By: Kenn Cahall, Regency Hospice – Kennesaw
Regency volunteer (Pictured Above), Phyllis Cahall and a Wal-Mart customer after getting her free gift wrapping – an event we organized to spread awareness of our new office relocation from Cartersville, GA to Kennesaw, GA to share our Second Wind Dreams program and to raise money for our Perenity Program. The Wal-Mart staff was so accommodating and very excited to have us there during the holidays. Volunteer Coordinator, Kenn Cahall and his volunteers manned the wrapping tables and visited with all comers, those that needed gifts to wrap as well as those that just stopped by.
This was a great opportunity for Regency and our volunteers and staff working this event to meet and speak with hundreds of folks that were visiting the two Wal-Mart stores located in the Acworth / Kennesaw area during the holiday season. It allowed us the chance to be informative, giving and a grateful component of our local community in ways we do not normally serve. Many folks shared positive affirmations about the work done for their families at Regency here in Cartersville and in cities around the state. Between the two locations and four days of wrapping we raised approx. $125 which will go towards benefiting our patients through the Perenity Program.
Thanks so much to all who made this event possible. It was a great team effort and the effects will reach far beyond this day and event.
The Christmas Season is a difficult time for families whose loved ones are on hospice care. Few have the time or the energy to make the busy time of year joyous or festive and that is where hospice volunteers can shine the most.
Regency Hospice Volunteers received the gift of joy as they carried out the business of giving to those whose needs were so great. The faces of hospice families lit up as volunteers showed up at their door with beautiful red poinsettias donated by local businesses. Some families who did not have the means to prepare a special holiday dinner received surprise Christmas dinners provided by donations lovingly prepared and delivered by volunteers. It was a wonderful sight to see faces brighten as our volunteer Mr. and Mrs. Santa Clause walked the floors of local assisted living facilities handing out old fashioned candy canes and lots of cheer.
Thank you Regency Hospice for allowing us volunteers to receive the best gift of all at Christmas – the joy of sharing God’s love and kindness!
By: Sue King, Volunteer Coordinator – Aiken
In March 2010 a dream became a reality when Regency Hospice of Aiken, South Carolina began its Vigil Volunteer Program. Having been inspired by a skilled nursing facility resident, Roni Jones, E.D. and Sue King, V.C. had been interested in starting a vigil program for almost a year. Our hope was that no one would ever need die alone. In January of 2010, Roni and Sue began researching vigil volunteer programs and pulling the best information together. Early in the year a meeting was held to share the idea with the staff and receive their input. Everyone was excited about the idea and all agreed this would provide a much needed service.
Sue sent emails to all the volunteers and received an overwhelming response of thirteen volunteers who wanted to find out more information. “I was literally blown away by the response. I have always known my volunteers were special and this definitely confirmed their commitment.” The volunteers came to an information meeting that was held in January with a lot of preliminary questions and brainstorming. We finalized the training manual in late February and held a training session the following week where we handed out completed training manuals including a copy of, The Needs of the Dying by: David Kessler, endorsed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, M.D. to everyone. A decision was made to call ourselves “Compassionate Companions”.
Our first opportunity was a patient being cared for at our local hospital under the General Inpatient level of care. Volunteers were scheduled in 2 hour shifts the evening the patient expired and were able to sit with him for several before he passed. This particular patient had a loved one in close proximity who had gone home to rest. We had a meeting with all of the Compassionate Companions a few days following the death. During this meeting, Dave who was with the patient when he passed told us that he had not witnessed a death before so this was an emotional time for him. Dave had held his hand and prayed that he would not suffer and that he would pass peacefully. Dave expressed that having had a life threatening injury himself and having spent a long time in the ICU not knowing if he would survive, he learned the value of the human touch. Not many people have the opportunity to sit and be present with someone who is passing from one part of life to another. Dave said of this experience, “His mother gave him life and saw him take his first breath and I was with him when he took his last breath.” Dave said it was a beautiful experience for him. Because a volunteer was sitting vigil at the bedside, this freed Cheri Hicks, S.W. to go to the home of the caregiver. Allowing her to verbalize her feelings of grief and sadness brought the caregiver a lot of comfort. The family was overwhelmed with the fact that Regency had someone at the caregiver’s home and also at the hospital.
Our second opportunity to provide a vigil was very unique in that there was a lot of family support, but they were very apprehensive and obviously needed guidance and someone to walk with them through this experience. We had a total of six volunteers that alternated with each other throughout the three day assignment. This large extended family had been exhausted by trying to all stay at the patient’s bedside 24 hours a day. In a meeting held following the assignment, the Compassionate Companions most involved in the care of this patient and family told of their experience for the others in attendance.
As told by the volunteers present, on Monday of that week, family members were squeezed in her small room. On Tuesday some of the grandchildren chose to go home and then come back to visit periodically. By Wednesday, the children of the patient had gone to either take a nap or take a break while one of the vigil volunteers sat with the patient.
According to the family, the vigil volunteers brought a calming presence by decreasing the stress level and allowing the family to meet their own personal needs.
The patient did not exhibit the usual signs of actively dying until the last two hours. The volunteer noticed that her breathing patterns changed. She started talking to her and helped her relax by telling her she was floating on a white, puffy cloud. The patient’s feet became cool to the touch, but with very little mottling. She developed a rattle to her breathing, known as the “death rattle” about one and a half hours before passing. Within an hour of her death, her breathing became very shallow. One of the volunteers had just arrived to relieve the other volunteer, but upon seeing what was going on decided to stay in case the other volunteer needed her. The volunteers noticed some significant changes and decided to call the immediate family into the room to say their goodbyes. After the patient passed, the volunteers then called the office to notify us and then started helping out in the rest of the house by putting on a pot of coffee, washing dishes and doing some laundry. In talking with the family after the funeral, the volunteers stated “they said they could not have gotten through those three days without the support of the volunteers.” “The family said ‘They were there 100% for us. We wouldn’t have known the signs to look for if it had not been for the Vigil Volunteers. They stayed in the room with us until Mom passed.’”
During this debriefing meeting the volunteers involved told of the ride (procession) through the patient’s former neighborhood in the historic section of Aiken to the cemetery. It was beautiful day in early spring, which the volunteers felt was most fitting for the occasion and described as a spiritual experience. The Compassionate Companions stated that from the first moment of their assignment, they were welcomed into this home and into this family and treated as daughters and sisters. They shared with the rest of the vigil volunteer team that this patient had been a volunteer herself and had put in more than 9,000 hours at Aiken Regional Medical Center. She stopped volunteering only when she lost the ability to drive well into her retirement.
Since the development of the Compassionate Companion team, they have served seven patients and families in the Aiken area. The Aiken location of Regency Hospice is extremely proud of all of their volunteers and touched by the interest and participation in the vigil volunteer program. Because of the compassion and generosity of these volunteers, no one need ever die alone.
Regency Hospice – Aiken, SC
A childhood friend of the deceased spoke at a recent funeral and while describing a simpler time, she used an expression that touched my heart. She told about playing in the home of her friend when the mother said, “Walk her a piece the way home.” It was customary in the rural south to escort your guest part of the way as they walked home. Children who didn’t want the day to end often walked back and forth along the path as they walked each other “a piece the way home” time and time again.
“A piece the way home” stuck in my head as a new way to think about Hospice. Death is often viewed as a journey to an eternal home. Family caregivers and Hospice workers walk with the terminal patient as far as possible to provide comfort, companionship, and knowledge of the path. As we go “a piece the way home” the expression takes on new meaning as the patient and family knows “peace” on the way home.
Thanks to Hiawassee’s Hospice Care Consultant Robin Watts for sharing this story. We’re so happy to be able to share these stories, especially during the holidays. We wish you all a very happy Holiday and New Year!
Pictured above is Bereavement Coordinator, Barbara and a WalMart customer getting his free gift wrapping – an event we organized to spread awareness of our Second Wind Dreams program and raise money for a Dream. I noticed this gentleman’s hat and commented on him being a veteran. It was great to be able to thank a veteran for his service to our country while also spreading the word about Second Wind Dreams.
We raised approximately $170 for a young hospice patient who is now elated to be going on a shopping trip with the money raised from the 2 day gift wrapping event. For Regency, this event was so much more than any health fair we have ever participated in. The volunteers and the staff working this event heard lots of positive affirmations from the community about the work done at Regency. The WalMart staff were so very happy to have us there. Volunteer Coordinator Kate did a fantastic job of manning the booth and organizing a group of volunteers.
Thanks so much to all who made this event possible. It was great team work and the effects reached far beyond the staff, or even the SWD patient. This time we were able to be an informative, giving, grateful component of our local community in ways we do not normally serve.
The New Beacon Hospice Alabaster and Sylacauga offices have an annual tradition for the holidays that blesses patients and their families with personalized Christmas trees. We’re thankful for these little things that we can do for our patients to remind them of the holiday season and that we are thinking of them. Below is a write-up on the event from Alabaster’s Volunteer Coordinator, Marcella Baker.
The holidays hold so many different favorites for me in this position. One of my favorite events is hand picking out of almost 500 trees the ones that will be returned to our patients at our Alabaster and Sylacauga offices. Jennifer Slaughter is the wonderful volunteer who organizes the ordering, preparing, decorating and delivering of the Christmas trees that bring joy to anyone who sees them, let alone receives one. This time consuming process begins a whole year before the event just after Christmas when Jennifer and her friends begin shopping after-Christmas sales. The actual prepping of the trees begins in September when each tree is individually selected and then a theme is decided, and a beautiful Christmas tree is born. Day of delivery to the Birmingham office is a wonderful site – just as magical as Christmas morning. Thank you, Jennifer and Perenity for sharing your gifts. They are priceless.