Thursday, October 16, 2014

An Interview with Charlea Massion, M.D.

By Joanne Guzman, Marketing Manager
Hospice of Santa Cruz County

Hospice of Santa Cruz County is pleased to welcome our new Chief Medical Director, Dr. Charlea Massion.  As a board certified hospice and palliative care physician and a member of the palliative care team at Dominican Hospital, Dr. Massion brings expertise and a deep caring to her role of leading HSCC’s medical team.

I recently sat down with Doctor Massion to talk about her hospice work and how she arrived here at HSCC.

1. What brought you to end of life care work?

“It was the natural evolution in my career as a family physician.  I trained in family medicine and held a primary care position in an office based practice for over 25 years.  During that time, the role of the family physician it became more and more circumscribed.  The scope of the work shrunk.  I decided to become a hospitalist.  I was a full time hospitalist for 6 years. While working as a hospitalist, I saw many, many patients at the end of their lives.  I often saw the suffering that they and their families had and became interested at that time.  As a hospitalist, I was able to consult the inpatient palliative care team and see how they were able to help patients and their families.  I decided what I wanted to do and trained in palliative care.  I passed the Board certification for hospice and palliative medicine in 2012.  That’s the work I really wanted to do, I didn't know whether I could stay in Santa Cruz and I was very happy about staying in my home community.”

2.  Why is this work meaningful to you?

“As a family practitioner, I was always interested in family dynamics and communications.  At the end of life family communication is amplified; sometimes to the difficult and sometimes to the loving and peaceful side.  It’s a time where it’s possible for families to come together and find new strength. By families, I mean anyone who loves that person - extended family.  Sometimes there are unexpected opportunities to resolve difficulties and they can come to a new understanding of what’s important.  Having an opportunity to support that process is very meaningful to me.”

3.  Is there something you would you ask patients to better understand them?

“What is most important to you at this time in your life?”

4. And if someone were to ask you what brings you joy, how would you answer?

“I’m not sure I could say one thing.  Work is very central to me, I feel very happy and honored to do this work.  Feeling the lifecycle in my own life as a physician, I started out taking care of babies and children and their mothers, the whole family.  Now working with patients at the end of their life, I’m bringing the skills of over 30 years working in medicine to my work every day.

In addition to my work here the things most important to me are my friends and my family.  I’m also very passionate about women's health.  I’m on the Board of National Women’s Health based in Washington, D.C., it's another opportunity for me to support the growth of healthcare.

I feel that hospice and palliative medicine is coming into its own.  It’s been in healthcare system for many years and I feel it’s becoming more and more appreciated and mainstream medicine.  I’m glad to see it and to be a part of bringing it to families and physicians and our community."

Welcome Doctor Massion!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Expressing Grief through Art

HSCC now offers an Expressive Arts Grief Support Group for adults that uses creative activities to tenderly encourage expression, insight and growth in a supportive environment.  Members are offered new ways to tell their story, express emotions without words and feel connected and supported as they creatively honor their grief and loved ones.

This special group runs for 8 weeks and typically includes 6-8 participants along with 2 facilitators who have an art and grief support background.  The group is different than other bereavement counseling in that while there is some time each week to share with each other, much of the time participants are working individually while writing, painting, drawing, sculpting and through movement.  There is no previous art experience necessary to join the group and participants take their creations home with them.

In a recent group participants made hand molds to remember and acknowledge all they gave to their loved ones and to others, and what they wanted to receive for themselves and then they painted over both sides.

The new group session will begin in Scotts Valley on October 22, 2014.  If you’re interested in hearing more about the Expressive Arts Grief Support Group or to register, please call Shirley Sapena, Group Program Coordinator at (831) 430-3058.  For more information on grief support services available, visit our website at Hospice of Santa Cruz County Grief Support Services.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Memorial Wall Open House

An enchanted backdrop of towering redwoods and autumn foliage provided a welcoming invitation for all that attended the annual Hospice of Santa Cruz County Memorial Wall Open House.

The gathering took place on Saturday, September 13th at the Hospice of Santa Cruz County’s Redwood Memorial Garden in Scotts Valley. Multiple generations of families and friends came together creating a place of peace and tranquility to remember loved ones.  A pristine fall afternoon enhanced the atmosphere of honor and remembrance.

Hospice of Santa Cruz County’s CEO, Mike Milward and VP of Communications and Philanthropy, Cathy Conway addressed the outdoor crowd with comforting and inspirational words of love, hope and remembrance.

The traditional laying of the flowers around the memorial tiles, trees and garden stones concluded the afternoon of remembrance, offering  families and friends, still another precious memory of their loved- ones to safely hold dear to their hearts.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

A Glimpse into the Work of a Hospice Volunteer

Peg Gallagher, Volunteer Visitor and Radha Mallery, Director of Volunteer Services at Hospice of Santa Cruz County share their experiences of comforting those facing the end of life.

Each fall and spring, Hospice of Santa Cruz County invites our community members to become Volunteer Visitors.  These special volunteers participate in a training program that prepares them to take care of practical tasks or simply extend a hand to hold to hospice patients and their families.  Volunteers may run errands, help prepare a meal, read to a patient, or just share some quiet time. Their presence can make it possible for a caregiver to take a needed break for a few hours. Recently, director of volunteer services, Radha Mallery, sat down with volunteer visitor, Peg Gallagher to talk about volunteering for Hospice of Santa Cruz County.

Peg Gallagher became a volunteer visitor in 2011 and has supported patients in their homes and in residential care facilities.

Radha:  Why do you do Volunteer Visitor work?:

Peg:  I like helping others at a time in their life that's important and significant to them, and being fully present with somebody. I don't have any history with them and to be fully present to whatever their needs, wants or concerns are is a wonderful experience.  I really enjoy those moments of connection.  There's a purity to it that you don't get with most people because usually you are coming in with a lot of baggage.  With hospice patients there is no baggage just the purity of the one-on-one connection.  I didn't expect this, I was just looking for an opportunity to give back in our community.

Radha:  Do you think it is because they are at the end of life and it makes it more authentic for them?  Or is it more real because they are really down?

Peg:  What you see right away is all the losses they have suffered, yet they're still alive.  That's the real beauty.  As a person dies they suffer all of these losses; they figure out what is really important, what they want to be about and as they do that, I get to be a part of it and a witness to their experience.  It's very incredible.  In our culture, we talk about heroes as sports players or business people, while they do great and significant things - different from the ordinary person, the people who are dying are the absolute heroes to me.  They have a hospital bed and that's their existence and they will greet me and be happy to see me and be alive in that moment and after all the suffering they go through, that's pretty incredible.

Radha:  What is it that moves you the most about the work?  You said all of your experiences are great, knowing you as I do, some of the experiences you've had haven't been easy.  There's been some that were difficult.

Peg:  I thought what volunteering would be is that I would come in, sit down in a chair by a bed and the person would be there and I would read to them or write letters for them or watch television with them and that would be that.  While those activities all occur, every visit and every person is different and unique in its own way.  I can visit with somebody and they can be in a wheelchair and we go for a walk outside and I've been with people who are in a great deal of pain and suffering and I've helped communicate with the nurse to come relieve the pain.  I've been with someone who actually died and that was an amazing experience, I felt very honored to be included with the family to be present with them at that particular sacred time.

I've run errands, picked up the house, the full gamut.  What I always try to do is no matter what's going on, where the person is, or what's happening - I try to connect with them to figure out what has meaning and purpose for this person and how can I reflect that or bring that to the foreground for them.  To facilitate it or step back because they are already doing it.  I think that the connection the Volunteer Visitor makes with the person and their family is really critical, it opens up all the possibilities that occur for the volunteer and the patient.

Radha:  How do you answer the question, “Doesn't this make you sad?” Or respond when people say, “I could never do that”.

Peg:  At times it is sad.  People’s life circumstances can be sad and certainly as a young mother with teenage children is dying, that is a heartbreaking circumstance.  To me, to be present with that person and talk in depth about what is important to them, what is significant to them, takes it to another level.  It transforms the sadness into the give and pull of life.  We don't get to pick when we are going to die, but we can choose how we will and what we want to be remembered for and what our legacy is. I remember one woman in particular, she worked with children, she talked of how her own children were her legacy and how each child she worked with was her legacy.  That mix of sad and joyful, it’s a hard but authentic experience.

Peg:  How do you see volunteers grow/change from the training and from this work?

Radha:  I see them change in a way that when we come together in support group or when we are talking on the phone, I talk with them in such a way that I understand that their experience is opening their lives and allowing them to be more fearless about facing their own mortality.  It gives them the opportunity to actually be in that authentic place that you talked about.  To actually experience that firsthand with somebody so that hopefully when they reach that point in their own life, (the dying process), they can remember and draw on that when they are facing death themselves.

I also see that our volunteers want to work as a team, they're almost like a tribe.  Again when they come together they feed off of each other's experiences and they learn and hospice is the conduit.  They are able to really learn from each other’s experiences and that is the greatest teacher of all.

I see how they have hesitation about going into certain settings, like a reluctance to go into a facility, they can have that hesitancy, and we ask them to go because we don't have anybody else and they of course say yes and they realize that "I can do this" or "I can be in this setting".  It can also be the opposite, they only want to go into facilities, no individual homes and then they go and it empowers them.

I see that they become really wonderful advocates for the people that they visit, that again is empowering.

Peg:  What kind of ongoing support do you provide volunteers?

Radha:  My team and I get calls every day asking for support around different situations.  We give them one-on-one support talking to them.  The volunteers also have access to other team members.  We have twice a month support groups.  One in Scotts Valley and one in Watsonville in the evenings.  Volunteers are able to come to that and receive support that way.

Peg:  What's most inspiring to you in working with volunteers?

Radha:  I almost started to cry when you asked me this question because I am so moved by the level at which people show up and to the extent that they show up when asked.  Whether it's simply running an errand or sitting at the bedside when someone is actively dying and everything in between.  I am so moved by the level of their commitment and their engagement for what we ask them to do and their love of the work.  It's truly inspiring.  Every time we have a support group or training I'm re-inspired, the enthusiasm and dedication is infectious.  In the midst of it, they keep a light heart - there is levity in the gravity.  There is always a fun side of this work, there is no exception to that.  People find the lightness in it and it’s quite magnificent.  They bring joy and jokes and in a time when our culture perceives as the most difficult thing we can all experience; death.  Which it is difficult, but our volunteers find the joy and the light in that, it's like magnet.

Peg:  As a volunteer, the support that I have received from you and your team is outstanding.  Any time I'm unsure or worried about something; when one of my patients dies they are always accessible.  It's uncanny, they always know what to say, not trying to fix me, but just to be with me and help me go through whatever issue is occurring.   It's been wonderful, I feel so supported and so helped and I don't have any kind of fear that there will be trouble.  I can talk to you Radha and I’ll get the help that I need to be able to handle any situation.

I remember when I signed up being concerned about it.  Will I be able to do it for a whole year?  The work was so inspiring and such a gift, I've gone beyond a year!  I’m still going strong and liking it so much.  What people are generally asked to give is 4 hours a week.  The time goes so fast.  It's kind of interesting, every person I have visited - the four hours have been distributed differently.  Sometimes it’s a block of time, other times I will go to facilities, I’ll go 2 or 3 times a week and break it up across the week so the patient can have more visits during the week have something to look forward to, that somebody is going to come and visit them.  You can vary how you spend your time. It’s funny because I had those concerns in the beginning and they were not relative to the relationship and the dynamic of the relationship.

Peg:  If somebody is not sure about whether or not they could be a volunteer how do you help them through that?

Radha:  We have a conversation about it.  Right from the get go I tell people it’s a different kind of volunteering.  You may not know if you have the mindset to be able to do it, but the interview itself will reveal a lot.  I'll ask the questions that I think will draw out whether or not I think that you're ready.  It's ok if you're not and I really respect that it's not the right thing for everybody and if you can't do it there are other ways you can get involved with the agency.  That way you get to take a little step at a time. Maybe you'll be a Volunteer Visitor or maybe you won't.  Maybe you help with staff support or administrative offices or events.  We appreciate the courage you have here to come and talk about. We know it's a big commitment and we have the skills to determine if it’s right for you.

Hospice of Santa Cruz County volunteers are a remarkable and dedicated group of individuals and an important part of the patient care team. They are drawn to hospice for different reasons, yet they share a common desire – to be of service and help others at this precious time of life. Volunteer Visitors are understanding listeners, the ones who extend a hand to hold, providing companionship and emotional support. Like a friendly neighbor they also take care of practical tasks: provide transportation, run errands or prepare a meal. Sometimes their presence makes it possible for a caregiver to get away for a few needed hours of respite.

Hospice of Santa Cruz County is seeking friendly, compassionate men and women to join their Volunteer Visitor program. Training begins September 23, 2014 and applications are due by September 15th.
This 8-session training prepares volunteers to support patients and their families both practically and emotionally. Bilingual volunteers and military veteran volunteers are especially needed. Interested potential volunteers can contact Volunteer Services Manager Radha Mallery at 430-3006 or email her at  The volunteer application can be downloaded from the Hospice website,

Friday, August 29, 2014

Hike-Bike for Hospice Participants Honor Loved Ones

The 2014 Hike-Bike for Hospice participants walked in honor and to remember the following loved ones-

I am Walking in Compassion for:
Catarino Ambrosio
Anita, Irene and Charles Keller
Annie and Harold
Peter Baker
Annie Gordon
Everybody (1
Nestor Guzman
Uncle Carl Mancini
Clare Shultz
My Mom Clare
Great Grandpa
Ervin Hediger
Greatpa Catrino
Carmen Saldivar (mom)
Herman Mathis
Wilsa Schroers
Grandma Goldie
John Sylvia
Steve Daroza
Judy Valentine
Bob Herron
Nancy Tice (Mom)
My Mom
Frank & Lucy Muzzin
Dad (Catrino)
Grandpa Bill and Grandma Rose
Grandpa Hagen
Jose Nunez Sr.
William Moore
Pamela Diaz
Thelma Mathis
Judy and Thomas
Carl Mancini
Doris Schwitzer
Don Anderson
Russell Valentine
Filiberto Paez
Dennis & Joan Dilley
Thomas Devlin
Elise Christine Anderson
Eileen (Auntie J)
Carol Jean Miller
Pam Schlaepfer
Joaquin Hughes, Wm. J Hughes
Alene Hoga
Jim McGirr
Filberto Paez
Maestra Judi Stobbe
Polly Montrouil
“Big Jim”
Mira Kardon

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