Monday, March 21, 2011

Looking at Grief from Both Sides

Looking at Grief from Both Sides

By Linda Donovan, Grief Support Volunteer

In 2006, shortly after my husband died of cancer, I began a personal exploration into understanding grief and how to work through it. I turned to Hospice of Santa Cruz County for the healing, compassionate individual and group support that I needed to heal from through my loss. Two years later, armed with new insight based on my own journey, I decided to move over to the “other side” and become a grief support volunteer. I completed a series of training sessions and began to provide individual and group grief support to the community. It has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my life.

As a recipient of grief support services, I learned that the grief journey is a process. The one-on-one sessions gave me a chance to express my concerns, ask questions, and learn how to adapt to a “new normal” way of life. These individual meetings helped address my unique circumstances and issues. In the group workshops, I experienced the power of group healing and compassion. I even met a really good friend through the group. We have built a friendship that has helped us get through the challenges of our loss.

I cannot stress enough the value of grief support services. These programs provide a place where you can feel safe enough to express your fears, discuss your struggles, and learn how to pick up the pieces and move forward with a life without your loved one. Without grief support, it’s all too easy to put your feelings of loss aside and try to “get over it.” But that approach doesn’t help you heal. It only postpones the loss that needs to be addressed at some point.

As a grief support volunteer, I get to see firsthand the power of helping people give themselves permission to feel their loss and work through it at their own pace – not anyone’s else’s. I’ve witnessed the transformative nature of grief groups. When people first begin a group, they are often quiet, lost, and bewildered. As each week progresses, many find an inner strength to not only learn ways to cope with their own loss, but also to reach out to others in the group in a caring, healing manner.

Hospice of Santa Cruz County provides up to eight one-on-one sessions for adults and children facing the loss of a loved one. There are also focused groups for those losing a partner, child, or parent, as well as for children and teens and adults who prefer a drop-in group. And the support isn’t just for families who had Hospice care. Anyone in our community who has lost someone close to them can access these services.

Hospice’s grief support programs are completely funded by community support. Contributions to Hospice of Santa Cruz County make these valuable services available for the entire community. If you are interested in making a donation to support this and HSCC’s other community programs Click Here or call 831-430-3000.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Caring Stories: Celia Thompson Taupin

Caring Stories: Celia Thompson Taupin

Bring comfort and care when it’s needed most

As Celia Thompson Taupin discovered in caring for her former husband, Jean, relieving pain is essential to living life in comfort and with dignity. Hospice of Santa Cruz County was there to help when help was needed most. Celia shares her story.

In his 91st year, my former husband Jean became progressively ill due to various health issues. In one six-month period, we took Jean to his internist, a pain doctor, a dentist, an optician, an audiologist, and a psychiatrist. We also made several long visits to the emergency room.

Jean’s biggest complaint was of severe back and leg pain. The doctors attributed the pain to degenerative arthritis and couldn’t offer anything that might help lessen his discomfort. We found his doctors impatient and dismissive and when they did refer Jean to a pain specialist, that doctor could not see him for several months.

Over the next few moths, Jean’s health continued to worsen and he began to lose his will to live. It was suggested that we involve Hospice. A Hospice nurse came out to evaluate him, and explain how hospice care worked. Weall agreed to the conditions of his becoming a hospice patient.

The Hospice staff gave us informed advice about Jean’s conditions. Karen, Jean’s caregiver, and I no longer had to frequently question whether or not to take him to the emergency room. Hospice provided him with necessary medications that gave him comfort, and they instructed us on how and when to safely use them. Once Jean had adequate pain relief, he stabilized and then actively improved. The peace of mind in simply knowing Hospice was available if he needed them added to his comfort level.

A Hospice nurse was able to talk with Jean in a way no other professional had before and she achieved a working alliance with him. She provided helpful suggestions to both Karen and myself about how we might best care for him. For Karen, having the ability to contact Hospice staff day or night was a great help. Frequently, Hospice professionals bathed Jean and assisted him with general personal care. Both of our assigned hospice aides provided excellent service and one of them was able to converse with Jean in his native French, which was both stimulating and reassuring to him.

Overall, the care that Hospice provided greatly reduced the anxiety we were all experiencing and greatly improved Jean’s general well being. Hospice not only greatly benefited Jean, it also transformed the care-giving experience for our family. In his last months, Jean achieved a level of acceptance and closeness to those around him, which was perhaps the greatest he had ever known.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Looking Back at a Successful Year

Looking Back at a Successful Year

by Ann Carney Pomper, Executive Director

From time to time, a responsible organization must review and revise its mission, vision, and values to accurately represent its services and the needs of its constituents. During this past year, Hospice of Santa Cruz County’s Board of Directors and executive staff undertook this important task. The resulting intentions, shown on the cover of our newly-released 2009-10 Annual Report, emphasize a long-held ideal—that patients and families are the driving force behind their end-of-life decisions. This concept has been, and will continue to be, foundational to every aspect of HSCC’s programming as we strive to honor the wishes of our community members with the utmost integrity and professionalism.

HSCC’s dedicated staff and volunteers provided a record breaking 46,726 days of hospice care during 2009/10 all the while maintaining performance standards that have surpassed state and national benchmarks. Stringent MediCare guidelines for participation were met, thereby securing 90% of our annual budget through this essential revenue stream.

The impact of our Transitions program has also been more profoundly felt in the community with HSCC’s medical social workers easing the path from the hospital to home for more than 350 individuals annually. Grief support and educational programs are thriving, and we continue to focus on expanding bilingual access to these vital services.

While challenging economic times persist, I am happy to report that Hospice of Santa Cruz County continued to serve every eligible patient regardless of their ability to pay. Charity care for the uninsured in the amount of $90,000 was generously underwritten entirely by community members during the year. HSCC also realized a $273,240 savings as a result of the more than 13,000 hours of program support provided by volunteers.

Our successes in 2009/10 bring to mind Helen Keller’s words, “Alone you can do so little; together we can do so much.” I am deeply indebted to the broad family of supporters, philanthropic foundations, Legacy Circle members, Friends of Hospice, Hospice Angels, and volunteers who have made our work possible in the past, who continue to do so today, and who hold the vision of compassionate end-of-life care for our future.