Welcome to the HPH Hospice Blog

Welcome to HPH Hospice’s newly created blog, where our authors will share personal stories, trends, education and insight related to hospice care, programs and services. You’ll get perspective from hospice nurses, physicians, volunteers, social workers, chaplains, bereavement counselors and other guest writers. We welcome your comments but ask that you respect the house rules.

Family Is Always Family

Howard GlicksmanBy Howard M. Glicksman, MD

Tom was in his late 50s and was a loner who hadn’t seen his ex-wife and two children in years. He worked hard doing construction and lived in a rough and tumble home with cement floors. He had very little in the way of furnishings but he had a large collection of construction materials that he hoped to use or sell in the future. He had recently developed shortness of breath and had been admitted to the hospital with a diagnosis of double pneumonia. While there, he was found to have lung cancer and was eventually sent home on hospice.

When I came to see Tom, he initially was alone but during my visit his ex-wife and children arrived. Continue Reading

Saved By Hospice

Howard GlicksmanBy Howard M. Glicksman, MD
“Bob” was a 40-something hard working, hard drinking man who had never stayed attached to anyone. He had gone out to California to visit an estranged daughter and while there had fallen down in a drunken stupor, severely injuring the soft tissue of his arm and leg. Subsequently, he became septic and was hospitalized. After a few weeks of intensive treatment he had stabilized and improved enough to fly home. But, due to his poor condition, his doctors didn’t think he had much time to live and so he was admitted to our hospice program with end stage liver disease due to alcoholic cirrhosis.Continue Reading

We Are Never Promised Tomorrow

Laura MooreBy Laura Moore

Like most people, when I think of Hospice and the work that we do, my first thought is not of children, but those who are much older. More specifically, I think of Hospice patients as individuals who have had the opportunity to grow up, have a career, get married, raise a family and most importantly, have LIVED their lives well beyond childhood and adolescence. Sadly, during my time with the Children’s Assistance Program (CAP), I have learned that this is not always the case.

I have been honored to work with several pediatric patients and families in the 13 years that I have worked at HPH Hospice. Continue Reading

Chocolate Cake, Hendrix and Grief; Lessons from a Bereavement Counselor

Walter1By Walter Loughran MSed 

When I was asked to write a blog about my experience with bereavement groups (and make it personal), my first reaction was,  “Can I do that?” I mean, a lifetime of training and experience said you don’t talk about this stuff outside of group especially in a blog. Well here goes…

For me personally, group is a form of sacred space, a place where it is safe to explore possibilities.

About ten years ago I was handed a box with all sorts of stuff in it, poems, short essays, psychological assessment tools, feelings charts, even bits and pieces of research papers all having some connection to working through grief.

Looking at the box, I realized I was on my own and fell back on what experience and a few trusted mentors had shared. If I was quiet enough and listened to what the group presented, they would tell me what work needed to be done.

Ten years later, I have learned to bend my ear to hear each voice in the group and in doing so, my life has been transformed as well. The death of someone we love truly is the brick wall on life’s pathand we hit it hard and fast.

Recovering from the trauma takes time and not a little effort. We have designed the eight week “Grief’s Journey” group as a way to navigate back into day to day life successfully.

As a child of the 60s I shared my dinner time with Walter Cronkite and Eric Sevareid. Civil Rights marches, sit-ins at Columbia University, the Vietnam War protests all were part of a well balanced meal. Senior year of high school was a countdown to the draft and the possibility of dying on the other side of the world. Death was no stranger and the search for meaning in a world that had lost all sense had begun.Continue Reading

Let Them Never Be Forgotten

by Sherry Whitford

thewhitfordsMy husband, Richard and I, are passionate about HPH Hospice (HPH) and have been involved in nearly all aspects of its volunteer program. However, we’re both drawn to the agency’s We Honor Veteran’s (WHV) program which began in 2011 and is now hundreds of volunteers strong. You see, Richard is a Vietnam era veteran and I am a huge military supporter.  Being involved with veterans and their loved ones through hospice provides a powerful way to say thank you to the brave men and women who have sacrificed much so that we can be free.

Since April 2013, Richard and I have had the privilege of being involved in 409 hospice pinnings. This involves providing the veteran with a customized certificate, a WHV pin and a star. The back of the star reads “I am part of our American flag that has flown over a home in Florida. I can no longer fly. The sun and winds have caused me to become tattered and torn. Please carry me as a reminder that you are not forgotten.”  Each pinning is simple, beautiful and unique. Because Richard and I are also Eleventh Hour volunteers, which means that we’re on call to be at bedside of actively dying HPH patients, we never miss the opportunity to say thank you to our veterans.

Families are so touched and grateful for the pinning ceremonies. A few times, we’ve made visits to honor a patient but not everyone in the family has been able to be present. So, imagine how wonderful we feel when family members ask if we can return and repeat the ceremony when everyone can be there. Of course, we say yes! During the pinnings, patients will often share short stories about what happened during their years of military service – stories that their loved ones may have never heard before.

Perhaps one of our most touching moments occurred when Richard and I did a pinning for a patient who was non-responsive. Continue Reading

Timeless Treasures

Jane_FreemanBy Jane Freeman

My childhood in northeastern Ohio was idyllic. I grew up in an era when long summer days translated into great freedom. My friends and I could play outside from morning past sundown without a care in the world, only stopping home for a sandwich, a cold glass of lemonade or mandatory dinnertime. I still remember the sound of the screen door slamming as I’d run back outside for another adventure.

One day, I rode my bike several miles to visit my Aunt Gigi but before I got to her home, I noticed an intriguing shop called the Treasure Chest. I’d never been inside but the large, glass paned window was filled with all kinds of collectibles. I remember feeling amazed by countless items in all shapes, sizes and colors as I peered inside. In the center of the display was a red ceramic apple cookie jar with a spot of yellow around its core, a green leaf painted on the right and a brown stem. Continue Reading

A Reciprocal Gift

Howard GlicksmanBy Dr. Howard Glicksman What’s it like being a physician on the home team for HPH hospice? You get up every morning knowing that the patients you’ll be seeing, and their loved ones and caregivers, are suffering in one way or another and you have a chance to help them in some small way. You’ll drive to a house in a subdivision or on some acreage, or to a mobile home set in a community or off some dusty road. You’ll be greeted at the door often by the spouse, caregiver, or a child of the patient while the dog(s) usually howls in the background and any cats run for cover. You’ll introduce yourself, find a place to sit, often near the patient, and begin to find out what’s been happening lately. Your patient will be someone who probably has been hospitalized a few times in the last several months and has suffered a significant functional decline due to conditions like cancer, heart and lung disease, diabetes, stroke and dementia. Continue Reading

The Bell

Chuck_MerkleBy Chaplain Chuck Merkle, retried

It was in the early 2000s that it came to pass that the spiritual care department needed a bell that could be rung at our remembrance services. HPH Hospice’s Time For Remembrance services speak to different people in different ways.

When my Aunt Pauline heard about the services, she knew that she wanted to contribute in some way, but she wasn’t sure how. I mentioned to her that our spiritual care department would like a bell that could be rung at the remembrance services. The bell would be sounded as the name of each loved-one who had passed was spoken, as an act of respect and reverence. Aunt Pauline told me that if we could find just the right bell, then that bell would be her gift to HPH Hospice.

Our Spiritual Care Manager and I visited a local church that we knew used handbells in their service. The minister kindly offered to let us take some of their bells outside — our Time For Remembrance services are held in the open air — and to ring our hearts out until we found the right sound. We finally found the ideal bell. Its full, rich tone echoed deep within us as it rang out, and we knew it would make the perfect accompaniment to the calling of names at our service. It was a great day when I told Aunt Pauline about it. She agreed to donate the bell, never realizing it would someday be used at her service.

Aunt Pauline’s Bell has been used many times over the last 10 or more years. It still brings comfort to all who hear it at the Time for Remembrance services and kids’ camps.

My dear Aunt Pauline came under HPH care in 2002 and died July 31, 2003, two days before her 96th birthday; I remember her and I give thanks for her, for the gift she gave to HPH Hospice, and for the care that HPH Hospice was able to provide. She will always be remembered.

Kids’ Camp

Laura_FinchBy Laura Finch

June 11th was the last Children’s Assistance Program Grief Camp for the year 2014. As Program Specialist of this wonderful program and coordinator of these camps, I now have time to reflect on the past months leading up to the camps and during the camps themselves. I find myself breathless and in awe.

I always receive praise from kind people for a job well done. Although I appreciate the acknowledgement that it is work and one doesn’t just show up to throw life-changing camps like these together, I can’t help but think about all of the team effort, love, and sacrifice that goes into these camp. It is my honor to be surrounded by such class of people.

It starts with six wonderful, skilled counselors who, every day throughout the year, are visiting with young people and assisting children with the most vulnerable and confusing time of their lives. The presence it takes to sit with a hurting child and be willing to go into such a painful place is incredible.

I am also filled with gratefulness for all the HPH staff and volunteers who give up an entire weekend in lieu of being with their own families or who travel to locations throughout our agency’s service area for a day camp just to ensure we are meeting our agency’s mission of helping our youngest clients.Continue Reading

One Year

deb_June_2014 By Deb McCabe

It’s been fully a year since my dad died. I woke up with a feeling of wonderment at all that’s transpired in the last year. I was also amazed that I didn’t feel heavy with grief. For hours after I arose, I went about my normal morning. Then, at times throughout the afternoon, I tested the wound of grief. It seemed firm and healed as it so often did. Wonderment.

That evening, when my husband arrived home from work, he told me some news that, at the worst of times, would have been mildly negative. At the best of times it would have not even fazed me. Today? Today it plunged me into a grey swarm of sadness. I suddenly felt heavy and foggy. What was this feeling?

Our family had, at the behest of our 12-year-old daughter, planned an evening out on the anniversary of “Grandpa’s” death. We would go out to dinner and raise a toast to my dad, reminiscing, such as we had done on his birthday last month. So as we planned our dinner out, I started recognizing this heavy feeling.

When we got into the car, I suddenly felt the way I had felt on the day of my dad’s funeral. In the car, propelled along to events that I was not prepared for. Although, maybe I was. My dad had prepared me so well for his death. He had also prepared all of his own funeral arrangements. The day moved along in such a neutral way because of that. And yet. And yet I felt very focused. Very alive. I think pain can make you feel that way. Continue Reading