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Tag Archive | "Hospice of Michigan"

Grieving in the Internet Age


Charlie Waller and his mother Abigail.

Charlie Waller and his mother Abigail.

Charlie Waller loved trick-or-treating, pirates, his kindergarten class at Marble Elementary, his sister, Esther, and so much more during his all-too-brief life.

He died last December from an inoperable brain tumor that slowly robbed him of his ability to play, to walk and to see, but never his kindness. His parents, John and Abigail, have turned to the Internet to help them harness Charlie’s spirit and his kindness by launching a new social media campaign, #CouragetobeKind, in Charlie’s honor.

Charlie, a patient in Hospice of Michigan’s pediatric program, battled his illness for two-plus years, all with the help of family, friends, and a supportive care team. Throughout this experience, John and Abigail relied on social media to keep far-flung family and friends informed of their son’s condition. Abigail launched a blog where she shared imaginary letters to her son, chronicling their journey with courage, profundity and poignancy.

With help of Abigail’s father, they launched the nonprofit Art for Charlie Foundation to raise both awareness and funds for pediatric hospice. Facebook and Twitter accounts were opened to amplify the site and promote its annual art show and sale, as well as this year’s statewide conference on pediatric hospice and bereavement support.

“Social media has become a strong outlet for public mourning,” said Karen Monts, director of grief support service at Hospice of Michigan. “It allows people a medium to express their feelings when experiencing a significant loss, and it also provides an opportunity to ensure the memory of a lost loved one isn’t forgotten.””

When counseling the bereaved, Monts often refers to the Six Tasks of Mourning, as defined by Dr. Alan Wolfelt, grief educator and author of Healing the Bereaved Child. Monts explains that social media can help in achieving each of Wolfelt’s tasks:

Task One: Need to acknowledge the reality of the death. When family members hear word of a loved one’s death, many immediately turn to social media as they process the news. The reality of someone’s passing becomes clear when seeing the details of the death, finality of funeral details, and posts of love and support by family and friends.

Task Two: Need to approach the pain of loss while being supported. Social media not only provides a platform for the bereaved to express pain, but it also gives family and friends the opportunity to offer words of support, which validates and normalizes the grief they feel.

Task Three: Need to remember the person who died. Through blogs, posts and picture sharing, there are countless ways that the bereaved can use social media to share memories of their loved ones. Feedback from family and friends also lets the bereaved know those memories are treasured by others.

Task Four: Develop a new self-identity. This is often one of the more challenging tasks of grief. What role do you play in life now that your loved one is gone? Through open discussion of the deceased life on social media, the bereaved can develop a better understanding of the many roles the deceased played in the lives of others. The bereaved can use that information to determine the new roles they will take on in their own life.

Task Five: Searching for meaning in what has happened: When a loved one dies, it may prompt questions regarding the purpose of life and how such a tragic event could happen. Social Media allows the bereaved to express their questions, concerns and doubts while providing reassurance as one searches for a new sense of purpose or clarity.

Task Six: Experience continued support in future years. Social media provides the perfect medium for the bereaved to share feelings of grief, regardless of how long it’s been since a loved one died. It might be recognition of a birthday or an anniversary of death, or it could be a simple statement like “Really missing my mom today. “Not only does expressing these feelings help the bereaved, but family and friends who see this public expression often respond with encouraging words.

Monts adds that in addition to helping cope with grief, social media can simply provide the bereaved with a needed distraction. However, even with all the benefits, she warns that there can be negatives to using social media in the grieving process.

While publically expressing grief may be helpful to one family member, seeing these reminders on social media may be difficult for a family member who grieves more privately. While Monts advises people to consider others when expressing grief publicly, she believes the benefits of social media in grieving far outweigh the cons.

For the Waller family, social media continues to be a source of solace, education and hope. The launch of their Courage to be Kind social campaign acknowledges Charlie’s gentleness and wisdom in advocating kindness to all.  Wise beyond his years, he argued for tolerance for those who were unkind, explaining that some children (and adults, we would add) have to learn to be kind just as they have to learn their ABCs.

The vision of the campaign is that it will create a system to allow people to report acts of kindness anonymously on social media.  To learn more about Charlie’s story and #CouragetobeKind, visit artforcharlie.org.

Hospice of Michigan offers a variety of grief support and educational services. These programs are available to all families involved with Hospice of Michigan, as well as the community at large. For more information, visit www.hom.org.

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Shattering the myths of hospice


 

Thanks to arrangements made by Melody Walker, Hospice of Michigan caregiver, Matt Magee had the experience of a lifetime when the rock-and-roll fan was able to meet members of his favorite band, Alice in Chains.

Thanks to arrangements made by Melody Walker, Hospice of Michigan caregiver, Matt Magee had the experience of a lifetime when the rock-and-roll fan was able to meet members of his favorite band, Alice in Chains.

Matt Magee recently had the experience of a lifetime.

A diehard rock-and-roll fan, the 56-year-old was able to attend a concert featuring his favorite band, Alice in Chains, in Mt. Pleasant. As a bonus, he was able to meet band members outside their tour bus for autographs, photos and conversations after the show.

Magee made the hour-long trip from his home, an adult foster care center in Big Rapids, while suffering from advanced multiple sclerosis, thanks to connections made by his caregiver, Hospice of Michigan.

“When most people think about hospice, they expect it means being confined to a bed, barely clinging to life,” said Robert Cahill, president and CEO of HOM. “Because of this misconception, many only consider hospice in the final days of life, but hospice care is most suited to support patients during the final months of life.”

November, National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, is a time when hospices and palliative care providers across the nation help raise awareness about this special kind of care. It is also a good time to help deepen the understanding of hospice and explain the many myths.

Cahill notes the following common misconceptions of hospice care and offers a deeper understanding:

Myth: All hospice organizations are connected.

More than 100 hospices provide end-of-life care in Michigan. Some are run by national chains and some, such as HOM, are community-based and grow from a mission to provide compassionate care. Some programs are affiliated directly with a hospital or nursing home, while others are free standing. Patients and their families have the right to choose the hospice organization they feel will provide the best care.

Myth: All hospice organizations are the same.

Hospice programs can differ widely in the services they provide, their philosophy of care, etc.  One of the most important distinctions is those that are for-profit and those that are non-profits. As a non-profit organization, HOM has a mission of providing service to anyone who needs or seeks its care, regardless of their age, diagnosis or ability to pay. HOM will never turn a patient away, no matter how medically complex or how medically fragile the condition. For patients without Medicare or insurance, HOM provides free care, raising more than $4 million every year to cover the cost of services for those unable to pay.

Myth: To be eligible for hospice, I have to be in the final stages of dying.

In general, hospice programs are open to people in the last six months of life, as certified by a physician. However, there is no fixed limit on the amount of time a patient may continue to receive services.

Myth: Hospice is expensive.

Hospice care is available as a benefit for those who receive Medicare. It covers all medicines, medical supplies and equipment that are related to the illness or condition and provides such support as home health aides, physicians and nurses, chaplains, counseling, practical and financial assistance, grief assistance and volunteers to help with day-to-day chores, errands and companionship. For those ineligible for Medicare, most insurance plans, HMOs, and managed care plans cover hospice care. As a non-profit hospice provider, HOM does not charge for its services.

Myth: Hospice care means leaving home.

Hospice is not necessarily a place; it’s a form of palliative care that seeks to comfort rather than cure. HOM provides services wherever the patient is living or receiving care. It may be in an apartment, condo or home or a hospital, nursing home or assisted living facility. HOM travels to wherever the patient considers home, allowing them to continue to receive support from their family and friends while under hospice care.

Myth: Hospice means forgoing all medical treatment.

Palliative care becomes appropriate when treatments are no longer effective and the burden of the disease becomes too much to bear for the patient and family. While hospice does focus on comfort rather than cure, hospice nurses and physicians are experts in the latest medications and devices for pain and symptom relief.

Myth: Hospice care ends when someone dies.

Hospice is not only about helping patients die a good death, but it is also committed to helping their loved ones learn to live with grief. HOM offers a variety of free grief support groups throughout Michigan that are open to all in need.

“Whether you are facing a terminal illness or you are supporting a loved one in their end-of-life transition, Hospice of Michigan is there to make life better,”” Cahill adds. “We’re fond of saying that we help ensure quality of life at the end of life. We will continue in our compassion mission, knowing that we’re helping patients and their caregivers when it it’s needed most.””

For more information on hospice care or to determine eligibility, contact Hospice of Michigan at 888.247.5701 or visit www.hom.org.

 

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Changing course: a second degree and second career 


Debbie Robles, recipient of the Hospice of Michigan Second Degree-Second Career Nursing Scholarship, prepares for her nurse licensure exam and a new career in hospice and palliative care.

Debbie Robles, recipient of the Hospice of Michigan Second Degree-Second Career Nursing Scholarship, prepares for her nurse licensure exam and a new career in hospice and palliative care.

Debbie Robles was drawn to the nursing profession at a young age. She recalls dressing as a nurse for career day in elementary school, and also caring for her sick grandmother and great-aunt as a young adult. But as an 18-year-old college student, a nursing degree just wasn’t something she could pursue.

“I paid my way through college and had to work several jobs to pay the bills,” Robles explains. “The nursing program required a lot of time, homework and use of a car that I didn’t have. Instead I chose to pursue a math degree. Math always came easy to me, and I knew it wouldn’t be as time intensive, allowing me to work more.”

Robles graduated from Franciscan University with a bachelor’s degree in math along with a teaching endorsement. She went on to lead a successful career teaching middle school and high school and even working as an adjunct math professor at Grand Valley State University.

Eventually, Robles decided to put her teaching career on hold while she and her husband started a family. Five children and 11 years later, Robles was ready to go back to work and found herself back in the classroom where she intended to take a couple biology classes to keep up her teaching certificate and to expand the subjects she could teach. That’s when the stars began to align for her and a career in hospice and palliative care began taking shape.

“As I started to talk with other students in my class, I learned that GVSU offered an accelerated second-degree nursing program, and the two classes I was taking were both prerequisites for the degree,” Robles says. “I went home that night and told my husband ‘This is what I want to do.’”

GVSU’s second-degree nursing program is offered through its Kirkhof College of Nursing and targeted toward individuals who have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher from an accredited college or university and wish to pursue a bachelor of science in nursing. Students are admitted to the full-time, 15-month program once per year, applying in January for a May start.

By the end of her first semester back in college, Robles had made her decision to pursue the nursing degree when she learned her 69-year-old father was diagnosed with late-stage sarcoma. With no treatment options available, her father died within weeks of diagnosis.

“As I reflected on this experience with my dad, it struck me that in the health courses I’d been taking, the focus was on treatment and saving lives. No one talked about death and what to do when treatment wasn’t available,” Robles recalls. “Death is inevitable, but it’s something nobody wants to talk about.”

Shortly after her father died, Robles learned that Hospice of Michigan offered a Second Degree-Second Career Nursing Scholarship through GVSU. Responding to a shortage of nursing students interested in end-of-life care, HOM established the scholarship in 2009 to provide the funds and the opportunity for students like Robles to change their career path.

“I was amazed when I found out about the scholarship program,” Robles said. “Not only did I stumble across the second-degree nursing program, but then I found out there is a scholarship available for the exact type of medicine I had recently decided I wanted to go into. I knew then that hospice and palliative care is what I was meant to do.”

With funding provided by HOM, the scholarship, which was created to nurture future registered nurses in the field of hospice and palliative care, awards recipients full tuition, a stipend and a nursing residency with HOM that provides first-hand experience. After the student graduates and passes the licensure exam, he or she will enter into a two-year agreement to work as a full-time nurse for HOM.

“Since many students study nursing right after high school, the idea of a career in palliative care doesn’t interest them,” said Dr. Michael Paletta, executive director of the Hospice of Michigan Institute. “Offering the Second Degree-Second Career scholarship to those seeking nursing as a career change later in life allows HOM to reach students who may be more interested and comfortable with a career in hospice and palliative care. Scholarship recipients will receive top-notch training both in the classroom and in the field. To date, we have given three scholarships and have nursing students practicing around the state.”

Robles applied and was delighted to be selected as the 2013 scholarship recipient. She graduated from GVSU’s nursing program this summer and is currently studying for her licensure exam.

“The first-hand experience I’ve had working with HOM through my education has reassured me that this was the profession I was meant to be in,” Robles says. “I’m very excited to begin my new career and couldn’t be happier that it’s with Hospice of Michigan.”

For more information about Hospice of Michigan and its Second Degree-Second Career Nursing Scholarship visit www.hom.org.

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Address tomorrow’s needs today


Rabbi Bunny Freedman from the Jewish Hospice & Chaplaincy network helps Hospice of Michigan staff understand the world Jews lived in during the Holocaust.

Rabbi Bunny Freedman from the Jewish Hospice & Chaplaincy network helps Hospice of Michigan staff understand the world Jews lived in during the Holocaust.

Hospice of Michigan Institute  

Fifteen years ago, Hospice of Michigan team members began noticing a “care gap.”

The physicians, nurses and social workers so adept at providing end-of-life care for those with a diagnosis of six months or less to live found an increasing number of patients and families who needed help but didn’t meet this criteria.

Struggling with advanced cancer, Parkinson’s, ALS and other serious illnesses, these patients were falling through the proverbial cracks of the healthcare system.  Families who had stepped in to provide the extra care needed found themselves exhausted and struggling.

So was born the idea for At Home Support™, an advanced illness management program that offers comfort care to seriously ill patients who may still be years away from hospice care. The program provides an interdisciplinary team who handle the medical, social and spiritual needs of patients and their caregivers and round-the-clock access to nurses telephonically.

At Home Support is just one example that makes it easy to understand why research and education is so important to end-of-life care. That’s why, with a generous $3 million gift from Detroit-area philanthropist and civic leader Maggie Allesee, the Maggie Allesee Center for Quality of Life was formed.

Today, the Center has evolved to become the Hospice of Michigan Institute, the only research and innovation center in Michigan focused on end-of-life care. It has become the premier hub for research, education and community outreach initiatives aimed at improving care for people who are seriously ill and providing support for their caregivers.

The Hospice of Michigan Institute is a place where end-of-life experts can exchange ideas on enhancing the care of those with serious illness and where health care providers can learn new ways to improve the care they provide their patients in the last phase of life,” said Dr. Michael Paletta, executive director of the Institute. The education and programs the Institute provides are grounded in its research, which changes every day.

The research shows we can live better with serious illness and through training and education of its staff, medical professionals and the community at large, the Institute is improving quality-of-life at the end-of-life.

The Institute is focused on:

Training the trainers: It’s an approved provider of continuing nursing education, allowing the Institute to train HOM staff as well as educate nurses throughout the country on issues and concepts dealing with quality-of-life and end-of-life care. Additionally, the Institute offers cultural experience programs that provide greater insight into the needs of those facing unique circumstances related to shared experiences that fall beyond typical hospice care and training.

Education and training for persons living with advanced illness: the Institute conducts educational and outreach activities, accessible to the general public, that provide a comfortable environment for individuals to discuss advanced illness management and death at any point in their lives.

Research initiatives: Collaborating with major universities and health care centers, the Institute develops new and innovative ways to improve quality-of-life and end-of-life care. The Institute uses this research and data to show the value of its programs and constantly measures outcomes to prove effectiveness.

In the past few years alone, research and education developed by the Institute has helped HOM introduce several new programs, including:

Veteran support training: In conjunction with the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s We Honor Veterans program, the Institute has provided training and education programs to HOM’s clinical teams to recognize and treat the unique issues facing military families. HOM has been recognized as a Level Four partner in the program, signifying the organization has met the highest standards set by the Veterans Administration and NHPCO for this national program.

Holocaust survivor education: In an effort to provide better and more sensitive end-of-life care to the hundreds of Holocaust survivors in Michigan, the Institute is working with the Jewish Hospice and Chaplaincy Network to educate HOM staff on the Holocaust and the unique end-of-life needs of survivors.

Hispanic outreach program: The Institute has secured grant funding to allow HOM to better meet the needs of the Hispanic community in Grand Rapids. Spanish-speaking nurses and staff have begun connecting with community to provide culturally sensitive hospice services and educational materials.

To learn more about the Hospice of Michigan Institute or for more information on educational programs offered to medical professionals and the community, call 888.247.5701 or visit www.hom.org.

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Camp Good Grief


Hospice of Michigan Offers Day Camp for Children Coping with Loss

One in 20 children under the age of 18 will have experienced the death of a parent and many others will grieve the death of a sibling or another important person in their lives.

Because children can grieve differently than adults, the extent of their grief can often go undetected. To help prevent this, Hospice of Michigan introduced Camp Good Grief in 2012, a day camp designed to help children cope with the loss of a loved one. This year, camp is scheduled for Friday, June 20.

The free one-day camp is held at Camp Newaygo and invites children ages 8-17 to partake in a combination of fun and adventurous camp activities with grief education and emotional support. Hospice of Michigan grief professionals and trained volunteers facilitate the camp, which is open to all children in the community who have experienced the death of a loved one.

“Children are often the forgotten grievers,” said Tangela Zielinski, grief support manager at HOM. When someone dies, people tend to focus on the adult closest to the deceased, but children can suffer from a unique grief that’s important to address.

A child’s grief is far different than an adults; it often comes in spurts and small doses. Camp Good Grief provides a safe, nurturing and fun place where children can process what they’re going through in a healthy way.

By around age 9, children begin to understand that death is a permanent and real biological process. This is also when they develop a strong desire to belong to a group and fit in. It’s when moods and feelings of stress and anxiety appear and when children become more susceptible to peer influence and pressure.

Studies have shown that unresolved loss and grief issues can manifest themselves in poor school performance, acting out, truancy, drug abuse, depression and suicidal tendencies—behaviors that trail into adulthood with disastrous consequences.

HOM recognizes that children can be the age group most affected by death and can have a more difficult time processing and understanding their grief. Camp Good Grief gives these children a safe place to grieve and helps them make sense of the emotions they’re feeling.

“At a time when they’re trying to fit in, the death of a loved one can make kids feel isolated and alone,” Zielinski says.  “Camp Good Grief allows children to connect with others in a similar situation and leaves them feeling they’re not all that different.”

The camp is designed to provide children with a welcoming environment where they can express their grief, be comforted by peers that are going through something similar, enjoy camp activities and find peace in nature, which in itself is healing.

Camp activities include arts and crafts, kayaking, rock wall climbing, a zip line, swimming, gaga ball, a kite memorial and other team building exercises – all activities that can be tied into discussions on grief.  For example, when children climb the rock wall, it can be scary, which provides an opportunity to discuss fear.

“It’s our hope that kids leave the camp feeling that they’re not alone,” Zielinski adds. “We want them to understand that their grief is normal and while it’s okay to be sad, better days are ahead.”

Hospice of Michigan’s 2014 Camp Good Grief will be from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on June 20 at Camp Newaygo, 5333 Centerline Road, Newaygo.  Space is limited and those interested are encouraged to register as soon as possible.  For applications and more information, parents or guardians should call Zielinski at 231.527.0913.

Grief is a personal and individual experience that takes place over time.  While it’s okay to give the child time to be sad and work through their grief, if you see a pattern of worrisome behaviors, you may want to contact a grief professional.

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