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Mary’s Party of a Lifetime

We are all familiar with birthdays, anniversaries, and family reunions as ways to gather together and #CelebrateLifesStories – but what if you sent out invites to your closest friends and family to celebrate your life and attend your own wake? “A-wake,” that is.

Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton patient Mary Lou Spangler’s wish was to have a celebration of her life with loved ones, and her dream came true. With the help of family and the hospice staff, Mary had the time of her life embracing old friends and new grandchildren at her party “Mary Lou’s Big A-Wake.”

Long time friends of 50 years celebrate Mary's life at her big a-wake.

Mary Lou Spangler, left, with best friend of over 50 years Darlynn.

“When I got sicker a few months ago, it got me thinking about the changes (in my condition),” Mary said. “In the back of my mind, I knew that this (celebration) was what I wanted. I didn’t like the idea of anyone partying without me!”

Mary shows off her customized wine glass for her special day, Big A-Wake

Mary shows off her customized wine glass for her special day.

While sipping out of her personalized wine glass, Mary was the star of the show and looked stunning while wearing a nametag that read “The Queen.”  With all the selfies she was getting, you would think she was a celebrity. She was that day.

Mary gets a selfie with her partner Charlie at her Big A-Wake.

Mary gets a selfie with her partner Charlie.

“I’ve always been a party girl,” Mary said with a grin. “It makes me laugh and it makes me cry to be with everyone today.”

Mary’s son, Ted Spangler, who according to his nametag is “Mom’s Favorite,” shared his joy with many at his mother’s party and talked about the difference Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton has made in their lives.

“Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton is everything,” Ted said. “They have gone above and beyond. This party would never work without their support.”

Ted’s brother Dean Spangler chimed in.

“Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton extended (Mary’s) life immensely,” he said. “I can’t say enough about it. It’s been a great experience. Everyone that’s taken care of her has been wonderful.”

Mary and friends enjoy looking at a slideshow of her favorite memories at her Big A-Wake.

Mary and friends enjoy looking at a slideshow of her favorite memories.

Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton is grateful for the honor and privilege of celebrating life with Mary and her loved ones. We are so glad the party was a hit!

How can we help your loved one celebrate life? Learn more about our services by clicking here or calling 937.256.4490.

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Two Hearts As One

For staff members at Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton, it was heartbreaking.

Charles was alone in his room, tears streaming down his face. He longed to see his wife of 63 years. She longed to see him. But her fear of leaving their house kept her from his side. valentines day hospice of dayton

His wife never left their home. A native of Japan, she met Charles when he was serving at an Army hospital base in Japan. The two came together when she and a girlfriend attended a dance. Their meeting quickly turned to romance and a wedding ceremony at the embassy in Tokyo.

When Charles was discharged, the couple returned to the Dayton area where Charles was raised. He took a job with a local High School – a role he maintained until his retirement over twenty years later. They bought a house in 1959, a home kept neat as a pin by his wife. Now, after 63 years of marriage, the two were separated, and Charles lay dying.

The hospice staff was planning to honor Charles for his military service with an American Pride Veteran pinning ceremony to recognize and thank him for his military service. They wished his wife could be present, but she never left her home because she was overwhelmed by fear whenever she did so. As his condition began to decline, hospice staff members launched a full-court press to bring them together. Hospice House RN Leah Guthrie called and told his wife that time was running out for Charlie.

Hospice House coordinator Jamie Doughman enlisted a volunteer driver and the two traveled to the family home, offering door-to-door transport to hospice to see Charles. Reassuring and encouraging, the two were able to convince his wife to make the trip to see “Charlie” and be part of his recognition ceremony. Charles had become unresponsive.

The pinning ceremony was moving for everyone involved. Charles’ wife arrived in time for the event, and began speaking to her husband. “I love you my Charlie,” she said, stroking his cheek. For the first time in many hours, he struggled to open his eyes.

The romance that began a continent away continued to have the power to bring Charlie back to the love of his life to share some final precious memories.

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Bears, Bears, Bears at Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton

Oakwood High School students & Lasertoma group give stuffed teddy bears to patients at Ohio's Hospice of Dayton Hospice House.No lions. No tigers. But lots and lots of bears, bears, bears.

With a mission of visiting and cheering patients, LaSertoma of Dayton Club members and students from Oakwood High School bring stuffed bears monthly to deliver to patients at the Hospice House on Wilmington Avenue in Dayton. LaSertoma member Pam Stephens can’t say how many bears have been delivered, but shares “LaSertoma started this project in the 1990s. We bring 40 bears with us 7 or 8 months out of the year.” That’s a lot of bears!

And a lot of smiles.

Delivery of the bears is a heartwarming experience for everyone involved. “We have had some patients – usually men – tell us they never had a teddy bear before, “ Pam says. “They hug on tightly when they get one.”

Oakwood students support the project and Stephens says patients really enjoy the interaction with students. “They are wonderful with the patients,” Stephens observes. “Many of them have had grandparents at hospice, so they have a special sense of the value in visiting and connecting.”

Each bear is presented along with a poem written by long-time LaSertoma member and hospice volunteer Helen Fornes:

To patients we give huggie bears

To help your day be brighter,

This warm and oh so loving petOakwood High School students & Lasertoma group give stuffed teddy bears to patients at Ohio's Hospice of Dayton Hospice House.

Will make your burdens light

 

Oakwood High School students & Lasertoma group give stuffed teddy bears to patients at Ohio's Hospice of Dayton Hospice House.Bears and Hugs bring joy to all

A loving touch to share

Hug-A-Bear Day at the Hospice of Dayton

Is our way to show we care,

LaSertoma receives some financial support from the students at St. Luke Elementary School in Beavercreek, who save lunch money to assist in the purchase of bears. Additional donations are accepted to help support the bear gift program. Please contact Pam Stephens by email at pamstephens@daytonlasertoma.com.

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African American Congressional Medal Winner Among Those Honored at American Pride Memorial

During Black History Month, we highlight John Lee “Jack” Cooper, who was presented with the Congressional Gold Medal. We honor him at our American Pride Memorial.Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton has the privilege to serve Veterans every day. Our American Pride program is designed to assure that the unique needs of Veterans are addressed and our American Pride Memorial celebrates those who have sacrificed to assure American freedom.

During Black History Month, we highlight John Lee “Jack” Cooper, who was presented with the Congressional Gold Medal.

Cooper was one of an estimated 20,000 black Americans who enlisted in the Marine Corps between 1942 and 1949. The enlistees were the first to integrate the U.S. Armed Forces. Sent to Montford Point, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina for training, Cooper and his fellow black troops were segregated and trained separately from white soldiers. That changed when troops served side-by side in the war theaters of World War II. Cooper served in the South Pacific from 1943 to 1945. Upon his return to the states, he and his wife Gladys settled in Dayton, where he worked for 36 years and retired from Delphi division of General Motors.

Congress designated the Montford Point Marines as Congressional Gold Medal honorees in 2012, but were unable to present Cooper’s medal to him when they were unable to locate him. A family member rectified the failure, making sure that Cooper received the honor in 2013 while he was a patient with Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton. U.S. Representative Michael Turner and Dayton Mayor Gary Leitzell were among those present to honor the 91-year old Cooper when the medal was presented.

We are proud to include “Jack” Cooper among those Veterans recognized at our American Pride Memorial. We invite anyone in the greater Dayton area with information about a Veteran who should be recognized for their service to submit information and be included in our Memorial listings.

We celebrate the service and courage of “Jack” Cooper, honoring the memory of a man who helped make history and change history as an early pioneer of civil rights.

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Hospice Nursing Honor Guard Pays Tribute to Nurses

“The concept of honoring nurses who have given themselves to the care of others, was the initial appeal for me. It became more than a concept from the first time I stepped into a patient’s home, surrounded and embraced by her family, friends and fellow nurses. This nurse, who was dying at home, cared for by her parents, was younger than I. Her 15-year old daughter was at her bedside as we tried to thank her for her years of service to others. I have been a hospice nurse for more than 20 years. I have been privileged to share in many life closures, but in this situation, I struggled with my own tears.”

That is how Susan Boesch, RN, OCN, CHPN, with Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton describes her experience with the Nursing Honor Guard program, which was created to celebrate and honor those who have dedicated their professional lives to nursing. With growing demand for these ceremonies, Ohio’s Hospice needs more staff volunteers to assist in honoring nursing professionals at the end-of-life.

The Nursing Honor Guard is comprised of Ohio’s Hospice volunteer nurses who conduct a ceremony at the patient bedside. Upon request, the Nursing Honor Guard conducts a ceremony to celebrate the service and honor nurses who have life-limiting illnesses and have become patients in the care of Ohio’s Hospice. Dressed in traditional and historical uniforms, the Honor Guard recognizes the nurse for her commitment to caring and providing compassion to patients. Career highlights and individual achievements are highlighted as part of the ceremony, in which the honoree is presented with a pin and certificate of appreciation.

According to Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton Team Leader Jena Langford, RN, BSN, CHPN, CCM, “This program grew from a Bright Idea submitted by Christy Dempsey RN. Christy attended a graveside nursing honor guard tribute and was touched by the respect and appreciation given to the nurse that had passed. Christy wanted Hospice to honor our patients who are nurses.” Jena and Bessie Marshall adapted a program for Ohio’s Hospice that focuses on bedside tributes while patients are still alive.  Langford explains, “We interview the family and/or patient and create an individualized script tailored to each patient/nurse.  It is an honor to write these tributes and to be involved in presenting them”

Boesch says she has a new sense of appreciation for the role of nursing as a result of participating in Honor Guard Ceremonies. “I have seen, first hand, just how much a career in nursing means to the whole family. How proud they are of her/his achievements and service to others.”

Dressed in traditional and historical uniforms, the Honor Guard recognizes the nurse for her commitment to caring and providing compassion to patients.

Her sentiments are echoed by Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton Care Team Coordinator Linda Cummins, RN, BSN, CHPN, who opted for a career in nursing after completing military service. “I recall that feeling I had when I put on my nursing cap and was given a Nightingale lantern at my nursing school graduation.  I felt a sense of pride and community — very similar to the camaraderie of the military.  I recall the deep sense of honor and responsibility I felt as we all recited the Nightingale Pledge together at the conclusion of our graduation ceremony.  I have seen that sense of pride on the nurses we have honored with the Nursing Honor Guard.  There is a sense of purpose, honor, and responsibility – responsibility for something much bigger than one person, one nurse or one patient.  There are very few things in the civilian world that echoes military honor and commitment, but nursing is very much like that. The Nursing Honor Guard has given me that gift, that sense of awesome responsibility we have in caring for others.”

Cummins says the ceremony means much more to her than simply recognizing a fellow nurse. “We are acknowledging the role of nursing in our culture and how important and respected it is.  We are thanking these nurses and their families for the sacrifices of late nights, shift work, on-call duties, and informal nursing duties for family, friends and community.  We are acknowledging a lifetime of service.  We are acknowledging the higher calling of the life in the service of nursing.”

Langford cites Cummins and others whose participation has been a key to the success of the Nursing Honor Guard effort. “I would like to give a special thank you to the core group of staff who enable me to keep this program running smoothly – Linda Cummins, Terri Knopp, and Christy Dempsey. And a great thank you to all the staff volunteers taking time out of their day to complete these tributes!”

Ohio’s Hospice team members interested in volunteering to serve with the Nursing Honor Guard are invited to contact Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton Coming Home Team Leader Jena Langford, RN, BSN, CHPN, CCM at jlangford@hospiceofdayton.org or Admission Care Liaison with Ohio’s Hospice of Miami County Christy Dempsey, RN, BSN, CHPN, at cdempsey@hospiceofmiamicounty.org.

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Our Top 10 Social Media Stories of the Year

It’s been a wonderful year – from staff recognitions to patients and families sharing life’s precious moments, we have enjoyed sharing stories of compassion, joy and success with our community.

Here are the top 10 stories from 2016 that you stopped to enjoy in your newsfeed:

10. PARO – Our Pet Therapy Tool

The PARO robotic seal we use as part of our Pet Therapy Program interested many of our social media followers. In the video below, Occupational Therapist Angeline Volpatti explained PARO’s abilities and the comfort it provides to our patients.

9. Learning About Star Therapy

Many enjoyed learning about our Star Therapy treatment available to all of our patients. Studies on this unique therapy tool have shown a number of positive results, leaving patients more comfortable and at peace.

8. A ‘Beary’ Sweet Treat

You loved reading about kids in our Camp Pathways program giving Volunteer Judy Cole a bear to call her own. Judy has been a Volunteer with us for many years and creating Memory Bears for families is a passion of hers. Read more about this story here.

7. Patient Robert Enjoys a Fishing Trip

We love sharing real stories about our patients enjoying every moment of life. Patient Robert Leming’s fishing story is a wonderful reminder that each day we all can find ways to #CelebrateLife!

6. Helping a Mother Say “Thanks”

Mother of hospice patient Antwan Hurston wanted to find the deputies that saved her son’s life and thank them in a special way. Our Social Worker Joshua Meeker went above and beyond to help fulfill this mother’s wish. This story warmed many hearts on social media. Read the story here.

5. Honoring Our Doctors

We gave a special recognition to our doctors on National Doctor’s Day that many of you loved! We want our community to see the faces of these special physicians and learn more about them.

4. Dr. Cleanne Cass BBB Top Women to Watch

You shared in our joy in celebrating Dr. Cleanne Cass as the Better Business Bureau/Women in Business Networking 2016 Top Women to Watch. We are honored to have Dr. Cass as part of our team and are so grateful for her leadership.

3. Celebrating Our Volunteers

You helped us share the wonderful work of our Volunteers! We hold a banquet annually to celebrate our caring Volunteers.

2. Celebrating Our Staff

Our incredible staff deliver our superior services and care. You helped us honor staff who completed service milestones at our not-for-profit hospice!

1. Designated as One of the BEST Places For Nurses

And finally, one of our greatest achievements of the year – we are the FIRST hospice in the nation to be Pathway of Excellence® designated! The American Nursing Credentialing Center’s (ANCC) Pathway to Excellence® program honors organizations that create positive work environments where nurses can thrive. Over 16k viewers took a moment to watch our video on the exciting news!

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Ways to Celebrate the Life of a Loved One this Holiday Season

Remembering loved ones through photographs.The holiday season can be challenging to those who are grieving the loss of someone close.   Holiday rituals and traditions are important symbols of security and family bonds. Because of this, holidays can be both a reminder of the loss of a loved one, as well as a reminder of special, pleasant memories shared with that person.

For those who are grieving, painful feelings during the holidays are normal. Rather than place unrealistic expectations on themselves to do things the way they always have, grievers should lower expectations for themselves. While it may feel insincere if you try to force feelings of happiness and joy, do allow yourself to have fun. Loss teaches us more than anything about the preciousness of life and not to take it for granted.

We can also allow the holidays to be opportunities for memory, legacy, honor, connection, and healing. Expressing feelings and revisiting memories can be part of the healing process. Some suggestions for honoring lost loved ones might include:

  • Draw pictures or make cards of favorite holiday memories with the deceased.
  • Create a special ornament to hang on the tree or doorway.
  • Write a holiday letter to the deceased and place it in a special place either wrapped as a present under the tree or tied with a bow and placed next to their picture.
  • Place a picture of the deceased at the dinner table with a candle so they are part of the holiday feast.
  • Cook a favorite dish or dessert the deceased especially enjoyed.
  • Honor your loved one by making a toast, creating a memory area in your home, or hanging a holiday stocking filled with notes of special memories.
  • Look at photo albums and share memories.
  • Donate to a special charity in your loved one’s name.
  • Create a “gratitude bowl.” Family members can write holiday memories for which they will always be thankful about their loved one on colorful slips of paper. Share them out loud during a special time during the holidays.

These activities are powerful and healing because they allow mourning while at the same time giving permission to enjoy the holidays.

If you or someone you know seeks grief counseling from our professionals, please contact our bereavement center Pathways of Hope at 937.258.4991.

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Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton Patient Earns Athletic Hall of Fame Honors at Otterbein

dick-west-with-award
Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton and Otterbein College are working together to Celebrate the Life of hospice patient Richard C. West, who will be inducted into the Otterbein College Athletic Hall of Fame on October 15.

When staff at Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton became aware of plans to honor West, they collaborated to assure transportation and support to enable him to attend ceremonies.

Following his high school graduation Richard began his college studies at Springfield College in Massachusetts. He played baseball and football for the college’s Pride football team, but his second football season and his life were interrupted by World War II and a notice to report for military duty.

After four years serving in France, Germany and England, Richard returned to college. However, he was soon faced with a dilemma. A tryout with the St. Louis Browns baseball team earned him an offer to join the minor league team as a coach/manager. Richard had to decide whether to complete his degree or accept the job. He opted to finish his degree.

Upon graduation Richard joined athletic department at Otterbein College for eight years. He next accepted a teaching and coaching position in Kettering, Ohio. Eventually he became a guidance counselor, a role he relished. After retirement, he and his wife continues to serve in counseling roles on behalf of their church congregation. Richard returned to academia to earn his doctorate of divinity at the age of 88, serving as an example to all of us that it is never too late to realize a life-long dream.

This Saturday, he will realize another dream when he is inducted into the Otterbein College Athletic Hall of Fame, established in 2008 by the Athletic Department to honor individuals and teams that have made significant contributions to the success Otterbein programs, either as athletes or in supporting roles.

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Stories Resonate When We Need Them Most

“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.

DrRemenLinkSize

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

When 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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