When we were married, no one thought we’d make it.  We became one and made a beautiful life together.  We had a family.  Now we celebrate, renewing the vows we said 45 years ago today.  I love you so much and I thank you for everything our lives have been.”

I wish I could have been there for this amazing ceremony, but I was at least fortunate enough to see a small part that was filmed.  You won’t be surprised to know that it was hard to hear the couple’s words over the sniffling of the wedding guests who were completely awash in the profound and poignant emotions of the moment.

Because this is true love, folks.

the kiss

“You may now kiss the bride.”

We don’t know how much time Henrietta and Ian have left with each other.  But, from what I understand, a new medication that the hospice nurse suggested is greatly helping with Henrietta’s pain, giving her back a bit of an appetite, and infusing her with some much-needed energy.  Right now, she’s simply looking forward to spending the holidays with her loving husband and the rest of her family.

As Ian said, no one thought they would make it.  But they did; they beat the odds.  Their long and great love story is living proof that wedding vows can indeed be upheld, that love does remain “through sickness and in health”.  And even though illness will take eventually take Henrietta away from Ian, his love for her will ultimately win the battle.  As Henrietta’s ex-boyfriend learned so long ago, single red rose will beat a dozen every time.


Love letters

May 15, 2014

 by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manager

Love-Letter-HeartWe receive letters almost every day from relatives of patients who were under our care.  The letters are filled with emotion, gratitude, and respect.  Reading them is extremely gratifying for us.  I guess if you think about it, it’s kind of a quid pro quo.  The care that our clinicians offer each patient and each family member is a unique love letter in its own way.  For these individuals to put their thanks on paper is simply a love letter back.  So for today’s post, I’m going to let the letters do the talking.  Here are some of our favorites:

“I don’t know what I would have done without your help.  Losing Frank was like losing half of me.  Your care was indeed palliative and much appreciated by Frank, me, and our families.  How glad we are that there is an organization like hospice that will step in when the end is near and be there for us all in unbelievable love, compassion, and expertise.”

“From answering numerous questions (at all hours of the day) from worried family members, to ensuring Dad had what he needed, the staff at Levine & Dickson Hospice House was there.  EACH and EVERY staff member went above and beyond to provide the type of service any health care system would be proud to be known for.  Thank you.  Thank you for caring.  Thank you for keeping us informed.  The best way I can say it is: Thank you for tenderly, sweetly, lovingly, unselfishly taking care of my Dad in his final days of life.”

“I think we have finally figured you out.  You all are actually angels sent down from heaven to ease our suffering and pain. We are truly grateful for each one of you who worked with us.”

“As a former employee and a current volunteer, I am very aware of the great gift that hospices give to patients and families.  Mother’s care team brightened her days and lifted her up in caring and love.  I was always exquisitely happy for their hugs and support.”

“The staff at Levine & Dickson Hospice House are truly great individuals who made the effort to make sure that everyone was comfortable with the decisions in Mom’s final days.”

“Dear Levine & Dickson Hospice House, please accept this donation.  My friends and I made rainbow loom bracelets and sold them in our neighborhood.  My mommy was there in the spring.  You took great care of her.  I will always remember that.”

“You have made the worst news we could have ever gotten so much more tolerable.  Your patience and understanding, the way you all communicated what was to be expected . . . . I can only say I will be forever grateful.”

“It was so helpful to be informed every step of the way what to expect, what was normal, and what we should be doing or not doing.”

“Knowing that the doctors and nurses kept Mom comfortable and as pain-free as possible made her passing more bearable.  What people don’t realize is that the hospice staff also counsel and guide the family.  We are so grateful for all the support!”

“In a time of extreme frustration, fear, and sadness, the hospice team came into our lives and enabled us to give our mother what she wanted — to die peacefully at home.  They came in, assessed the situation, helped us figure out what needed to be done, provided everything we needed, and cared for us so that we could care for our mother.  We are so very grateful to each of you who does this important work.”

We couldn’t have said it better.


Thanks to Anngie

October 23, 2013

by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Electronic Communications Manager

Stand down dog tagsHave you ever met a stranger who just draws you in?  Someone you don’t know, but who (you feel certain) would welcome you to unburden your problems?  Someone who (without knowing you) would patiently listen and understand?  It’s a rare and special person who has this gift of feeling and compassion.  At HPCCR, we are lucky to have more than one of these folks in our midst.  And just last week, we were especially lucky to have one at the Veterans Stand Down.

Stand Downs are events that provide services to homeless Veterans such as food, shelter, clothing, health screenings, VA and Social Security benefits counseling, and referrals to a variety of other necessary services, such as health care, housing, employment, and substance use treatment.  They are collaborative events, coordinated between local VAs, other government agencies, and community agencies serving the homeless.

HPCCR participated in the Charlotte Stand Down last Tuesday at the Grady Cole Center.  We had taken up a collection of travel-size toiletry items (thank you, HPCCR staff!) and created small “kits” to hand out.  Our Education & Resource Managers (ERMs) manned the table.  And one of those ERMs happened to be Anngie Williams.

Anngie is one of those people I was talking about.  Anngie will literally do anything to help out someone in need.  I truly believe that people don’t intentionally seek her out, but if they are in need of an open heart and a willing ear, some imperceptible inner radar will drive them directly to Anngie.

Case in point number one.  An older Veteran, Mike, made his way over to the Grady Cole Center last week to check out the event.  He didn’t really know why; he didn’t see how it would help his situation.  He walked in and made his way over to the HPCCR table.  And then he zeroed in on Anngie.  “Where is the suicide prevention booth?” he asked.  Anngie, without hesitation, stood up and went over to Mike.  She took his arm and led him around to each and every booth at the Stand Down.  She talked to him, learning his story while she circulated him through the housing booth, the crisis education booth, the counselor for further services, and others.  She got him registered into the “system” and then she took him over to the suicide prevention booth, where she insisted that he talk to a counselor right there and then.

Turns out, Mike had pretty much lost interest in life.  He told Anngie, “I’m invisible” and “If I die, there is not a single person that would know or even care.”  He had lost touch with any family, he was living on the streets, he had applied for services through the VA and had never heard anything back (he didn’t know that you have to be persistent and call them back over and over).  Before Mike came to the Stand Down, he felt like an oversight, forgotten and completely neglected.  But then his radar found Anngie and, after only several hours, he felt the stirrings of hope.  He came over to thank her before he left and these were his parting words, “For the first time in years, I feel like things are looking up.”

Case in point number two.  A younger Vet came in made his way over to the HPCCR table.  Again, he zeroed in on Anngie.  “I have a friend back at the shelter,” he said, “who only has a few months to live.  He’s on the heart transplant list and he also has cancer.”  Anngie told him immediately to call his dying friend.  Once they had him on the phone, Anngie convinced him to come in and talk to hospice.  After he arrived, Anngie educated him about hospice care, persuaded him to give it a try, and then wrote a note for him to give to his physician that detailed exactly what needed to happen to bring this man under our care.

Now, Anngie is modest.  She’ll say that these amazing occurrences had less to do with her and more to do with the incredible progress HPCCR has made with our Veterans initiative.  And she’d be partly right.  Since joining the We Honor Veterans program (a joint initiative of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and the Department of Veteran Affairs), HPCCR has been focused on tailoring care to Veterans who need our services.  Staff members have been receiving ongoing Veteran-centric training throughout the year, making them more equipped to handle the distinct issues that our serviceman and women have at end of life.  When Veterans come under care, we acknowledge their service and present them with a special pin, recognizing the contributions they’ve made to our country.  As an organization, we have made great strides, indeed.

But Anngie is unique.  She has a gift.  The opposite of the Grinch, she has a heart that is ten times bigger than most.  Yet she’s also made of strong stuff.  She can hear the most devastating story in the world, and rather than be torn into a million pieces, she will calmly proceed to easing the pain; doing everything within her power to help that person in need.  No questions asked.  No thanks necessary.  It’s what makes her perfect for this job.  It’s why the radars of lost souls hone directly in on Anngie wherever she goes.

Representatives from HPCCR were at the Stand Down event all day long last Tuesday.  Our booth may not have had the most traffic.  But, in the grand scheme of things, we made a huge impact.  A life was saved that day.  Hope was renewed.  Loving care promised.  All thanks to Anngie.

8 reasons why you should come to the PMC chili cookoff

October 10, 2013
    1. For $15, you can eat yourself silly with chili.
      The Plaza Midwood Chantilly Chili Cookoff is an intense competition which means you’re guaranteed to sample some extraordinary recipes.  Red chili, green chile, chicken chili, veggie chili–you name it.  You can sample them all for a great price.  (Make sure to ask for small samples, though, or else you’ll fill up too fast.  What if you end up missing some?  That would be tragic!)  While the judges make their decisions for the official categories, you get to vote for “Taster’s Choice”, the unofficial winner that is chosen by the crowd.  So you can’t say your vote never counts for anything . . . .
    2. It’s the PMC Chili Cookoff‘s 10th annual year.
      Ten years.  That is a very long time.  When something’s been around for ten years, that means it’s worth checking out.  And this event just gets better and better, trust me.
    3. Live music!
      Local bands will play all day and into the evening.  Time to get some toe tapping in . . . . And it will be good chili-eating music.  Good ol’ southern rock and maybe a little country mixed in.
    4. Children 5 and under eat free.
      You’ll be asked for a donation for your 5-and-unders, but it’s for a great cause, right??  And if you’ve got kids between the ages of 6 and 12, they will only cost you $10.  That’s probably the first time those kids have given you a break in a long time, huh?
    5. There’s a raffle with prizes.
      Who doesn’t like prizes?  Sure, you claim you never win.  But there’s always a first time!
    6. Plaza-Midwood and Chantilly are really cool neighborhoods.
      This part of Charlotte is eclectic and funky, with a mix of architectural styles and tastes.  Spend some time driving through these charming neighborhoods–you won’t be disappointed!
    7. Homemade desserts.  ‘Nuff said.
    8. There’s no easier way to have fun and support hospice at the same time!
      Y0ur support at this event means so much for our community.  The Plaza Midwood Chantilly Chili Cookoff has raised close to $100,000 for Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region during the nine years it’s been held.  That translates to a significant number of individuals who have had access to our quality end-of-life services at a time when they were needed most.  Bet you didn’t know that eating chili could benefit mankind.  Usually it’s quite the opposite!  (Hey, we never said it would benefit your stomach!  But thanks for taking one for the team!)

The Plaza Midwood Chantilly Chili Cookoff takes place this Saturday, October 12, from 12pm until around 6pm.  You best better come hungry!  For more information, visit  See you there!