Friday, July 18, 2014

Women's 18 Holers Tee Up a Win for Hospice!

July 15th, 2014 - Seascape Golf Club in Aptos was the site for the annual Seascape Women’s Golf Club Tournament which benefits Hospice of Santa Cruz County.

The Seascape Women’s Golf Club's Hospice tournament committee did an outstanding job of bringing in the golfers and raffle prizes which translated into a new donation record-high to Hospice of Santa Cruz County –  $7,000 was raised for Hospice’s many community programs by this powerhouse committee of women.

From left to right: Cindy Baker, Carolyn Post, Wendy LaRocca, Brenda Holquin and Ginger Ramsey

Over 75 golfers enjoyed the annual festivities which included a healthy dose of competitive golf, prizes for the closest to the hole and of course dozens of wonderful raffle gift baskets, wines and gift certificates that were donated by generous local businesses. 

This tournament brings in local golfers as well as folks from out-of-state including residents from New York and Wendy LaRocca’s family from Arizona. Wendy’s grandchildren always look forward to visiting grandma to help with the preparations for the tournament, as well as distributing raffle prizes to the winners on the day of the event!

Thank you Seascape Women’s Golf Club and the awesome golf tournament committee.  Your dedication and commitment year after year supports the many essential community programs that Hospice of Santa Cruz County provides to patients and families.  Your exceptional team work and heartfelt generosity is much appreciated by us all at Hospice of Santa Cruz County.

For more information about Seascape Golf Club membership, contact General Manager, Gary Nelson at (831) 688-3213 or visit or their Facebook Page.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Étoiles de Confort (Stars of Comfort) Quilt

“Étoiles de Confort”
“Stars of Comfort” Quilt
A fundraising raffle to help support Hospice of Santa Cruz County’s
We Honor Veterans Program

The Pajaro Valley Quilt Association (PVQA) has generously donated to Hospice of Santa Cruz County an exquisite quilt entitled Etoiles de Confort (Stars of Comfort). This priceless quilt will be raffled to help raise needed funds to support our Hospice of Santa Cruz County’s We Honor Veterans program.

This custom queen sized quilt, designed by Betty Whitman, features a stunning collection of cotton, French provincial fabrics which profile 38 machined-pieced stars (each made by a member of PVQA).  The quilted stars, featuring popular French-country colors of blue, red and yellow, are set on a delicate off-white print which serves as the backdrop for the dramatic star medallion created by Kristie Shulman.

The name of the quilt Etoiles de Confort (Stars of Comfort) has three meanings:

Stars of Comfort honors our Veterans.  Men and women of the armed forces are true shining stars. Without their service we would not have the comfort of home and country that we love and enjoy!

Stars of Comfort honors those who comfort the dying.  All family members, caregivers truly are the Stars of Comfort represented in the quilt.  Also, hospice care team of nurses, physicians, hospice aids, chaplains, social workers and volunteers are Stars of Comfort to those living and dying in our community every day.

Stars of Comfort honors the dedicated quilters from the Pajaro Valley Quilt Association. Their passion and love for our community is represented by every piece of fabric carefully stitched into this mosaic of beauty! This breathtaking quilt is a priceless treasure that will be displayed at multiple Hospice of Santa Cruz County events from June 1st through December 7th.  The winning ticket for the quilt will be drawn at Hospice of Santa Cruz County’s annual Tree of Lights event on December 7, 2014.

A limit of 250 tickets will be raffled for this quilt.  Tickets are $20 each.
To purchase tickets contact:
Adrienne Meier
Associate Development Director
Hospice of Santa Cruz County
831 430-3086

Monday, June 16, 2014

Caroline Chambers, Clinical Practice Education Coordinator - 7 Year Anniversary

By Joanne Guzman
Online Marketing Specialist

As we celebrate Caroline’s 7 years with Hospice of Santa Cruz County, I sat down with her to ask a few questions about her experience with hospice care and nursing.

What brought you into nursing?

I was studying studio art and ended up in the hospital. Like many people, I received a range of quality of care.  It made such a difference when I received good care- it helped me to heal faster!  I remember one night when a nurse came in to take my vital signs.  The room was dark and quiet.  I can still remember what her hands looked like and how she cared for me.  I had a realization that I wanted to be her!

How did you land at HSCC?

There are many challenges in healthcare related to the patient experience.  I wanted to find a nursing job that felt like right livelihood.  As a massage therapist, I am trained in an approach to care called the Client Centered Philosophy.  This philosophy holds that the client, not the clinician, is the healer and that the clinician is a facilitator of that healing process.  This dovetails perfectly with the patient and family centered philosophy at hospice.

When I walked into our hospice and ran into two familiar faces - Radha, who I knew from Mount Madonna Center, and Judy, who I knew from Twin Lakes College of the Healing Arts, I knew it was the right place to be.

Now that I work in Clinical Education, people often ask if I miss the patient contact.  My reply is that I love working with the staff here at hospice.  Working with people who are so good at what they do and care so much about excellence elevates us all.  I’ve learned so much from the people I work with- how to do my job and how to be a good human being.

What gives you the greatest satisfaction in your work?

We have a huge impact on people, because we meet them in a crucial time in their lives.  When working out in the field, my role was to normalize the dying experience and help people to be present with what was happening- the beauty and the pain.  In my current role, I enjoy the problem solving and facilitating growth. Sometimes I get to support new staff as transition from a feelings of overwhelm to a place of “I’ve got it!”  I like to collaborate. That’s what is so great about the hospice model- we are actually mandated to work as a team!

What is unique about your job?

I see myself as a bridge between field clinicians and leadership.  I’ve been in the field and can understand the challenges there.  Working with leadership, I get insight into why we have to do some of the things we are being asked to do.  I feel I have a responsibility to support understanding and collaboration.  Yes, we have regulations we have to follow, and we have people we need to care for...let's problem solve.

What does hospice care mean to you?

For me, it is about recognizing that dying is part of a continuum.  We walk side by side with people as they transition.  We help people get through it.  Ram Dass does a teaching about people and their roles in life.  He describes how, when someone is dying, the roles fall away and we just become beings sharing an experience together.   This inspires my hospice work.

Normalizing the duality of feelings people may experience, such as “I don’t want Mom to die” and “I wish it was over” is important.  Validating what they feel and their unconscious competence as caregivers is a gift.  It is an honor to serve in this way.

Final thoughts?

A good death is possible.  Thank you for letting me serve.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Cooking Through Grief

The kitchen has always been a symbol of comfort and community.  It is a true gathering place for families and friends.  A place to share, refresh, be fed and nurtured.  This culinary culture of support and community was abundantly apparent at Hospice of Santa Cruz County’s first Cooking through Grief group. This unique cooking experience took place on April 24th and May 8th in the kitchen of Resurrection Church’s Markey Hall in Aptos.

This intimate cooking and grief support group of 6 enjoyed the company of each other while picking up new cooking tips and creating new recipes. They also enjoyed the delicious fruits of their labor around a beautifully set table. Heartfelt sharing on the challenges of eating and cooking alone after a partner dies was truly understood by compassionate and understanding ears.  Authentic smiles and laughter were shared between the participants, as well as a few tears, reminding us that grief has a place in our everyday lives, even at the kitchen table around good food, compassionate friends and a supportive hospice community (HSCC facilitators included Shirley Sapena and Cheri Bianchini. Cooking instruction by Adrienne Meier).


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Fairways for Kids 2014

Our Friends of Hospice did it again with another amazing golf tournament which benefits Hospice of Santa Cruz County’s grief support programs for children and teens. The tournament also supports our first inaugural Camp Erin©.   Camp Erin is a free, weekend long grief support camp that is designed to help children and teenagers who have experienced the death of someone close to them.  Through traditional, fun camp activities, grief support activities, and interactions with other children and adults, campers learn that they are not alone in their grief.

Besides Fairways for Kids being a fantastic fundraiser, golfing event and dinner, the Friends of Hospice also put together one of the best silent and live auctions in town!  An extensive selection of restaurant gift certificates, culinary baskets and sports tickets were just a sampling of the wide variety of items for auction.

We owe the Friends of Hospice a great deal of gratitude for their long dedicated hours of planning, toting, transporting, decorating, arrainging and hosting one of the most popular and enjoyable fundraisers in the county.

Hats off to Ginny Clark and Kitty Steffen as the chair and co-chair of this not-to-miss event.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Why I Became a Pet Companion Dog for Hospice

By Finley
(as told to Linda Donovan)

Finley with owner Sue Murphy

Woof.  I’m Finley and I’d like to discuss what some people might refer to as a “pet project.” That’s right. I’m a pet companion for Hospice of Santa Cruz County and I visit with hospice patients and help to comfort them. If they are tired, I’ll sit quietly next to them and gently offer support. I try to bring a smile to their faces and make a real effort to wag my tail to show appreciation. I’d like to share with you some of the reasons why I chose this occupation. First, let me tell you a little about my history.

Before I became a pet companion for Hospice of Santa Cruz County, my life was so routine. I slept about 16 hours a day, took a short walk here and there, watched TV, and ate whenever food was placed in my bowl. And I made sure to bark to announce the arrival of visitors to my house. But I wanted much more than that. I wanted the excitement and challenge of making a doggone difference in this world. My owner Sue, is a hospice volunteer visitor and she signed me up to be a hospice pet companion. I had to undergo a lot of training – and believe me, this took time, and a lot of work before I got certified. But, hey, it was worth the effort.

I could bark on forever about what this job means to me, but it’s more important to focus on what I bring to hospice patients and their families. They look forward to my visits. After all, I’m cute and really friendly. Of course, not all hospice patients are dog people.  But for those who are, I really enjoy visiting and accepting hugs and petting.  If I can bring a smile to a patient’s face, my work is successful!

If you’d like to learn more about the pet companion program, or if you’d like to be a pet companion, contact Radha or Judy in our volunteer department at (831) 430-3000 and they can share details about becoming a certified pet companion.

And, on behalf of all pets everywhere I encourage you to hug your pet today…it makes everyone feel good!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

American Red Cross Santa Cruz County Medical Heroes

On Wednesday, May 14th the American Red Cross hosted their annual community heroes breakfast.  Dr. Vanessa Little, Emmi Schambeck, R.N. and Tree Dunbar, R.N. were chosen to be honored as the medical heroes of Santa Cruz County.

Dr. Vanessa Little
As Chief Medical Director at Hospice of Santa Cruz County, Dr. Vanessa Little is overseeing the medical care of 191 patients and their families today.  She leads a team that helps her to perform this important task – a cadre of physicians, nurses, social workers, chaplains, hospice aides and volunteers work together in an interdisciplinary team approach to ensure that individuals facing their final months, days and hours can live in comfort and with dignity.  What makes Dr. Little a genuine hero is her fierce commitment to truth, for it is in having difficult conversations with patients and families that Dr. Little often witnesses profound healing.

Many physicians decide to go into hospice and end-of-life medicine later in her careers, but Dr. Little had a feel for what hospice care could be like at an early age.  “Growing up in my home was pretty interesting,” shares Dr. Little.  “My father was a physician so we grew up hearing conversations about medical situations.  My mother rehabilitated animals so it wasn’t uncommon to have wildlife hospice care happening right in our kitchen.  My mother taught me about the importance of allowing a peaceful and dignified death to happen.”

It was during Dr. Little’s residency at Brown University that she realized her desire to study and practice hospice and palliative care medicine.  She recalls a particular patient who was actively dying and remembers the moment that she spoke with his family.  “The easiest thing to do was to not tell them what I knew from a medical standpoint,” she shares. But she mustered the courage and told the patient’s family that she thought he would die that night.  And, the patient did die that night.  “I was scared – scared of being wrong, scared of making people sad, but I realized the importance of facing those fears,” she describes.  “The truth is too important and you don’t want a patient and family to miss the opportunity to be with that truth and to say goodbye”.

When asked what she loves about working in hospice, Dr. Little mentions the interdisciplinary team that cares for the patients and their family.  “I am one spoke on the wheel of this team,” she shares.  Each day, Dr. Little collaborates with the Hospice of Santa Cruz County physicians, nurses, social workers, chaplains, aides and community medical partners who are caring for the hospice patients and their families.  “A lot of my ideas are around medications and how to make our patients comfortable,” she explains.  And while Dr. Little recognizes that physical comfort is an important piece, she also acknowledges the importance of finding emotional and spiritual reassurance.  The hospice team works together to address these issues that patients and their families are facing.

Dr. Little reflects on the unexpected gift that serious illness can be.  “Illness and death can bring out the best in people,” she shares.  “It demands authenticity.  For me, that authenticity, that truth feeds me.  It’s an honor to be part of people’s lives during this once-in-a-lifetime experience.” Dr. Little also thrives on finding the right solution for a patient and family so they can live in comfort and with dignity.  “It is not a recipe,” she explains.  “We are constantly asking ‘what does this patient, at this time, in this environment, with these caregivers, and with this disease process need?’  People are unique and we do our best to make sure their unique needs are met throughout their time in hospice care”.

We recognize Dr. Little’s medical expertise and the gift of presence, mindfulness and compassion that she brings to hospice staff, physician colleagues, community partners, and the patients and families we serve.  Dr. Vanessa Little is truly a hero and gift to our community.

Dr. Vanessa Little, from left, and nurses Tree Dunbar and Emmi Shambeck.  (Kevin Johnson -- Santa Cruz Sentinel)
Tree Dunbar, R.N. and Emmi Schambeck, R.N.
Between the two of them, Hospice of Santa Cruz County nurses Tree Dunbar and Emmi Schambeck have 57 years of experience in caring for the seriously ill and dying in our community.  When asked about what inspires her the most, Emmi answers simply, “Every day inspires me.”  Tree is inspired by the universality of the experience.  Working with people who are dying, knowing that we will all someday experience death, could seem depressing.  These two heroes embrace the challenge and handle the most complex medical and emotional cases because they believe that every one of us is entitled to live, and die, with dignity.

Emmi Schambeck and Tree Dunbar are team leaders at Hospice of Santa Cruz County.  In their role, they each oversee the care of about 60 patients.  They support teams of nurses, social workers, chaplains and aides who provide day-to-day, direct care to patients and their families.  Trust plays an important role in their daily work.  “There is no other situation in which people are so trusting,” Emmi shares.  “Often this is a first time experience for a family and they want guidance”.  Hospice care is provided in residential homes, nursing homes and facilities, and Emmi reflects on both the privilege and responsibility of accompanying a patient and their family on this final journey.  “I offer my expertise and experience and know that the patient and family will choose the tools and support they need.  Each patient and family is different so we first find out what is important to them and then offer our expertise and support.”

The daily activities that these two clinicians perform are diverse and become more complex based on the patient’s needs. Tree and Emmi are skillful multi-taskers.  When they are serving a younger patient, they are busy ordering medications and supplies like a  hospital bed for the home while ensuring  that the patient’s children have the emotional support they need though the process.  When supporting a homeless patient, they can spend hours negotiating with community partners to find appropriate shelter and caregivers so that the patient will be comfortable and safe.   Recently a patient shared that he wanted to marry his longtime partner before he died.  Tree worked with the team to arrange this wish and the team’s chaplain married the couple just days before he died.

Amidst the daily work of management and logistics, Tree and Emmi are deeply drawn to the mystery.  While they feel a sense of accomplishment in treating the physical pain and the emotional and spiritual concerns of their patients, they realize that they are not fully in control of the situation.   “As much as we medicalize it, there is still a mystery to how it unfolds,” Tree shares.  “We try to reassure our patients and families, ease their fears, and help them prepare and understand what to expect.  And then we accompany them through the mystery – it’s an incredible privilege.”

In their respective 30 and 27 years of hospice work, Tree and Emmi have helped thousands of patients and families live, and die, in comfort and with dignity.  They have mentored scores of young nurses, helping them to become seasoned end-of-life care professionals.  Their heroism comes in their openness to show up every day knowing that each patient and family situation they will encounter is unique.  We recognize the profound commitment and dedication these two professionals make to Hospice of Santa Cruz County and to our community.

Dr. Vanessa Little, from left, and nurses Tree Dunbar and Emmi Shambeck. (Kevin Johnson -- Santa Cruz Sentinel)