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Exchanging a Bear Hug

20160712_145601_resizedOhio’s Hospice of Dayton volunteer Judy Cole has touched the lives of hundreds of patient families over the years by creating handcrafted Memory Bears from the belongings of loved ones who have passed away. For the past two years, she has been making Memory Bears for another group – kids attending the grief program of Camp Pathways.

Judy was presented a framed thank you card signed by the Yellow Group campers who received her Memory Bears as souvenirs of Camp Pathways 2016 – along with a bear to call her own. We like to think of it as an exchange of bear hugs.
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How Hospice Helps Caregivers

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Hospice care is a philosophy that embraces family members, providing care for them along with hospice patients. We recognize that a life-limiting illness impacts everyone in the family circle. That’s why support for family caregivers is a major focus of our care and services.

We provide caregiver education and resources to help caregivers who are attending to patients in the home.

  • A nurse is available by phone 24/7 to answer questions.
  • Our extended hours staff is available to assist when needed.
  • Our trained volunteers support caregivers with errands, household chores and more. Volunteers are friendly visitors who listen and provide emotional support. They can also sit with a patient to give caregivers a short break from their duties.
  • Our Personal Care Specialists help with patient care, including feeding, bathing and personal grooming.
  • Our social workers help with emotional support for caregivers, and identify community resources that can help meet family needs.
  • Our chaplains support family members and patients, respecting individual faith traditions and keeping the family connected with their faith community.
  • Grief support is provided during patient care and in the months following the loss of a loved one.
  • Our Hospice House can provide more extended respite care for patients when caregivers need time to refresh or to attend to their own healthcare needs.

Our hospice team is attentive to the toll of caregiving and helps to make sure caregivers practice self-care. We can help develop strategies to assure caregivers:

  • Maintain a sense of wellbeing
  • Are getting the rest they need
  • Are addressing their own health concerns
  • Are getting a break when they need one

Most importantly, hospice care can help caregivers spend more quality time with their loved one by sharing and easing the load of responsibilities and demands caregivers face. Hospice care assures that caregivers are not alone in their commitment to love and care for a seriously ill family member.

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Social Workers Essential for Holistic Care

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In 2015, the social workers at Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton made 11,933 visits to patients and families. Social workers play a central role in holistic hospice care that addresses the physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual needs of patients facing the end-of-life and of those who love them and are facing loss.

Social workers focus on enhancing quality of life concerns for patients, families and caregivers. Among other things:

  • They help families connect with valuable community resources, including meals on wheels, in-home caregiver support and financial assistance.
  • They educate and inform family caregivers so they feel confident in caring for their loved one.
  • They help patient and family openly discuss their fears and concerns.
  • They help smooth the way when patients need to transition from one living environment to another.
  • They serve as advocates for patients, helping to identify and plan so patients can achieve their end-of-life goals.
  • They assist with completing advance directives, insurance claims and with funeral planning.
  • They help assure that children receive the services and support they need when facing the loss of a loved one.

Social workers are knowledgeable and comfortable working with ethnic, cultural, and economic diversity. They are familiar with and can help patients and families as they navigate complex health care systems.

While accomplishing all these things, social workers also provide emotional support and understanding as families face the difficult challenge of saying goodbye and learning to live with a new ‘normal’ after the loss of a loved one.

 

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PARO – A Positive Substitute for Pet Therapy

Some people complain that technology can be dehumanizing. Those people have not yet had the privilege of meeting PARO.

PARO is the nickname of an advanced interactive therapeutic robot that is being used at Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton with patients. Designed to look like an adorable baby harp seal and covered with synthetic fur, PARO is loaded with sensors in his long whiskers and entire body, enabling him to react to sound, light and touch. PARO blinks his eyes, moves his head, makes sounds and reacts as a real animal does when interacting with a human. PARO evokes the same emotional pleasure as a pet therapy animal but can serve patients in situations where real animals cannot.

Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton added two of the baby seal robots to the clinical team a few years ago as part of an innovative approach to patient care. For patients in settings that do not permit animals, such as nursing homes, PARO is a tool to encourage patient interaction.

Occupational Therapist Angelene Volpatti highlights how PARO affected one patient. “The patient was well-educated and confined to a wheelchair in a nursing home. Her children were literally all over the country – Alaska, Florida and Washington state. They spoke frequently by phone, but conversations were limited mostly to what the patient had to eat and how she was feeling.

During our first meeting I discovered the family were animal lovers and always had pets. Pet therapy was not offered by the nursing home, so we brought PARO to visit. The patient responded to PARO just like she would a pet, speaking to him and petting him, smiling and enjoying PARO’s reactions. She immediately relaxed and was less physically contracted. The conversations with her children became more rich, as she talked about PARO and together they reminisced about pets.”

Research with PARO has shown that patients experience a reduced heart rate, reduced blood pressure and are more calm after interacting with the robotic seal. They engage in more social interaction. Such positive outcomes, without the potential side-effects of pharmaceutical interventions, are convincing evidence of the value of robotic therapy.

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Compassionate Touch Contributes to Compassionate Care

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“Touch is the most prominent language in the caregiving relationship. Every act of caregiving involves touch. It is an action that validates life and gives hope to both the giver and the receiver. The healing of touch is reciprocal.”— Irene Smith

Among the complementary therapies provided to Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton patients is soothing, relaxing massage therapy. Licensed Massage Therapists Amy Fluty, Amy Green and Jo Monroe have concentrated on enhancing their massage skills to better benefit hospice patients. First they focused on earning certification as Compassionate Touch Practitioners. “In the fall of 2015 we took Compassionate Touch classes 1 and 2 to earn certification,” explains Amy Fluty. “We learned a hands-on approach for those in eldercare and hospice. Compassionate Touch combines focused touch, compassionate presence and sensitive massage and specialized communication skills. We were extremely fortunate that the owner of Compassionate Touch, Ann Caitlin, LMT was our instructor.”

In the spring of 2016 the trio traveled to San Francisco for Class 3: Compassionate Touch (Everflowing) Hospice certification. The program is taught by Irene Smith, a pioneer in hospice massage who worked with U.S. hospice innovator  Elizabeth Kubler-Ross at the beginnings of hospice care. “Irene Smith, CMP, is the founder of Everflowing technique,” Fluty explains. “Her educational outreach program is dedicated to teaching mindful touching as an integral component to end of life care.”

The massage practitioners learned the special tactile needs of dying persons and to present skills, techniques and personal practices for adapting touch and massage into a dying person’s care. “We learned ways to achieve more comfort at the bedside and clarify feelings concerning death and dying,” Fluty says. “Our role has the greatest value when we can provide a calm and compassionate treatment that reduces the need for medication, eases anxiety and adds to patient comfort.”

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Stories Resonate When We Need Them Most

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“In times of difficulty, we tell the stories again. If there’s a crisis, we tell the stories. It’s a human need; it strengthens our souls.”

So begins a nuanced discussion about listening and sharing – for patient and care giver – by a leading authority on developing simple but crucial tools that enable coping and meaning in end-of-life scenarios.

Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen, clinical professor of family and community medicine at the University of California San Francisco and clinical professor at Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine, recently conducted a daylong seminar for hospice professionals at Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton.

Participants in “Reclaiming Awe: A workshop on Mystery, Meaning and Resilience for Hospice Professionals” were reminded of the wonder and lessons to be learned working with people on the edge of life. “The whole purpose of the workshop was to bring more meaning to your work,” said Angelene Volpatti, an occupational therapist who works with hospice patients in their homes. “I learned practical tools,” Volpatti said, such as breath awareness. “If you don’t have meaning in your work you will burn out,” she said.

After the workshop, Dr. Remen, a pioneer of the Relationship Centered Care and Integrative Medicine, discussed her journey of restoring medicine as a calling and work of healing. A student in the 1960s of the human potential movement at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, Ca., Dr. Remen delved into transpersonal and humanistic psychology. She said she was “taken” with the idea that value, integrity and meaning could be infused into dire and chronic diagnoses.

“When I finished with training I wanted to work with patients like myself” (she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease 63 years ago) living with chronic illness, she said. “Even if you couldn’t fix the disease you could have a meaningful life.” She sought patients who could not find relief from conventional medicine. “I went to the medical community and asked for the patients who were taking up all their time. The first (doctor) said, ‘There is nothing I can do with them. If you want to take them off my hands, you can see all my patients.’ I had a full practice in a month and a half. They, as medical people, had nothing to offer them.” Dr. Remen said she began what she calls ‘generous listening.’ “I discovered what an important thing it is to be a human being. I found what it is to find meaning, wisdom and love. I discovered how much better they were living than their doctors.”

Then, the mysterious and deadly disease AIDS struck.

“It was like a war zone. People were afraid to touch. We didn’t know what we were dealing with. The half-life of a hospice nurse was about six weeks,” Dr. Remen said. “You would come to work on Monday and you and your team were assigned seven patients – the most creative people – and by Friday they were dead. When you came in Monday, you had another seven. People couldn’t do it.”
Dr. Remen was asked to help the people who were helping the AIDS population. “I didn’t know how to do that, but I was interested, and did some research.”

The night before a presentation, she had a dream.

“It was a group, facing outward toward San Francisco, the battle zone, sending waves of strength,” she said. “In the middle was a black hole, and if you stepped back, you’d fall into the hole.” Dr. Remen felt the group needed to “turn around and take care of each other. We were each so alone with this epidemic. If we turned around, as a community, we could do this together.” What she discovered, she said, is that the strength “is in the stories, the learning that was going on among us. So, on Friday, when everyone had died, we spent a few hours sharing the pieces of those lives, finding who each other was, and was important. The turnover stopped.”

“When we live at the edge of things – such places as hospice, war, medical epidemics – that’s where we learn what really matters.”
Dr. Remen said today’s corporate concerns about the bottom line and cost containment can inhibit these important caregiver practices.
Dr. Remen said it is an “interesting time in medicine.” She noted how high numbers of physicians are “depressed, drug-addicted, committing suicide. This has been a challenge, to look at medical education. Why are doctors so vulnerable and suffering compassion overload? We must be able to live the meaning of your work – to see meaning like you see color – and ask what is evoked by this disease? What does this tell us about the patient?”

She said one can feel “grateful to be with those people, you can be strengthened and fed. When people experience their work as having individualized meaning, that you can make a difference, there is low incidence of burnout.” Dr. Remen believes “becoming present, being able to live ‘in the neighborhood of yourself’ but seeing what is in front of yourself, is not about doing anything different, but seeing things in new ways.”

Social worker Michael Kammer, who works at the Hospice House in Dayton, said Dr. Remen’s workshop gave him “a refreshing sense of mission, and was a reminder of why I’m doing this.”

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Celebrating Life is the Catch of the Day

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Robert Leming, patient at Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton, enjoys a summer afternoon fishing at the Hospice House pond.

“I was bored sitting in the house. I wanted to get out and do something.”

When his hospice social worker suggested he go fishing at the pond on the hospice campus, “he lit up like a kid who just got their first wagon for Christmas,” said his wife Casaundra.

But the week was the hottest so far this summer, and fishing had to wait. Finally, the weather cooled and Rob got to cast a line while enjoying a slight breeze under a brilliant blue sky. How long had it been? “I haven’t been fishing in over ten years,” said Rob. “But I did a lot of it growing up.”

Rob was diagnosed with mild emphysema in May of 2009. He contracted an uncommon drug-resistant bacterium in 2014 that caused his emphysema to quickly progress. A truck driver by trade, he was forced to retire due to his medical issues.

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Robert found someone who was very interested in his bait.

He and Casaundra enjoy a steady stream of teasing each other on the fishing pier. Cassandra mentions that Rob is celebrating a birthday the next day. When asked how old he will be, Rob responds “21” and Casaundra says “58.” The couple is equally at odds when it comes to how long they’ve been married. “A million years,” according to Rob. “That’s eight years numerically,” clarifies Casaundra. Rob taunts the turtle that desperately battles to catch the bait on his line, while Cassandra scolds him for animal cruelty. “The only one interested in my line is this turtle,” Rob complains. “And she won’t let me catch him.”

Humor, fishing and a warm summer breeze combine for a day that gives Rob a break from summer boredom and a fitting way to Celebrate Life the day before a birthday.

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Failure, Phys Ed and Faith – Finding Life Lessons with R.C. West

R.C. West 3When Richard C. West earned five failing grades and one “A” his sophomore year in high school, his life was changed forever. His only “A” was in Physical Education. A coach took him under his wing and Richard became, in his own words, “a different person.” With renewed focus on academics, his grades improved and upon graduation he was accepted into college. His academic career would not be completed until he reached the age of 88.

West attended Springfield College in Massachusetts. An only child, Richard said his biggest adjustment was learning to live with a roommate. He played baseball and football for the college’s Pride football team. His second football season was interrupted and another major adjustment was on the horizon. Following the sixth game, Richard and his teammates received notices to report for military duty. World War Two was calling.

Richard was assigned to the Infantry Medical Corp and shipped out to France, and then Germany, where he spent two years. He then served a two-year stint in England and was about to be shipped to the Asian theatre when the atomic bomb ended the war.

Richard returned to college and earned a tryout with the St. Louis Browns baseball team, and was faced with a dilemma. The minor league team offered to take him on to become a coach/manager – but he would have to sacrifice his college degree. Richard opted to finish his degree.

After serving with the athletic department at Otterbein College for eight years, Richard took on a new challenge, moving to Kettering, Ohio for a teaching and coaching position. “It was one of the most frightening experiences I’ve ever had,” he recalls. “I was assigned to teach American and World history. I had no background in either, so I spent the whole summer studying the subjects.” Richard would teach physical education and become a guidance counselor, “the greatest experience I ever had,” he says. It was also the link that led to the love of his lifetime.

Near the end of the school year, a knock came to his guidance office door. In walked a “beautiful lady in a summer dress, with a wide brimmed hat,” Richard recalls. “ She wanted to confer with the counselor about the enrollment of her son. In less than two years, Richard would marry Nancy. And when Richard retired from counseling after twenty years of counseling, the couple launched a new counseling service together. “The church needed pre-marital counselors, so my wife and I took on that challenge.”

Richard and his wife actually did retire and move to Florida for a time. They found themselves returning to Ohio regularly to watch grandchildren play spots, so they decided to return to Ohio. When he was diagnosed with abdominal lymphoma, Richard experienced an epiphany that sent him back to pursue a degree in theology. He earned his doctorate of divinity at the age of 88.

As Richard reviews his life, he says his opportunity to be a counselor was his “gift from God.” He shares his faith these days and urges Christians to live as children of God. Everyday, he observes, we have the opportunity to choose to do what is right. God, in his wisdom, choose wisely when he touched Richard’s life and invited him to counsel others.

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Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton Helps a Mother Say “Thank You”

SharonAndDeputies_07052016 (48)_SmallTwo years ago, 32-year old Antwan Hurston celebrated a warm summer day on July 5 with friends at the Stillwater Parks Apartment pool. He nearly lost his life that day. This year, his mother wanted to make a point of thanking those who saved him on the anniversary of the accident that almost took his life.Sharon Hart is grateful for the heroic work of Montgomery County Sheriff’s deputies who jumped into the pool to rescue her son. They were able to pull Antwan from the bottom of the pool and perform CPR until the Harrison Twp. Fire Department arrived and took over. Antwan was rushed to Miami Valley Hospital in critical condition. He survived but has remained incapacitated and is now in the care of Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton. His mother is grateful for every one of the days she has been able to have her son with her this past year. To let the officers involved know how appreciative she is, she invited them to her home so she could present them with certificates of appreciation.

It was the first time Sharon got to meet Montgomery County Sheriff’s Deputies Brian Shiverdecker and Kyle Baranyi.  “I cannot express to you how much my son means to me and how much I appreciate the efforts each of you took on that day,” Hart told the officers. “I hope this little bit of truly heartfelt recognition will demonstrate the effect that your heroic actions had for us… My family, as well as this community, are privileged to have your hard work and dedication looking out for us every day on your job.”

The two officers admitted that it’s rare to know what happens after they respond to a call.

The deputies said it’s rare to know what happens after they respond to a call. They said they were just doing their job.

“We just gave mom what she wanted,” said Deputy Shiverdecker. “And that’s her kid home.”

Sharon has provided care for her son in her home for the past year with home health, and now hospice, support. She says she is grateful every day for the heroes who saved her son’s life.”I just thank God every day, you know, that I wake up and he wakes up. And, as long as he’s here I”m happy,” said Hart.

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Pictured, left to right, are Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton Social Worker Joshua Meeker, Deputy Brian Shiverdecker, Sharon Hart and Deputy Kyle Baranyi.

 

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Scrub Donations Will Circle the World

“There are so many stories attached to these scrubs,” says Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton RN Dena Wenzler as she packs the clean, stacked scrub tops, pants, and jackets into boxes. “You can almost feel the impact the hospice care providers who wore them had. Over the years, our staff members have touched countless lives as they wore these scrubs, offering calming words or heartfelt hugs to both patients and family members.”

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Pictured are Kathy Siskaninetz of Human Resources, volunteers Jane LeGasse and Chris Steel, and RN Dena Wenzler

Now even more lives will be touched.

When the organization adopted new scrubs, Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton staff members donated hundreds of used scrubs to a global charity. The donated scrubs will be delivered to clinicians serving in third world countries, disaster zones and pockets of poverty or need in our own country.

Dena spearheaded the effort to collect and donate the scrubs. It’s part of her on-going mission to see that medical supplies, equipment and materials find their way into the hands of others that can make meaningful use of them. “It just breaks my heart to see people throw things away because they don’t know what to do with them,” says Dena.

Dena began collecting supplies like dressings, adult diapers, wheelchairs, walkers, bedside commodes, tube feeding formula and similar medical supplies about a decade ago. Once her garage was filled, she would load up a pick-up truck and deliver the items to a charity for distribution to those in need. These days, that involves taking the donations to Matthew 25 Ministries in Blue Ash, a suburb north of Cincinnati. “I’m just one person,” Dena says. “This scrub donation project involves the entire organization and is an example of what we can do together. We can help so many people with items that otherwise just go in the trash.”

Dena is joining with Dr. Wendy Schmitz, who leads the hospice mission outreach effort to Ecuador, to involve the entire organization in stewardship designed to expand the impact that one organization can have on the planet. “Our goal is to involve the whole organization by the end of this year,” Dena explains. “There are so many things we cannot restock due to regulations. But we can donate so much of it to people who desperately need medical supplies, equipment and support.”

Dena invites those interested in becoming involved in the effort to contact her for more information. “I would love to involve the home care teams,” she says. “Once a loved one has passed, people have no idea what to do with the supplies left behind. In many cases, the grieving family members want the medical supplies removed from the home quickly.  We, as an organization, could help them by collecting and donating those unused supplies. In the process we would also help so many others.”Scrubs_LinkPhoto

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