Coping With Grief During the Holidays

October 26, 2016

The holiday season is upon us. Seasonal decorations have been strategically placed in all of our favorite stores.  For many people, these colorful and festive adornments spark excitement for family celebrations and holiday parties yet to come.  But for those grieving the death of a loved one, the holidays may also usher in feelings of pain and sadness. Even if grief isn’t fresh, the holidays may serve as an annual reminder of the loss—not only of the person, but of shared traditions as well.

Hospice of the Foothills bereavement counselors understand how difficult this season can be. They support families coping with loss throughout the year. The death of a loved one is often felt most deeply during the holidays; our memories can be painful. There is no right way to get through these times. Our grief support counselors offer the following thoughts and ideas that may be helpful:

Be willing to change traditions – Holidays often center on certain traditions and rituals. For some, continuing some of those traditions without the presence of their loved one may be an important way to continue sharing their memory. For others, it may be more comforting to develop new rituals to help lessen the pain and immediacy of the loss.

Seek a sympathetic ear – If you feel you’re not able to function, find balance, or find any distance from the pain, seek help.  Find a grief support group where you’ll find instant empathy from people who have suffered similar losses. If you don’t care for groups, look for an individual counselor.

Try to reduce stress – While the holidays can be filled with meaning, they can also be filled with pressure and stress because of additional tasks such as shopping, baking and decorating. Grieving people should be encouraged to prioritize what needs to be done and focus on those projects that may bring them pleasure.

Remember those who have died –The holidays can bring opportunities to remember the person who has died in a way that is personally meaningful. Some families choose to participate in holiday events. Others may choose to share special family stories over a meal. Some may find that making a donation to a special charity or volunteering time to help others in need may be a comforting way to honor their loved one.

Hospice of the Foothills knows the importance of providing emotional and spiritual support to those who are grieving. Feelings of isolation and loneliness can be magnified, especially when the days shorten and holidays approach. Our bereavement program offers weekly support groups to community members, free of charge.  Please call to learn more about our support groups or for referrals to community resources.

November is National Hospice Month and a perfect time to learn more about the many local programs and services Hospice of the Foothills offers year round. Hospice of the Foothills has been your community hospice since 1979.  For more information call 530.272.5739.

Don’t Let Hospice Myths Get in the Way

September 27, 2016

As healthcare and insurance coverage in this country evolves, it is more important than ever that we inform ourselves about our healthcare choices and take a proactive role in the decision-making process.  End-of-life care should be an integral part of a life-long, personalized plan of care for everyone. So why do we delay conversations with our families, friends and physicians about the kind of end-of-life care and experience we want to have?

Although there are myths and misconceptions surrounding hospice care, the mission of Hospice of the Foothills could not be more clear; to affirm life, promote dignity at the end of life, and provide comprehensive and compassionate patient care and support for families.

“If only we’d come to hospice sooner,” is the most frequent comment we hear from patients and their families. Don’t let these myths prevent you from helping your family, friends, and maybe even yourself in a time of great need.

Myth #1: Hospice is for when there is no more hope – it means ‘giving up’.

Reality: Research shows that people receiving hospice care can, depending on the life-limiting illness, live longer than similar patients who do not opt for hospice care.  Our physician participates in weekly team meetings that support patients living life to its fullest.

Myth #2: Hospice is a place.

Reality: Hospice is a philosophy of care providing nursing, emotional and spiritual care focusing on comfort and quality of life. Hospice care is most commonly delivered in patients’ homes.

Myth #3: Hospice is only for the elderly and/or people with cancer.

Reality: Hospice is for anyone with a life-limiting illness, regardless of age or diagnosis.  

Myth #4: Hospice is only for the last days.

Reality: Patients and families can receive care for six months or longer, depending on the progression of the disease.  Bereavement support is available for up to 13 months for those served by HOF.

Myth #5: Only a physician can refer a patient to hospice.

Reality: ANYONE can refer a patient to hospice ⃰.  This includes family members and friends.  Hospice staff members are available to answer questions and facilitate family discussions.

⃰(Physician certification of life-limiting prognosis required.)

 Myth #6: Patients must enroll with the hospice provider their physician recommends.

Reality: Physicians refer patients to hospice care, but patients have the right and ability to choose which hospice provider is right for them.  A patient and family can and should ‘interview’ potential providers.

 Myth #7: Hospice of the Foothills is fully funded by Medicare and other insurance.

Reality: HOF relies on the generosity of our community to provide comprehensive care and a wide range of services, and to sustain our commitment to never turn anyone away.

Talking about end-of-life care and the eventuality of death is healthy. Understanding the options available without the stress of a serious illness or injury, is key to insuring that you live well, in a way that is meaningful to you, for as long as you live.

For more information about our programs and services call 530-272-5739.

A Summer Blessing

August 30, 2016

On any given day at the Hospice of the Foothills campus, you may see 2 or 3 people slowly navigating the walkways, stopping frequently, and always looking intently at the ground. It may be puzzling to some, but the explanation is simple and quite touching. Most of the walkways and adjacent planting areas are lined with commemorative bricks engraved with personalized messages. Our ‘slow walking’ visitors are often here to find or visit their brick, and generally take time to read the tributes on some of the surrounding bricks.

From left: Joe Grande, Greg Snyder, Gil Mathew, Marilyn Streseman, Ron Keeling, Suzanne Reese, Rich Ramey, Mike Brown, Greg Gulizia, Rocco Gulizia.

From left: Joe Grande, Greg Snyder, Gil Mathew, Marilyn Streseman, Ron Keeling, Suzanne Reese, Rich Ramey, Mike Brown, Greg Gulizia, Rocco Gulizia.

The Pave the Way program started in 2008 as a Friends of Hospice fundraiser for the Hospice of the Foothills capital campaign. Over the years, the bricks have continued to be a popular commemorative program. While the majority of bricks are memorials to friends and loved ones, there are many that pay homage to special people, events, or other noteworthy occasions.

After many years of working with a Sacramento area mason who installed the bricks, Pave the Way co-chairs Suzanne Reese and Marilyn Streseman learned it was increasingly difficult for him take time away from his rapidly growing business. The time had come to find a local resource. This last June, Suzanne Reese was discussing the program needs with Joe Grande of Grande Wood Designs. When told of the challenge with the brick installation, he offered to help find a solution.

Joe Grande is a member of Twin Cities Church and belongs to a Men’s bible study group that meets every Friday morning at 6:30am. He shared the Friends of Hospice need and proposed installing the bricks as one of their community projects. Study group member, Rich Ramey, is the owner of Ramey Tile Company, so the team had the expertise to take on the job. Needless to say, the men embraced the project, seeing it as a wonderful way to express their heartfelt thanks to Hospice of the Foothills for the loving and compassionate care provided to several of their parents and loved ones.

Mike Brown and Rich Ramey set the bricks.

Mike Brown and Rich Ramey set the bricks.

Bright and early on a beautiful August morning, Joe Grande, Rich Ramey, Gil Mathew, Mike Brown, Greg Snyder, Ron Keeling, Greg Gulizia (along with his young son Rocco) arrived, making quick and joyful work of the installation. We are deeply appreciative and blessed by the kindness and generosity of this wonderful group of men. Time and again, our community members rise up and demonstrate the ‘golden spirit’ that lives in our beautiful foothills. This spirit allows Hospice of the Foothills to provide comfort and high quality end-of-life care for our patients, their families, and our community.

Hospice of the Foothills relies on the community to help support our programs and services. Please consider buying a commemorative brick or making a donation today to help bridge the growing gap between reimbursements and the actual cost of comprehensive, whole family care.

 

Transitions Palliative Care Program Provides Whole Patient Care

July 26, 2016

Each year, millions of people in the United States are diagnosed with a life-limiting illness. Unfortunately, too many of those patients will suffer needlessly from pain, nausea and other symptoms of their disease. Many times the treatment of the disease is the focus, and symptoms or side effects are not always addressed, or could be addressed better. The Transitions Palliative Care Program is a program that focuses on providing relief from symptoms related to disease progress or treatment related symptoms. This is called palliative care. The care is focused on the whole person, not just the illness. The program is dedicated to helping individuals and families, in partnership with their physician, live well with a serious, life-limiting illness.

Transitions logo TagWhat does that really mean? When a patient is admitted into the Transitions Palliative Care Program, the care team becomes the patient advocate. The team partners with the patient’s attending physician for all health care decisions. The attending physician is free to focus on treatments and curative care while the palliative care team looks after the overall quality of life for the patient and family. This may include proactive symptom management such as identifying and addressing sources of pain or other discomforts like breathing difficulties, fatigue, insomnia, and more. Knowledge and expertise is also provided by a licensed clinical social worker. The social worker can help alleviate the immense stress family members and caregivers carry by providing psychological and emotional support. They also help link family members with a large array of community programs like Meals on Wheels, support groups, and paratransit services. The social worker can also help the patient and family set life goals. Additionally, the palliative care team can provide essential education specific to the illness or disease and its expected progression. By maintaining open and constant communication about the patient’s progress, families and caregivers are better equipped to handle what comes next with both patient care and critical decision making regarding treatment or care plans. The outcome of patient and family driven goals of care can result in a reduction of unwanted hospitalizations, making patient care easier, and providing a better overall quality of life.

Do you know someone who is dealing with a life-limiting illness and needs help obtaining information and understanding of their illness and its challenges? Or perhaps is having trouble managing the activities of daily life? The Transitions Palliative Care Program may be the answer. Criterion for admission is a diagnosis of illness with the prognosis of one year or less. Admission into the program does not require the patient to cease pursuing curative care. The program services are covered by most insurance programs. Most importantly, you have access to the patient’s case manager 24 hours a day, seven days a week. When critical questions or situations arise, you are one phone call away from a highly skilled healthcare professional, an experienced problem solver, and a passionate patient advocate.

For more information about the Transitions Palliative Care Program, call 530.272.5011 today. Find out if the program is the right step for you or someone you know.

The End of Life Option Act is Now Law

June 28, 2016

by Carolynn Peterson RN, MSN, AOCN, CHPCA, Executive Director

 Californians have been debating physician assisted suicide, euthanasia, right to die, and death with dignity for well over 20 years.  In 1997, Oregon, Washington, and Vermont were the first states to approve laws that supported a patient’s right to die.  With the governor signing Assembly Bill No. 15, End of Life Option Act, hospices across the state of California are deciding how they will respond.

California Hospice and Palliative Care Association came out with a Position Statement on Right to Die in March of 2015.  The statement reiterated the fundamental hospice philosophy; hospice values life and neither hastens nor prolongs the dying process.  Hospice organizations believe that people do have a right to self-determination, to excellent pain and symptom management, and a right to refuse unwanted medical intervention, allowing death to occur naturally.  When cure is no longer possible, hospice provides the essential knowledge and skills to support the patient and their loved ones, facilitating the relief of physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering for the terminally ill. Fortunately, the End of Life Option Act recommends attending physicians provide counseling on participation in a hospice program.   Encouraging patients to experience the compassionate comfort care provided by a highly skilled multi-disciplinary hospice care team provides patients with another option before making such a monumental decision.

So, what does that mean?  The legislation does not require health care providers to carry out a patients request pursuant to the End of Life Option law. In support of the hospice mission, Hospice of the Foothills will not participate in the decision or provide the life-ending medications. But, Hospice of the Foothills will not abandon the patients and families facing such a deeply personal choice. We will provide education and support to our patients and families even if the patient chooses to end their live.  Hospice of the Foothills will be there…before and after.

There are a wide range of views and perspectives in our society surrounding the ethical issue of deliberately ending life for a person living with a terminal condition.  These should be recognized and respected.  We believe declining or withdrawing treatment is acceptable when in alignment with the informed wishes of the patient. Informed wishes of a patient start with an honest conversation with their physicians, family members, and loved ones.

Hospice believes the experience of dying is a significant part of life.  The process of dying often leads to enhanced meaning and purpose and can be a sacred experience for the patient and family.

Hospice of the Foothills provides symptom management, pain relief, education, support, and comfort for our patients and their loved ones. For more information call 530-272-5739.      

All Hospices Are NOT The Same

June 7, 2016

Did you know hospice is a philosophy of care rather than a place? It’s not uncommon for people to think that all hospices are connected, but hospices from town-to-town and state-to- state are different entities.  Some are ‘for profit’, corporate run enterprises.  Others, like Hospice of the Foothills, are nonprofit organizations with a grass roots history in the community.

In October of 2014, Consumer Reports ran an article entitled “How to Find a Good Hospice Program.” The article advises readers to be wary since more than half of U.S. hospice programs are for-profit.  It then goes on to detail what to look for in a hospice:

  • Not-for-profit status and more than 20 years of experience. (Hospice of the Foothills was founded as a nonprofit organization in 1979).
  • Hospice-certified nurses and doctors on staff available 24 hours a day. (Hospice of the Foothills’ interdisciplinary team of hospice trained nurses, social workers, spiritual counselors, hospice aides and physical therapists is led by a Medical Director who is board certified in both Family Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine).
  • Palliative-care consultants who can begin care if you’re not yet ready for hospice. (Hospice of the Foothills offers a fully staffed Transitions Program for people who have been diagnosed with a life limiting illness and has a prognosis of one year or less).
  • Ability to provide care in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. (Hospice of the Foothills serves nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Placer and Western Nevada Counties).
  • Social Workers and Chaplains. (Hospice of the Foothills’ spiritual counselors support patients and family members with any spiritual issues that might arise during this difficult time. Five medical social workers with master’s degrees provide assistance with end of life tasks, financial issues, and final arrangements).
  • Medicare approval. (Hospice of the Foothills is fully Medicare approved and certified).

At Hospice of the Foothills, our care teams are experts in providing high quality end-of-life care. Plans of care are individualized to each patient and family to ensure the needs of the whole family unit are addressed.  This may include volunteers to help with errands or provide respite time for family members.  Other things to consider are what programs and services are offered and whether they’re provided locally, such as patient and family education and bereavement support groups.  With over 37 years of experience, Hospice of the Foothills is uniquely able to draw upon the knowledge gained from serving thousands of patients and families in our community.  Hospice of the Foothills’ programs and services are all offered locally to meet the unique needs of our community’s terminally ill patients by providing continuous care and support through the patient’s death and the family’s bereavement period.

At Hospice of the Foothills we believe that every moment matters. If you have any questions or concerns about hospice care, or whether hospice is right for you or your loved one, please call us today at 530.272.5739.

Still Here and Going Strong

February 11, 2016

Hospice of the Foothills’ Board of Directors and executive leadership are committed to making sure our community has the highest quality end-of-life care now, and for many years to come. While we made the difficult decision to close our Compassionate Care Home, the 12-bed in-patient facility, our core business and mission is unchanged; caring for patients in their homes, or wherever they call home.

Since 1978, we’ve touched the lives of thousands of people.  A poignant way to convey the difference Hospice of the Foothills can make for patients and families is to share the following letter Executive Director Carolynn Peterson received from a family served by Hospice of the Foothills:

“As you may know, my mother and step-father were patients of Hospice of the Foothills recently.  I wanted to share a few thoughts with you regarding their care and express our considerable thanks to your staff.

Hospice was a word my mother and step-father originally feared. I believe they associated it with giving up, with death.  However, over the just twenty days of care for my stepfather and the five months of care for my mother, they both eventually understood that ‘hospice’ actually stands for compassion, for dignity, for comfort, and for a higher quality of life during one’s final journey.  From our initial meeting to the last moments with Mom five months later, the staff was there for them.

My stepfather was not a religious man. But in those final hours, as he held our hands, I believe he knew he was surrounded by earthly angels – the nurses and volunteers of Hospice of the Foothills.  Because of them he was able to let go of his fear and embark upon his final voyage peacefully and unafraid.  And, because of that, Mom was able to accompany him along that path within a place of warmth, comfort, and unwavering support.  As his final night fell and the soft lighting from the lamps chased the shadows from the corners, he traveled peacefully forward to places unknown without pain or fear.

Now, Mom did believe in a merciful God. She never professed to understand her lot in life, but accepted it with few questions and a love of life.  With the support of Hospice of the Foothills she maintained that toughness, that love, and that acceptance.  Your staff helped her to be herself to the end.  I was fortunate to spend the last few nights by her side, able to hold her hands, speak of our life together, smile and cry, knowing that she was in no pain – much of this I consider a gift from Hospice.

We are so grateful to have been blessed by all of the people who are Hospice of the Foothills. We can never adequately thank them for their skills, compassion, love, and tears they shared with us and our mom and dad”.

We Honor Our Veterans

January 8, 2016

Hospice of the Foothills was recently awarded the third of four stars in the National Hospice and Palliative Care Association’s ‘We Honor Vets’ program. The program is a collaboration of NHPCO, The Department of Veterans Affairs, & local hospices to recognize the unique needs of America’s Veterans and their families.  The first step in providing quality end-of-life care to our nations Veterans is to learn more about their needs and become familiar with military culture.  All wars are different and result in unique experiences, and often complications, to the Veterans who served in them.  Too many of our Veterans live with homelessness, substance abuse, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and physical injuries sustained during their service.

vol-veterans day 2015 010 crop

Hospice of the Foothills Vet-to-Vet volunteer Dick Delisser, and his therapy dog Maggie, present hospice patient and Veteran, Kenneth A. Baker, with a commemorative pin on Veteran’s day.

With about 26 million Veterans alive today, it’s important to consider the lasting affects military service may have on a person’s life. American Veterans have done everything asked of them, and at times, their service has carried an unexpected price.  For Veterans who served during war times, the affects can be vastly different depending on what war or conflict they experienced.   Similarly, there are untold stresses during peace times with tense standoffs, danger-filled humanitarian missions, and much more.   Not surprisingly, these issues often surface in profound ways during a Veterans end-of-life journey.  Take the example of a WWII Veteran who fought on the beaches of Normandy.  For many years, he was able to suppress the memories and images of that storied day.   But as his life journey was drawing to an end, his war time memories started to surface in the form of night terrors.  Unwilling to burden his family or friends with the reality of his war experience, he simply ‘soldiered’ on.  This story has many faces, many versions, and many outcomes.  As a We Honor Veterans partner, Hospice of the Foothills has the understanding and a network of resources to help Veterans dealing with unique challenges.  Pairing a patient with a volunteer from our Vet-to-Vet visitation program provides an opportunity to share stories and memories with someone with similar experiences.  By building and maintaining relationships with Veterans assistance organizations, we are able to connect family members to important, supportive services.

Hospice of the Foothills is committed to continually building the professional and organizational capacity for providing quality care to Veterans and their families. This includes developing and strengthening partnerships with the VA and other Veteran support organizations, increasing access to palliative and hospice care for Veterans in our community, and networking with other hospices around the country to share best practices.  Achieving the fourth and final star in the ‘We Honor Veterans’ program is well within our reach by continuing to provide staff and volunteer educational opportunities, community education, and maintaining organizational policies to support Veterans unique needs at the end-of-life.

  

Hospice of the Foothills Closes Inpatient Facility

December 11, 2015

Press Release:  12/11/15 

Grass Valley, CA – Hospice of the Foothills will be closing the Compassionate Care Home, a 12-bed hospice inpatient facility built with the generous donations of our community, effective January 1, 2016. Hospice of the Foothills will continue to provide all programs and services associated with patient care and family support where the patient lives; whether in their home, assisted living facility, or skilled nursing facility. “It’s been an extremely difficult decision to come to,” said Carolynn Peterson, Hospice of the Foothills’ Executive Director.  “The home has been operating at a loss for over 5 years, and we can no longer sustain the expense of operations, including around-the-clock staffing of the Compassionate Care Home.  In order to preserve the viability of our core services, which is hospice care for patients and families in their homes, it was the only decision the Board of Directors could make,” continued Peterson.  “We are extremely proud of the comfort and care we have been able to provide to the more than 500 patients and their families during the time the Compassionate Care Home has been open. I want the community to know, Hospice of the Foothills will continue to provide the same quality end-of-life care we have provided for over 36 years.”

Hospice of the Foothills will maintain ownership of the Compassionate Care Home. Negotiations are currently underway to lease the inpatient facility portion of the building to a third party.  “The home was conceptualized and built based on demographics and incoming retiree projections from 10+ years ago,” said Peterson.  “The financial crisis of 2008 changed all of that by delaying or altering retirement plans for many people.  We anticipate this area will support a hospice inpatient facility in the future, and we plan to have the Compassionate Care Home ready when it is needed,” she added.

Nonprofit hospice organizations across the country, with and without hospice inpatient facilities, have been facing similar challenges and many have been forced to cease operation. There is a significant gap between the actual cost of caring for patients and the reimbursement paid by Medicare, Medi-Cal or private insurance programs.  “Care in a hospice program is complicated,” said Peterson.  “Quality hospice care includes an interdisciplinary team of licensed healthcare professionals administering to the patient and their family’s needs. Hospice provides all medications related to the terminal diagnosis and hospital equipment necessary to care for patients’ needs and goals of care.”  She continued, “Grief support services are also offered for 13 months following the death of a loved one.  For Hospice of the Foothills, donations and gifts help bridge the growing gap between reimbursements and cost of care. Supporting Hospice of the Foothills now is the best way to ensure exemplary hospice care will be there for all of us when needed, and end-of-life issues will surely touch each and every one of us at some time or another”, she concluded.

There are many ways of offering support to Hospice of the Foothills. To make a donation online, visit the website at www.hofo.org, or call 530.272.5739 to inquire about other giving opportunities such as planned gifts or stock donations.  Inscribing a name or message on a Pave the Way Brick lining the walkways of the hospice facility, or engraving a name on a copper leaf placed on the Memorial Wall, are wonderful ways to remember a loved one as well.

Hospice of the Foothills is a 501(c) (3) non-profit community-supported healthcare organization that has provided end-of-life hospice and palliative care to more than 15,000 patients and their families in western Placer and Nevada Counties for over 36 years. Hospice of the Foothills in not affiliated with any other healthcare organization and depends on the community for support of the programs and services patients and families need and deserve.  For questions or more information about programs and services call 530-272-5739.

The End of Life Option Act is Law – What Now?

November 5, 2015
by Carolynn Peterson RN, MSN, AOCN, CHPCA, Executive Director

Californians have been debating physician assisted suicide, euthanasia, right to die, and death with dignity for well over 20 years.  In 1997, Oregon, Washington, and Vermont were the first states to approve laws that supported a patient’s right to die.  With the governor signing Assembly Bill No. 15, End of Life Option Act this past month, hospices across the state of California are deciding how they will respond.

California Hospice and Palliative Care Association came out with a Position Statement on Right to Die in March of 2015.  The statement reiterated the fundamental hospice philosophy; hospice values life and neither hastens nor prolongs the dying process.  Hospice organizations believe that people do have a right to self-determination, to excellent pain and symptom management, and a right to refuse unwanted medical intervention and to allow death to occur naturally.  When cure is no longer possible, hospice provides the essential knowledge and skill to support the patient and their loved ones and facilitate the relief of physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering for the terminally ill. Fortunately, the End of Life Option Act recommends attending physicians provide counseling on participation in a hospice program.   Encouraging patients to experience the compassionate comfort care provided by multi-disciplinary hospice care teams provides patients with another option before making such a monumental decision.

So, what does that mean?  The legislation does not require health care providers to carry out a patients request pursuant to the End of Life Option law. In support of the hospice mission, Hospice of the Foothills will not participate in the decision or be present when a patient decides to end their life. Nor will we provide the life-ending medications. But, Hospice of the Foothills will not abandon the patients and families facing such a deeply personal choice. We will continue to support our patients and families even if the patient chooses to end their live.  Although we can’t be present when a patient self-administers the medication, WE WILL be there to provide support to the patient and the family before and after.

There are a wide range of views and perspectives in our society about the ethical issue of deliberately ending life for a person living with a terminal condition.  These should be recognized and respected.  We believe declining or withdrawing treatment is acceptable when in alignment with the informed wishes of the patient. Informed wishes of a patient start with an honest conversation with their physicians, family members, and loved ones.

Hospice believes the experience of dying is a significant part of life.  The process of dying often leads to enhanced meaning and purpose and can be a sacred experience for the patient and family.  Hospice of the Foothills can provide symptom management, pain relief, education, support, and comfort for both the patients and their loved ones.

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