Tuesday, March 30, marks National Doctors’ Day, a day established to recognize physicians, their work and their contributions to our communities. At Community Hospice, we are so grateful for the physicians on our team – Dr. Lori Kuehne, Hospice Medical Director, Dr. Anne Harper, Dr. Robert Gwinn, Dr. DJ McFadden and Dr. Maria Ryhal. We want to say thank you for everything they do for our patients, the community and us!
The first Doctors’ Day was observed on March 30, 1933, in Winder, Georgia. Eudora Brown Almond, the wife of Dr. Charles B. Almond, wanted a way to honor physicians. She mailed cards to physicians and placed red carnations on deceased doctors’ graves. Almost 60 years later, President George Bush proclaimed March 30 as National Doctors’ Day.
March 30 was chosen because it was the anniversary of the first use of general anesthesia in surgery. On this date, in 1842, in Jefferson, Georgia, Dr. Crawford Long used ether for the first time to anesthetize a patient and extract a tumor from his neck without the patient feeling any pain.
Please share what our physicians mean to you in the comments below.
Community Hospice celebrates Certified Nurses Day on Friday, March 19. We are proud to have three Certified Nurse Practitioners (CNP) on our team – Lindsay Jackson, Ryann Wells and Taylor Moyer. In addition to becoming registered nurses, they have obtained a master’s degree and additional certification. This allows them to diagnose, prescribe and treat illnesses for their patients in close conjunction with the primary physicians and the rest of the hospice care team.
Our Nurse Practitioners focus on keeping our patients comfortable throughout their end-of-life process. They possess a strong sense of empathy to respect our patients’ wishes and needs and are expected to help families cope with end-of-life situations. Treatment plans are multifaceted and include physical, mental and spiritual interventions. Julie Smith, Director of Quality and Palliative Care at Community Hospice, explains, “nurse practitioners are a vital part of our palliative care program. For patients facing serious and chronic illnesses, our nurse practitioners provide the compassion and medical expertise to guide discussions on goals of care and manage symptoms as the disease progresses.”
Ryann Wells, a CNP with Community Hospice, recalls how she switched from a floor nurse to a nurse practitioner with Hospice. “When I was 18, my aunt died at the age of 40 from breast cancer. It was one of the most challenging days of my life. My grandfather died the same week, and the rest of my grandparents passed away about every three months after that. As a floor nurse, I would constantly see these patients who didn’t want to be there. The hustle of floor nursing was unfortunately not satisfying to me. I needed a deeper connection with patients. When I was doing my BSN in 2011, I called Community Hospice for a brief phone interview for a paper. I wish I could remember who I talked to, but they sold me then. In 2012 I took a PRN RN job with Community Hospice, became a nurse practitioner in 2015, and the rest is history! I really can’t see myself in any other specialty.”
At Community Hospice, our nurse practitioners are instrumental in determining a patient’s continuous need for hospice services. Because Medicare requires reassessment after a patient has been on care for six months, our nurse practitioners work hard to provide the detailed information needed to continue hospice care. During reassessments, nurse practitioners look for signs of progression of the disease and terminal illness.
Along with assessing medical conditions and managing symptoms to maintain quality of life, our nurse practitioners provide psychosocial support and advocate for their patient’s rights and wishes. “One of my biggest success stories with a recent Hospice patient was earning her trust,” remembers Taylor Moyer, one of the CNPs on staff. “This woman was independent, stoic, and she wanted to face her cancer her way. She did not want to rely on western medicine, for she preferred more natural holistic treatments. Our care team respected her wishes, boundaries, and independence. After months of caring for her, she began to open up more about her thoughts, feelings, and needs. She allowed herself to be vulnerable, which allowed us to provide the help she grew to need. She began to call us her angels, her family. She said we helped her out of some dark times and provided her with feelings of peace, safety, and comfort – feelings she claims she has never felt in her entire life. With that rapport and trust built, her last days were ultimately how she wished for them to be: surrounded by love, family, and peace. She really did go out her own way.”
Aside from the daily tasks associated with patient assessments, hospice nurse practitioners also hold the vital responsibility of knowing that their patients are approaching the end of life. “Every day is a success story,” says Lindsay Jackson, a CNP on staff. “All the little things that we do as a team add up and positively impact lives. Meeting people where they are, at their most vulnerable, is such a humbling yet rewarding experience not only for myself but also for our patients. This is such a unique career path that I am honored to be on!” Lindsay joined Community Hospice after watching her mother battle stage IV metastatic cancer. “She’s the reason why I am so passionate about palliative care. Symptom management is the foundation of what we do and is vitally important to any chronic illness, especially at the end of life.”
Our nurse practitioners have a “nurse’s heart,” genuinely caring for our patients and their families. “Hospice treats all aspects of a person,” explains Taylor. “This does not just mean treating the physical side of things, but also the considering the spiritual and psychosocial factors as well. In my entire nursing career so far, I’ve never truly appreciated how fulfilling it is just to feel “human” and enjoy the wild ride of emotions we feel and express until working in Hospice. Having these emotional connections with patients and their families allows me to share their joy, sorrow, fear, and love for the patient, which is amazing. Working as an APRN for Community Hospice is the most humbling and rewarding job.’
We are so fortunate to have these three nurse practitioners on our team. As the Medical Director of Community Hospice, Dr. Lori Kuehne, states, “Our CNPs help make our hospice team complete. Their ability to spend time getting to know our patients and each patient’s goals and situation allows our whole team to better meet each patient’s and family’s needs. Our CNPs are hardworking and kind souls. Community Hospice is much richer for their work here with us.” We appreciate the contribution and commitment Lindsay, Ryann and Taylor bring to our community.
It is generally thought that grief only happens after a loved one’s death, but grief can actually take on many forms and occur at any time. Feelings of grief can occur when a loved one begins to lose their independence, is diagnosed with a terminal illness, begins hospice care or after a loved one has passed.
When grief occurs while your loved one is still living, it is called anticipatory grief. This usually happens when someone has been diagnosed with a terminal illness or has been dealing with a chronic illness for a long time. Those who have a close relationship with the dying person or the person who is dying themselves can experience anticipatory grief. Anticipatory grief can take on many levels, including emotional, physical, social and spiritual. Experiencing anticipatory grief does not mean that grief after the loss will be easier, but it can provide opportunity for growth before the loved one’s passing. This could include finding meaning, reconciling relationships, offering forgiveness, seeking closure and saying goodbye. Just remember that grief is totally normal no matter when it begins, and everyone experiences grief differently.
Whenever your grief begins, know that it is a normal process that everyone experiences in different ways. Finding healthy ways to handle your grief will help you along your journey. Here are some healthy ways to cope with anticipatory grief.
Express your feelings with family, friends and bereavement care counselors
Take care of your physical, emotional and spiritual well-being
Spend quality time together
Stay informed – seek out additional resources and support when needed
Practice love, forgiveness and letting go
No one needs to grieve alone. Community Hospice’s support services team, including chaplains, social workers and bereavement counselors, is available to help guide patients and families throughout the end-of-life process.
We are a nation that loves Valentine’s Day. Maybe we feel a sense of loss when we take down the last of December holiday decorations and look forward to something else to celebrate. The heart-shaped chocolate boxes, red roses, and romantic dinners are nearly as nostalgic to us as Christmas trees and Santa. But if you’ve recently lost your valentine, February 14 can be a very lonely and painful day. The pain and loss you feel when you lose your life partner is magnified every time you walk into the store and see the romantic cards, flowers, and candy. How can you possibly make it through this holiday in one piece?
Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be a day of sadness and mourning. You can choose to make it a special day on which you remember your loved one and celebrate the love you shared. Death may have robbed you of your loved one, but it can never take away the relationship you had and the love you shared. This year, find a way to remember, honor, and celebrate that eternal love on Valentine’s Day.
The way you honor and celebrate your loved one is as individual as our relationships were. You can look within yourself to choose the best way you can do this. Below are some ideas to get you started, but this ritual will be yours alone. Feel free to modify any of these to fit your preferences or create your own ritual.
There are special things you can do on Valentine’s Day to celebrate the love you lost. Examples include:
Make your loved one’s favorite meal and enjoy it in their memory.
Honor your Valentine’s Day traditions. If you always went to a movie or on a special walk, go alone or go with a friend this year.
Light a special candle in their honor, and place it with a flower near your loved one’s picture.
Buy yourself a gift that you think your loved one would have bought you, or one that you’ve always wanted them to buy for you, and think about them each time you use it.
Volunteer some time at a local shelter, food bank or non-profit organization. Doing something good for others can help ease your pain.
Listen to your favorite song and look back through picture albums of your life together.
Find a peaceful place to talk to your loved one, tell them you love them and ask for their help on this special day.
If you can’t bring yourself to do any of these things, that’s okay too. You might find it helpful to talk to others who are experiencing the same loss this time of year. Reach out to your friends or family who have lost their Valentine or think about attending a support group.
Over the last few months – actually, it’s been many months – I have been quarantined many times, several times for exposure to COVID and once for actually having COVID. I have been blessed that my family and I have had mild symptoms and have so far recovered reasonably quickly. During my times in quarantine, I have had way too much time on my hands to think about life and put many puzzles together – big puzzles, small puzzles, easy and hard puzzles. Some have been challenging – trying to identify and fit pieces together that seem to make no sense and others that you know exactly where it belongs when you pick up a piece. The more pieces that are added, the clearer the picture becomes. My puzzles have been beautiful Beach Scenes, Hostess Cupcakes, Holiday Doors, Bird Houses and many more. Some have sat on my dining room table for weeks waiting for me to finish them, and others for only days. One I actually put back in the box and never finished because it seemed impossible – I will come back to that one eventually. After I finish, I usually let them sit for a few days to admire my efforts. I have a sense of accomplishment and the satisfaction that I overcame what often seemed like an impossible challenge.
I know that many of you have also been confined to your homes – often away from loved ones and with a very little sense of purpose. Many of you who routinely volunteer with us have shared that you miss interacting with our patients and staff – if you are like me, and I guess that many of you are – you need that human interaction. We were all created for relationships – whether with family, friends, pets or with our Creator. And during this time, it has been difficult for us to maintain those relationships. Just like puzzles – relationships take effort and time – some very little and some a whole lot of time. Sometimes we have to step away and come back to them for a fresh perspective and understanding.
Each person, pet or spiritual being is a piece of our puzzle called life. They make us who we are and give us a reason to live. I remember the one new puzzle I put together had one missing piece – it was so frustrating and disappointing not to see it complete even though it was just one piece. As I think about this and the puzzle that we call Hospice, I realize that some pieces are missing in Hospice right now. And the biggest one is our volunteers! You have all been a big part of who we are and how we function, and we miss the piece. When this pandemic is all over, putting those pieces back together will take time, understanding and patience. But oh, the satisfaction that will come when you all are back, and a part of the puzzle called Hospice. We will have to celebrate – and if I have anything to say about it, there will be food and desserts! I am looking forward to that day!
Out with the old and in with the new. A new year is a great time to go through all of the medications and give a thorough look at the stock in your medicine cabinet.
Keep a list of all of the medications used regularly and others kept on hand for less frequent use. Maintaining inventory is essential information when you visit the doctor. A doctor needs to know everything that is used daily or from time to time. It will come in handy when the doctor is prescribing medications. Also, check with your doctor on any herbal supplements to see if they are necessary and safe to continue use.
As you go through your medicine cabinet, check the expiration dates. Take stock of regularly used over-the-counter medication. If you have some medication that you tried but hated because of how it made you feel, there is no reason to keep it. Check to see if pills have been stored improperly. If it is growing mold or mildew, toss it out. Medications that say “keep refrigerated” and sit in a warm cupboard are also a cause for alarm.
To properly dispose of medications, check to see if there is a medication take-back program in your area. If not, the FDA has guidelines on safely disposing of medications. Empty the pills into something people won’t want to touch, such as a plastic bag filled with dirt or kitty litter. Seal the bag and toss it in the trash can. Before recycling prescription pill bottles, remove or blackout identifying information on the package.
Make sure to monitor the medicine cabinet properly. Keep it locked and out of reach so that small children cannot find their way in or others cannot seek out medicine for abuse purposes.
When stocking your medicine cabinet, it is essential to have the basics on hand in case of a headache or sudden case of allergies. Remember to store medications in their original packaging so that you can reference usage and check expiration dates.
Your prescription medications
Pain and fever relievers, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen or aspirin
Allergy medications, including nondrowsy varieties
Calamine lotion, an antihistamine cream or spray or hydrocortisone for itchy skin or allergic reactions
Ointments for cuts and burns, such as antibiotic cream, hydrocortisone cream and aloe vera gel
Decongestants and cough drops for cold or flu symptoms
Activated charcoal for accidental poisoning
Medicine for an upset stomach, like calcium carbonate for heartburn or antacids for indigestion
Not only are medications necessary, but it is also essential to keep medical supplies on hand.
Adhesive bandages, gauze bandages
Cotton balls and Q-tips
Alcohol and hydrogen peroxide
Soap and disinfectant
Safety pins and scissors
Medical exam gloves
Eyeglass repair kit or contact lens cleaner (if relevant)
Everyday dental basics, such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash and floss
Grief is hard enough to live with each day, but it can be daunting to face a whole new year lying ahead of us. We may be worried and scared of what the new year might bring and whether we can handle any more challenges. Our recent experience of loneliness and emptiness may make us hesitant to face a new year. It’s difficult enough to wake in the morning unsure of what the day will bring; what will we do with an entire year?
Our longing for the past can make us resistant to accepting the new year. We miss the days when we felt comfortable, safe and secure. We yearn for the person we lost and the past we shared. We think about how it was and wish we were back there. Who knows what the future will hold? Below are some grief recovery resolutions to help the healing process as a new year begins.
• Remember to live in the present. The past is gone; the future is uncertain. All you have is today and you will make the most of it. • Go easy on yourself. And remember that every day is a healing day. • Do the best you can for your own good. Do the best you can for the good of others. • Engage in one hobby or activity that makes me feel good. • Count your blessings, remembering that your cup is always half full and never half empty. • Avoid setting unreasonable, perfectionist goals for yourself. • Nurture your spirit through prayer, meditation, worship and inspirational readings. • Take care of yourself by eating nutritious, balanced meals and by engaging in physical exercise. • Believe that “help” is not a four-letter word; that asking for assistance with various issues is both mature and wise. Seek additional grief support if needed. • Choose to respond positively and creatively to problems which come your way. • Do not indulge in guilt and regrets because they don’t change anything. • Maintain hope believing that the light always dispels the deepest darkness. Trust that the pain will pass and peace will come. • Speak your loved one’s name and plan opportunities for remembrance. • Forgive others for being human and fallible. • Find role models to inspire you on my journey through bereavement. • Be kind, compassionate and generous toward others. • Practice patience with yourself because healing and recovery take time.
Written by Brian Flood, Chaplain at Community Hospice
As we bid farewell to 2020, we know that this year has been filled with many trials and much separation. 2020 will always be a year that we will remember for many reasons, both good and bad. Today we are filled with excitement with all that we look forward to in 2021. My prayer for each of you is a year filled with blessings and times of coming together again with family and friends. I am reminded of this prayer that I recently read:
Lord, You make all things new
You bring hope alive in our hearts
And cause our Spirits to be born again.
Thank you for this new year
For all the potential it holds.
Come and kindle in us a mighty flame
So that in our time, many will see the wonders of God
And live forever to praise Your glorious name.
This year of 2020 has presented many types of problems and drastic changes to our way of living and the lifestyles we lead. The biggest challenge has been for those with loved ones that are in health care facilities. Visits made through a window or a phone call has become the new norm. As we are in the Christmas season, when we are usually gathered together with loved ones celebrating the birth of Jesus, again there is a great challenge that presents itself, the COVID-19 restrictions. Hope, Peace, Joy and Love are the format for the Christmas season. To overcome the COVID limitations, families should shower their loved ones with cards and meaningful gifts, showing that those in facilities are not alone. Even if it means talking to them through a window or on the phone, their family members are with them. Give those in isolation something to physically touch and hold on to as Christmas comes for them this year. Instead of slippers, consider giving an old ornament that has been a part of your family’s Christmas for years or frame a family photo to wish a Merry Christmas. Anything you can do to help your loved ones know that they are loved more than ever and not alone will be a wonderful Christmas gift. Blessings and Merry Christmas to Everyone.
Loss during the holiday season can be tough on children. Certain times of the year, especially holidays, can trigger an emotional reaction that reminds your child of the loss. Instead of joyous holiday fun, the festive spirit of the season can be marred by memories of the deceased loved one. Sadness and grief become part of the family tradition. Here are suggestions on ways to help your child cope when they are reminded of a loss. These focus on remembering and celebrating the loved one instead of trying to forget.
Chat: Talk to your child about their loved one, and be specific about your loved one’s favorite holiday activities and cherished memories. Keep the communication lines open by spending one-to-one time with your grieving child.
Play: Let your child know that it is necessary to take a break from grieving. Laughing and joking around is essential, as well as playing together and showing that you can take a break from grief, too.
Create: Allow them to process their feelings through dance, music and art.
Give keepsake memories: Give your child a small memento that belonged to the deceased that he/she can keep, such as a keychain, photo, locket or a picture. If possible, let the child choose the keepsake.
Plan: Let children help make decisions about holiday plans. They may feel they have more control over the situation when they are included in the planning process. Change is okay.
Be free to express yourself: Don’t feel like you have to be composed all of the time. It is okay to show your child your tears and feel your pain. Ask for a hug on rough days. Sit together and share memories.
Help with preparation: Let children help plan and prepare the meal. A lot of conversation happens in the kitchen, so use it to talk about the deceased.
Decorate: If you don’t feel like going all out with decking the halls, have a conversation with your children about how, what or where they would like to decorate, if at all. Feel free to simplify the decorations – maybe find some small space to decorate, or buy a new tree or ornament and allow the child to pick it out. Or let your child know that it’s okay not to decorate at all if they would prefer. It will provide a sense of control and may open up the discussion of feelings and memories.
Build new traditions. Look into creating new traditions while keeping some of the old ones. Children look forward to traditions and predictability. It is the fear of losing cherished holiday traditions that worry grieving children. Some of the practices will stay, so it’s essential to recognize and allow the creation of new ones.
For many grieving children, hope for the future is possible by remembering the past. With our love and attention, kids can learn to identify and understand their grief to grow and become emotionally healthy adults. They can bring these family traditions to their own families for years to come.