Thursday, April 17, 2014

Birthday Parties, Hospice, and You

By Linda Donavan
Grief Support Volunteer
Hospice of Santa Cruz County

So many of us like to have birthday parties and celebrate the occasion with friends and family. However, at some point in our lives we may even no longer want, need, – or have room for – gifts. After all, how many pairs of slippers can anyone wear at one time? So, when my late husband’s mother, Elinor, was getting ready to turn 90, she made a great decision. She knew how much Hospice of Santa Cruz County helped her son, Paul, and our family with compassionate care and support during his illness. That’s why she asked people to donate to Hospice of Santa Cruz in his memory instead of giving her presents at her birthday party.

The party was a wonderful occasion, where family and friends got together to share how much we love and appreciate Elinor and how grateful we are to have her in our lives. Her idea of having people contribute to hospice in Paul’s memory made the celebration even better because we knew that the money was going to such a great cause. Donations to hospice help pay for grief support services, transitional care for seriously ill people not ready for hospice, end-of-life and caregiver education, and many other programs and services that support our community.  Just knowing that people at the party were helping hospice gave us another chance to honor Paul and feel like he was still there with us in spirit at this wonderful event.

So, the next time you’re planning a birthday party, think about how you can make a difference. If you’d like your guests to make donation in the memory of a loved one instead of receiving gifts, just add this information to the invitation:

Please make a contribution to Hospice of Santa Cruz County in the memory of (add the person’s name) in lieu of gifts. You can make the contribution online at .  Or, mail a check to Hospice of Santa Cruz County, 940 Disc Drive, Scotts Valley, CA, 95066. In the note section of the check be sure to write “in memory of (add the person’s name).

You probably know that old expression “you can’t have your cake and eat it, too,” which means you can’t have the best of both worlds.  I think you can. You can have a party, eat the cake, and make a difference by having your guests donate to hospice.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Five Excuses for Not Doing an Advance Healthcare Directive: Attend a Free Session to Help You Make Your Wishes Known!

Completing an Advance Healthcare Directive doesn’t take much effort but many people have excuses for not completing or updating theirs. Do any of these reasons sound familiar?

1. My pen ran out of ink
2. I plan to live a long time
3. My relatives will figure it all out
4. I’m too busy
5. I don’t like talking about this subject or even thinking about it

If you haven’t completed a directive, you’re not alone. According to a study conducted in late 2011 by the California Healthcare Foundation, while 82% of Californians say it’s important to have end of life care wishes in writing, only 23% say they have done so.  An Advance Healthcare Directive is a very simple form that can be completed quickly and it gives you a chance to make your wishes known.  This way your loved ones don’t have guess about how to handle tough decisions related to your health. You get the peace of mind that they are following your guidance and they don’t have to worry whether they’ve made the right decisions.

We think this is so important that we’re offering free, 30-minute Advance Healthcare Planning Sessions throughout the county in honor of National Healthcare Decisions Day (April 16). We will assist you in updating or completing your Advance Healthcare Directive.

Santa Cruz
Monday, April 14, 2 - 4  p.m. – Dominican Oaks, Oaks Room, 4300 Paul Sweet Road, Santa Cruz
Tuesday, April 15, 1 - 3 p.m. – Garfield Park Village, Scott Hall, 721 Bay Street, Santa Cruz

Wednesday, April 16, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. Senior Circle Room, Watsonville Community Hospital

Scotts Valley
Friday, April 18, 1 - 3 p.m. – Scotts Valley Senior Center, 370 Kings Road, Scotts Valley

Saturday, April 19, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. – Aptos Library, 7695 Soquel Drive, Aptos

Call ahead to reserve your spot: 831.430.3078.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Little Hands with a Big Heart

HSCC Neeblet Little Hands with a Big Heart
Good things certainly do come in small packages and that is true of little Nitzana Cohen.

Nitzana (calls herself Neeblet), is a four year old Santa Cruz resident that has the heart and compassion of someone ten times her age.  Recently Nitzana came to Hospice of Santa Cruz County’s Mary and Richard Solari Center for Compassionate Care in Scotts Valley with a personal donation of $13.10 to help comfort hospice patients. Her donation was accompanied by a small selection of toiletries that she personally purchased for a patient in need of comfort and love.

Nitzana’s “giving passion” was instilled in her and her siblings by parents Myriam and Mike Cohen.  Mike Cohen told us that during the year, his three daughters Hadassah, Nitzana and Ziva contribute money that is earned, found or gifted to them as a way to give back to the community.  Mom, Myriam tells us that the discussion of who the recipients will be at the end of the year is a very serious and involved process.  The girls are educated about the different non-profit organizations that offer services that better the community such as feeding the hungry, caring for the dying, and housing stray animals.

The Cohens believe that pre-school children have much time to learn the art of giving back to the community and they have found that it is difficult to find activities that pre-school children can participate in to encourage the principle of giving.  The Cohens have created opportunities for the girls to experience the joy of giving by reaching out to neighbors in need and offering time to Alzheimer patients that enjoy a conversation with a loving child. Family field trips are also encouraged to the local animal shelter where the girls bring clean blankets for the animals.

Little Nitzana was probably expecting to meet a patient when she visited our administrative offices not realizing we care for patients in their homes and residential facilities.  When the Hospice receptionist witnessed Nitzana’s giving heart, she and her family were invited to view a memorial table that honors patients who have passed.  As the family looked at the newspaper clippings and memorial candles honoring loved ones, Nitzana’s older sister, Hadassah, recognized a member of the community who had died and then it all became real and personal to the girls. In that moment little Nitzana’s special donation became a very meaningful and satisfying experience for a child with a big heart.

Thank you Cohen family for reminding us of the importance and joy of giving back! And thank you Nitzana for a very big life lesson taught by a very little girl!    

Monday, March 3, 2014

Remembering Bobbie Bihn

Longtime and beloved Hospice of Santa Cruz County volunteer, Bobbie Bihn died on February 28, 2014. In her 34 years of volunteer service, Bobbie remained a calm, gentle presence and support for grieving community members and hospice families.

We had many opportunities to honor Bobbie for her compassionate work.  A few years ago, we sat down with her and she shared how she came to hospice volunteering.  Here is her story of a life well lived:

Bobbie’s interest in hospice began when she attended the Death and Dying class at Cabrillo College in the late 1970’s. Bobbie was drawn in when one of her classmates told the story of how her grandmother died at home with the support of hospice. She had never heard of hospice before, but felt the need to learn more. So in 1980, when Hospice of Santa Cruz County was just two years old, Bobbie signed up as a volunteer and began answering the phones. “People would call and it was an honor to help them,” Bobbie remembers. Four years later, she attended the first grief support training offered by Hospice and found her niche.

Bobbie facilitated a weekly drop-in grief support group open to anyone in our community who has experience the loss of a loved one. “As a facilitator of the group, the most important thing I do is give participants space. It’s always fascinating to me how people interact with each other. There’s a thread that runs through each of us – a common bond that has brought people together. I don’t try to make them feel better – I can’t. I can only create the space where they can share their grief and know that others understand,” Bobbie says.

Many come reluctantly, Bobbie shares. “But, at the end of the session, they see they are with others who understand, and I invite them to join one of the upcoming 8-week groups. Almost all of them join a group. And, the healing begins.”

Bobbie shared that she felt privileged to be a part of the healing journey and acknowledged how much her volunteering had enriched her own life. “I am always happy to go… each week….I always look forward to it.”

Bobbie Bihn will be remembered for the many gifts of kindness, humor, and compassion that she shared with our community.  She lived from her heart and we all were the recipients of that loving kindness. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The 2nd Annual Hike-Bike for Hospice of Santa Cruz County is Coming this Summer!

Save the Date and Pre-register for the 2nd Annual Hike-Bike for Hospice of Santa Cruz County on Saturday, August 23rd, 2014 at Roaring Camp & Henry Cowell Big Trees State Park.

Join us for this special community family event takes time to remember our loved ones.  The memorial Hike-Bike through Henry Cowell Big Trees State Park is a perfect way to honor the path that every life takes. Enjoy, a full day of family activities at Roaring Camp including  an outdoor hike or bike through the redwoods, great food, fun, music and games for all ages!

Based on the great success and positive feedback from our first year Hike-Bike attendees, we are taking this event to a new level of family fun at Roaring Camp Railroads and Henry Cowell Big Trees State Park!  Save the date and plan to join us from 9am-2pm, as Hike-Bike will include the following family fun and good eats:

  • A registration hot breakfast you can take on your hike or bike.
  • Scenic Hike or Bike to honor your loved one through the majestic Henry Cowell Redwoods (appropriate for all ages and all levels of activity – choose trails from 2 miles to 7 miles)
  • Interactive booths including the “Tribute to a Loved One” tent and our “Friends of Hospice” Oktoberfest booth.
  • A Roaring Camp BBQ lunch with all the fixings for adults and children (includes beverages and dessert). 
  • Face Painting and Bounce House for the Kids.
  • Toe tapping, live musicians during lunch.
  • Hosted picnic games including tug of war, water balloon toss, bingo, horseshoes, volleyball, softball, gold panning and more!
  • Pre-paid parking at Roaring Camp will also be available to the first 65 cars to show for the event.

Pre-Register now and save $10 per person!  The pre-registration fee of $25 per person gets you all the fun listed above.  To receive your pre-registration discount call Adrienne Meier at 831 430-3086 (Pre-registration is limited to the first 100 folks so call early).

Reminder: Don’t forget to start collecting Hike- Bike pledges from friends, family and co-workers since $50 worth of pledges gets you a 2014 Hike-Bike T-shirt!

All funds raised from Hike-Bike benefit Hospice of Santa Cruz County programs to ensure compassionate hospice care for our loved ones and support grieving families in the community. The funds directly support charity hospice care for uninsured and homeless community members; the We Honor Veterans program; the Pet Companion Program (certified companion dogs and their owners visit our patients); and grief support services for adults and children including a weekend camp that supports grieving children and teens.

Help us raise over $25,000 this year!

Watch a slideshow of last year's Hike-Bike below:

Community support makes these programs possible.  Thank you!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

WWII Nurse Warmed with a Quilt of Comfort and Love

Recently Hospice of Santa Cruz County’s social worker Nina Garcia and nurse Heather Richardson had the honor of presenting a former World War II nurse with a quilt of comfort and love. “She was smiling from ear to ear and proud (although a little shy) to show it off to her table mates.  She looks so happy and pretty in pink.” shared Richardson.

Hinemoa "Jo" Ruskin is 93 yrs old and lives at Oak Tree Villa. She was a nurse in the Navy during WWII where she served both in France and the United States working at Field Hospital EVAC 106.

Jo’s son said her unit landed at Utah Beach one month after D-Day and followed the front across France and Germany.

When Jo was asked to describe her experiences she said she was in the "infantry that won the war" and was quite proud. " It was very cold and snowy, and I bunked with 5 other women in the same tent. The work was very rewarding, but very, very challenging, the experiences varied widely and there were too many."

Nina said, “She was very excited, and quite deserving!  It is extremely difficult for her to speak, so the information she shared is very precious.”
The quilt was lovingly crafted by members of The Parajo Valley Quilters Association.  The PVQA have made quilts for a variety of non-profit fundraisers for many years and have more than 400 members. They have brought joy and comfort to hundreds of Santa Cruz County residents as a result of their talents and generosity.

Nurse Heather Richardson said, “I think it [the quilt] made her day!” 

Thank you to all who collaborated on creating this loving quilt and HSCC staff who presented it to Jo, it warms our hearts. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Hospice and Food?

Yes, despite what you may be thinking, they do go together in the most glorious way!  A table full of good friends enjoying dinner, celebrating her birthday and supporting Hospice all at once is how Susan Seaburg celebrated her birthday last January.

Dining for Hospice of Santa Cruz County at Bittersweet Bistro fell right in the middle of Susan’s birthday week.  Often, she chooses to go out to eat for her birthday, so she decided to combine the two.  “I thought it would be fun to invite friends, celebrate my birthday and 1/3 of our proceeds went to Hospice.  I call it a 2 for 1!”
When inviting her friends, Susan included in the information that Bittersweet was donating a portion of their dinner to benefit Hospice. “We had birthday balloons on my chair and there was another table with a bunch of balloons – a girl with a birthday crown clearly enjoying her birthday too, we took pictures together“.
Susan and her partner are Legacy Circle Members. Legacy giving is about making a difference through a planned charitable gift.  “We’re members because when someone is nearing the end of their life, most of us have never gone through that.  It’s just so wonderful to know that Hospice will be there to help those of us who are still around to get through the process and help the person who is at the end of their life to make it as painless as possible.”

They are also Hospice Angels, ensuring that the quality, compassionate care provided by Hospice of Santa Cruz County reaches all who are in need of our support.  “People see this experience as being around the dying person only.  We also need to look at it as what Hospice does for the people left behind.  Having experienced that in losing parents, we want to continue to support Hospice so people have the support they need.”

This year marks the 7th year for this special Dining for Hospice event and it is expected to bring the total raised since 2007 to the $10,000 mark.  Susan shared, “We had a wonderful dinner, the food was fabulous - made all the more joyous by the fact we were celebrating my birthday, hanging out with friends and doing something that is having a positive influence on the community.  I urge others to do the same.  The 2 for 1 makes you feel good and it’s helping everybody!”

We hope you’ll join us for Dining for Hospice at Bittersweet Bistro on January 28th.  Call (831) 662-9799 and mention you're dining for Hospice of Santa Cruz County when making your reservation and 1/3 of your dinner bill will be donated to support our community programs.

For more information on making a difference by becoming a Hospice Angel or Legacy Donor, visit our website at