Finding the Hope in Hospice … for 10 Years

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Myra Badorf, Assistant Director of Development for Homeland HospiceMyra Badorf is the Assistant Director of Development for Homeland Hospice and on August 16th celebrated her 10-year anniversary. Upon looking back, she shares her thoughts with us.

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“Caregiving often calls us to lean into love we didn’t know possible.” ~ Tia Walker, author

I’ve worked for Homeland Hospice for 10 years now … never on the front lines like so many of my colleagues, but never far from the heartbreaking stories of untimely and sometimes tragic deaths, to the beautiful descriptions of the passing of an elderly person who lived a good life full of love of family, success in a career, a strong faith and peace … even welcoming death in the end.

My mother is 89 and my father is 88, and my family and I are blessed to still have both in our lives. Plus, I have never had anyone close to me ever needing the services of hospice. But I too know that it is a matter of time. With two parents looking at the doorstep of 90, I expect it now, and I will welcome the support hospice services have to offer when that time comes.

Here at Homeland Hospice I have the good fortune of reading the letters and cards of thanks that we receive from the many family and friends of those we have cared for over the years. Many of them include a monetary donation as a way to express their appreciation and gratitude, for which we are thankful.

These letters make me proud of the people I work with—our nurses, social workers, aides, chaplains, volunteers. All of them deal with important life issues daily, never wavering from this calling of hospice. I don’t know what burdens they carry for our patients, how it effects their off hours, or their health, but what I do know—to do this, they must have what we refer to as “the heart of hospice.” You see, it takes a special person, especially in the medical field to do this kind of work. Nurses are trained to heal. They are also trained to solve problems—which is an essential skill for anyone providing hospice care. In most cases healing will not come, but the opportunity to ensure a peaceful, pain-free death, managing complicated symptoms … well, our staff are second to none.

“Death is not the enemy sir, indifference is! You treat a disease, you win, you lose. You treat a person, I guarantee you, you’ll win, no matter what the outcome.” ~ Patch Adams

Homeland Hospice’s Soup & Casserole Program

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By Laurie Murray, Volunteer Coordinator for Homeland Hospice

The end-of-life journey is a time when extra comfort and support is needed as patients and their families are often fatigued physically, emotionally and spiritually. A hospice caregiver is often faced with situations that can change daily or even hourly. Frequent medications, dressing changes, safety, toileting, feeding, and emotional support easily fills their day, and in many cases, their night too. In addition, there are situations in which a spouse or caregiver may never have prepared a meal. The patient is the one who always handled that daily task.

Homeland Hospice has found that for many patients and their families a simple home-cooked soup or casserole that can be taken from the freezer, heated, and enjoyed is a huge blessing. It is comfort for the belly! The meals are prepared by volunteers either working independently or as a group. Before Covid-19, our focus was having church groups prepare the meals. Now, there are people looking for opportunities to serve from their homes, so we are seeing more individual cooks becoming involved.

Some of our volunteers simply cook a little extra when they are preparing a meal for their own family. Church group often use the left-overs from a community or church meal to make a yummy dish or soup.

The meals are prepared in 8×8 aluminum pans, wrapped in aluminum foil, placed in a gallon freezer bag, labeled with the ingredients and reheating instructions and frozen. Volunteers then either contact Laurie to pick up a meal from them or the they are welcome to delivers it to the Homeland Hospice office. The meals are stored in a freezer at the office until it is delivered to a patient by hospice staff or by another volunteer, a “Casserole Courier.”

The meals do not remain in the freezer for long! With a census of over 200 patients, twenty meals can disappear very quickly. We are always accepting new cooks to assist with this program.

The Soup & Casserole Program is just another “extra” that is provided by Homeland Hospice. It helps in bring comfort to our patients, but also alleviates some of the stress from family caregivers.

Mary Beth, a faithful volunteer making soups and casseroles stated, “I’m so happy to help. All of the events of the world have made me feel helpless. This opportunity has once again made me feel helpful.”

Message from Dr. Rox

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With Dr. Rox’s help, Homeland is making a conscious effort to STOP the panic, anxiety, heightened stress levels, and frustration caused by the current state of our lives due to the pandemic.

Right now, she is encouraging everyone to thinking about the importance of boosting our immune system to fight viruses such as COVID-19 and the Flu. Research has proven time and time again that the body’s stress response systems are directly connected to the immune system and can influence what type of immune cells are made, where they go in the body, and how they function.

In other words, stress weakens your immune system.

People tend to focus on the conveniences they have lost, which heightens their stress levels. Dr Rox encourages everyone to use the power of mindfulness to help reduce stress and strengthen their immune systems.

She reminds us that mindfulness is a NON-RELIGIOUS practice.

“Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens. Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.”  (Greater Good Science Center of Berkeley University of California, 2020)

Try These Three Ways to Stop, Breathe, Listen, and Connect

Practice #1: Come back to your breath. Every time you learn a new fact about this virus, stop, take a deep, calming breath, and notice what is happening in your body. Where are you storing this new information? Breathe deep and release any tension you’re holding. Here’s a simple practice for letting go.

Practice #2: Find ways to connect. Social distancing is the compassionate response to the challenge before us, but physical isolation doesn’t mean disconnection. Write letters to your friends, hold video chat parties, call your neighbors, send love notes to family and friends who live far away. If you’re feeling isolated, try this connection meditation to recharge.

Practice #3: Offer loving-kindness to the world. Whether you’re someone who hasn’t yet connected with this specific mindfulness practice, you’ve tried it and it felt a little odd, or you’re someone who relies on this practice for connection and nourishment—now is the time to offer our deep love to the world. Here’s how you can create a loving-kindness practice that feels right to you.

MEDITATION SOURCES: www.Mindful.org

 


Roxane E. Hearn, PhD (Dr. Rox) is Homeland’s Employee Wellness Program Coordinator, Health & Wellness Psychologist and Personal Health Coach. To learn more about or contact Dr. Rox, please visit www.MyDrRox.com.

Not 9, But 99

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Helen Haddick, Homeland Hospice Nurse, has a gift of expression. We are grateful to her for allowing us to share the following article from her blog “From Saving to Sending, Hospice Isn’t Just About Dying.” Prior to becoming a Hospice Nurse, Helen’s journey included ten years of being a Med Surg, ICU, and Perianesthesia Nurse.

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She was the type of old lady I want to be. She was sassy and opinionated. Mostly confused but, had moments of crystal lucidity. Her eyes were set on a fellow resident and no amount of reasoning could dissuade her that this was going to be her boyfriend. She loved Diet Coke, but, fountain only please… Her accomplishments were many in life during a time when such fetes were limited to those with an Adam’s apple.

Gold hoops were always glimmering from her ears. A former hairdresser, the hairdo was never in question. Sometimes she loved me and other days she would look at me, questioning loudly “What in the hell are you doing here?”

We shared chocolate bars and man stories. She always told me that while other parts might not work, her eyes never stopped. As her mind allowed, we talked about trash reality tv. She was my patient for a long time. Far longer than is usual for hospice. I had a nickname for her, only know to me, Kitty.

Just as Medicare requirements dictate, we had several team meetings and the talks of discharge would go round and round. But, just as the time would grow closer, something wildly unexpected would occur and discharge became a non possibility.

As rapidly as her descent was, her resurrection was equally as fast. Non responsive for days, she would just open her eyes as if she never skipped a beat. To say that this made me feel clueless would be an understatement. Just as I prepared family, boom, she was roaring right back.

I had begun to accept my lack of knowledge and power. Just as discharge talk began, the crisis began. Making sure to prepare family just in case, I found myself disbelieving they words I was uttering to them. Guiding them through the journey of end of life, I was expecting to receive calls daily that she had sat up and was demanding food.

This time was different. There was a little nagging voice urging me to keep my eyes open. There was gurgling. There was lack of waking up. My comforting and preparation of her daughter continued, even though I still felt beyond skeptical. The motteling. The fever. And yet, she had bounced back before.

Her preacher came and along with the daughter said some prayers. I had asked him to go today… nagging feeling. My phone rang as I was with another patient and noting the number, my thought was that I probably had forgotten my stethoscope there – pretty typical.

“Helen… it happened”

“What happened?”

She

Was

Gone

With my best attempts as hiding my shock failing, I wrapped up my visit and headed over to pronounce. Even still, I half expected to walk in and a deep sleep to have been misread as an eternal sleep.

But, she was no longer.

Her face peaceful. Her life lived her way. Her journey traveled her way. Her death beyond question on her terms.

There were moments it felt she had 99 lives. That ended today.

As my heart continues to swell with gratitude which express as tears from my eyes, I cannot believe my good luck.

Her 99 lives have given such profound meaning to my one.

 


Homeland Hospice is a hospice program that serves 14 communities throughout Central Pennsylvania by providing end-of-life care either in a person’s home or wherever they reside, including nursing facilities.  Homeland Hospice also provides bereavement support to families for a full 13 months following the death of their loved one. This service is available to anyone in the community who is experiencing grief.

To learn more, please contact Homeland Hospice at (717) 221-7890.

My Volunteer Journey

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By Lisa Wolff, Homeland Hospice Volunteer

About 6 years ago, I was fortunate to be able to retire from a long career as a health care lawyer. After I retired I had to figure out what I wanted to do when I “grew up.” I decided I wanted to work directly with patients instead of working at a desk. While it was definitely not easy to find such a job without any experience and with my “maturity” eventually I was hired as a nurse’s aide in the Neurology Unit at Harrisburg Hospital. This was great because they provided the training I needed for the job. Being a nurse’s aide was about as different from a legal desk job as any job could be! It was fast paced, hands on, and never a dull moment! It provided me the opportunity to meet all types of people, from all walks of life and many cultures, to provide hands-on care and comfort, and to be a part of the patients’ and their families’ lives for a short period of time. Often, patients were so grateful for my small service that it was overwhelming to me. I learned so much about people and the world in general. It was one of the most meaningful experiences of my life.

After several years as a nurse’s aide, I decided it was time to retire more permanently so that I could spend more time with my family. I knew I still wanted to work with patients and I thought volunteering for a hospice organization might fit the bill. After doing some research about the Homeland organization, I met with Laurie and was very impressed by her leadership skills and her vision for the volunteer team. I became a volunteer patient companion.

In a little over a year of volunteering with Homeland Hospice I have had many different kinds of experiences. Some patients are just as sweet and pleasant as can be and have no difficulty talking with me about a variety of subjects. Others are not able to communicate verbally or have significant hearing loss. Sometimes, I feel uncomfortable because a patient is not able to communicate and I don’t have a lot to say (I don’t really feel it is appropriate to talk about myself and my life too much). Other times, I feel concerned because, based on my nurse’s aide experience, I have identified a possible care giving need. In these instances, I either figure it out myself, such as reading to a patient who is nonverbal (if they seem to like that) or I call on Laurie. Laurie is a great resource! She always has good ideas when I am seemingly stuck! Also, if I have a care giving issue she will very quickly get a response from the patient care team.

One time I had a patient who was known in her facility as a very grouchy lady. Every time I visited, she was in a bad mood and had a list of complaints about her condition or her environment that she wanted me to address. (I realized that if I were in her place, I would probably have similar complaints, but I know that voicing such complaints is not always the best way to win friends). I would chat with her and play gin rummy (using her rules) and after a while she would become pleasant and I would be able to coax her to take a walk down the hall. Invariably, when I left she would ask for a hug, which I gladly gave. Just helping to make a patient a little happier for a short while is my goal.

Volunteering for Homeland Hospice is so rewarding. I must say, however, that sometimes I really don’t want to make a visit. It can seem too challenging to think of things to say, or deal with someone who is nasty, non-verbal or hearing impaired. However, I have to laugh at myself once again because every time I leave a patient and get into my car to go back to my nice life, I am filled with gratitude about the visit I just had. I hope I make some small difference in the patients’ day. I know they have made a difference in mine.

I am bummed about the pandemic. I really miss interacting with the patients. I learn so much from them and I cannot imagine how difficult it is for them and their caregivers to be so isolated from social interaction. I do write cards, I can only hope they help a little.


Homeland Hospice is a hospice program that serves 14 communities throughout Central Pennsylvania by providing end-of-life care either in a person’s home or wherever they reside, including nursing facilities. Volunteering is a component of Homeland’s holistic approach to health care. Homeland Hospice also provides bereavement support to families for a full 13 months following the death of their loved one. This service is available to anyone in the community who is experiencing grief.

To learn more, please contact Homeland Hospice at (717) 221-7890.