Thursday, December 26, 2013

Grief in the Holidays - Children and Teens

Holiday time can be painful for children and teens after the loss of a loved one. We're sharing tthe following tips to help your family through this delicate time:

For Teens
As painful as it is, begin early to plan the necessary coping strategies. Consider scheduling a family meeting in which everyone can express their feelings and expectations. Be prepared for a whole range of emotions. For teenagers this can range from anger to being mean. For others, they may try to be “strong” and protect a grieving parent. Do not use them as a crutch – they need to grieve also.

Questions to ask during the meeting:
What did you like the best about past Christmases?
What do we want to keep? What do we want to change or eliminate?

Make joint decisions. Teens usually need extra support.  Keep plans flexible. Working things through together can model effective life skills for your teens.

For Children
Creating special activities that children can participate in can be meaningful and comforting:
“We planted a tree in the backyard.”
“We had the children take cookies to the hospital workers where their father died.”
“We donated money to a charity as a memorial.”
“We had the children write a note or draw a picture and then we placed it at the gravesite.”

Again, a family meeting in which everyone can express their feelings and expectations is a good start. Talk about past holidays.  Children need extra support - keep plans flexible. Working things through together as a family will result in a stronger and more stable foundation for your children.

A beautiful poem to share:

Circle of Healing
By Luann

Friends holding hands,
listening with our hearts
Behold the power of this energy
The inner spirits unite and float
Upward to form a shelter
As this force slowly descends,
We are surrounded by a loving embrace
And bathed in healing light.
Free our spirits to live in joy
With memories of our loved ones.
Thank you for their lives
For our lives
Bless us one and all!

Grief is a natural part of life when someone we love dies. Finding your way through the changes and often painful emotions that arise during the days, weeks and months that follow a death can be difficult. You don’t have to do it alone. Hospice of Santa Cruz County has helped thousands of people through their grief journey. If you'd like information on our services available to help through our Grief Support Program, please call (831) 430-3000 or visit our website at

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

10 Things for you to Remember this Holiday Season

1. I need to be proactive and plan ahead:  Studies show that those who experience the most difficulty with the holidays are those who have given little thought to the challenges they will encounter. During the planning, you may experience some emotional pain. As much as it hurts, it is helpful to you. When the holiday actually arrives, it is likely to be much less painful than you anticipated.

2. It is impossible to escape the holidays:  Like aliens in a horror movie, it is everywhere and in every country. “Escaping” as a coping mechanism simply does not work – reminders of the holidays will always appear. We can mentally ignore the holidays by pretending that they don’t exist but it takes tremendous emotional energy to deny all of the input we see around us.

3. Holidays can’t be what they once were:  Don’t try to keep everything as it was. If you try, you will be very disappointed.  Sometimes doing things just a little bit differently can acknowledge the change – even while preserving continuity with the past.  Different menus, decorations, or attending a different service may provide that slight but significant shift.

4. My holiday plans will affect other family members:  Talk your plans over with your family and listen to their needs and choices.  Express your feelings and needs honestly and compromise by allowing everyone to participate in ways they find comfortable - without feeling guilty about those choices.

5. There is no “right way” to celebrate the holidays –nothing is written in stone:  Should you accept or decline invitations?  What about cooking and baking? Should the house be decorated? What would be best for the children? What about holiday traditions, forget them for this year, try them, or develop new ones?  Should a visit be made to the cemetery that day? Leave the word “ought” out of the holiday this season.  Decide what is important to you this season and scratch the rest off the list. It is OK to say, “no”.

6. Change and growth go hand in hand – nothing is written in stone:  Give yourself permission to change traditions and rituals if you want. The option to return to the old traditions will always be there next year and the year after.  Consider changing the time, location, and/or menu of traditional meals. Attend religious services at a different time or at a different house of worship – or don’t go at all.  Decorate differently if you want – or don’t decorate at all.  Have a Christmas picnic on the beach or have your family serve breakfast to people at a homeless shelter.

7. I need to take care of myself physically:  A grieving body is more susceptible to illness and needs proper nourishment and rest.  Eat well and wisely. Break large tasks into small pieces and delegate chores to others.  Take naps when needed.  Allow yourself to cry – don’t deny yourself the physical gift of healing tears.  Try exercise; whatever your exercise of choice, it will do good for your spirit and your body, it’s a wonderful stress-reducer.  Don’t overdo the eggnog – alcohol is an antidote to nothing and can cause depression.  Avoid excessive sweets – they can precipitate mood swings.

8. I need to take care of myself emotionally:  “It’s okay to feel sad”. Even people who have not had a major loss feel the pressures, depression, and fatigue that come with the holidays. Accept ahead of time that there will be times when you are going to feel sad and depressed and make sure to bring along extra tissues.

“It’s okay to feel good”.Give yourself permission to feel good, to laugh, and even to have fun. Sometimes people feel guilty if they find themselves enjoying an activity. Feeling good and laughing is your body’s way of letting you relax and regain some strength for a few moments during your grief.  Remember, you are in no way being disrespectful to the memory of the deceased.

9. I need to take care of myself socially:  Let friends and families know what you can handle comfortably.  If possible choose the right people to be with – i.e., those with whom you feel comfortable sharing your feelings. Consider doing something special for someone else.  Think in advance about replies to the daunting questions such as “How are you doing?” Although probably asked by well-intentioned people, it can be frustrating or awkward to answer. A truthful answer might be, “Sometimes OK, and sometimes not too good.”  
Find someone you can talk to – do not allow yourself to become isolated:  
  • The hospice bereavement counselor
  • Spiritual leader (priest, pastor, rabbi)
  • Counselor/Psychologist/Psychiatrist
  • Relatives
  • Friends
10. I need to take care of myself spiritually:  Take time for prayer, meditation, and reflection – especially in the middle of a challenge or at the beginning and the end of each day.  Spiritual time can renew as well as help to put things in perspective. Write in a journal daily during the season. This could become a forum for your feelings. Cultivate gratitude.  You may find consolation in attending religious services, and reading Holy Scriptures.  Keep in mind that painful loses can “shake up” religious beliefs. The questioning of faith is a normal expression of loss and is consistent with later spiritual growth. So, ask God, the tough questions.

Grief is a natural part of life when someone we love dies. Finding your way through the changes and often painful emotions that arise during the days, weeks and months that follow a death can be difficult. You don’t have to do it alone. Hospice of Santa Cruz County has helped thousands of people through their grief journey. If you'd like information on our services available to help through our Grief Support Program, please call (831) 430-3000 or visit our website at

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Season to be Gentle

Almost everyone, when they are grieving, has one or more tasks or traditions that prove to be too difficult to handle or bear during this “festive” time.  In most families changes can be made and/or other family members can help, but nothing can change until you identify what you need. So often it is a simple change. Once identified, it can help bring you some peace of mind. Say YES to what you truly value during the holidays and NO to whatever contributes only to clutter or distraction.

Use the following reflection to write down and reflect on plans and feelings for the Holidays:

  1. What are my fears for the holidays?
  2. What are my values for the holidays?
  3. What does a peace-filled holiday season look like?
  4. List Holiday activity items under the the following categories:
    1. Things I have to do      Things I like to do  Things I would rather not do
  5. The ways I plan to take care of myself this holiday season are: 
  6. List holiday activities you have done in the past:
  7. List the activities you’ve enjoyed in the past:
  8. Which activities would you enjoy or feel comfortable doing this year?
  9. Are there changes you would like to make from past years’ activities?
  10. Are there special things you would like to do this year because of your recent loss or to honor the memory of a loved one?
  11. Other possibilities and ideas:

Grief is a natural part of life when someone we love dies. Finding your way through the changes and often painful emotions that arise during the days, weeks and months that follow a death can be difficult. You don’t have to do it alone. Hospice of Santa Cruz County has helped thousands of people through their grief journey. If you'd like information on our services available to help through our Grief Support Program, please call (831) 430-3000 or visit our website at

Monday, December 23, 2013

Handling Holidays and Difficult Times

From Harvard Health Publications and The Washington Post, 2008

Holidays, anniversaries, birthdays, and events that would otherwise be joyful can be especially hard on people who are grieving. If the grief is fresh, holiday cheer can seem like an affront. Celebrations may underscore how alone people feel.

Likewise, it's hard to accept that others may not mark the days that you do — the first time you met your loved one, a birthday, or the anniversary of an illness or death. The following strategies may help people ease pain around holidays and other difficult times.

Start a new tradition. People can remember their loved one on special occasions by placing a lighted candle on the table, leaving an empty chair, or saying a few words of remembrance. If the person who died always played a special role in festivities, another family member may be able to carry on the tradition.

Ask for advice. It may help some people to talk to others who have lost people close to them to find out how they have managed holidays.

Plan to mark the day. Others find it helpful to make special plans for an anniversary, birthday, or other special day. Think of a ritual to help you connect.

Examples include:

  • Walk through a nature preserve, in the woods or on the beach.
  • Visit the cemetery or the place where ashes were scattered.
  • Enjoy an activity your loved one would also have loved.
  • Light a candle and say a prayer.
  • Carry a memento from your loved one.
  • Go to a special holiday celebration at a place of worship where you can
  • enjoy the music and other rituals, sitting where you can easily ‘escape’ if
  • you need to.

Share your sentiments: Sharing and hearing stories about your loved one can be very healing. At your holiday dinner, ask 'Can we start with a prayer for the one who died?' David Kessler, a Los Angeles based expert on grief and loss suggests.

Light a candle. Go around the table and have everyone share a favorite memory. If folks at the table aren't so inclined, find a private moment to say that prayer or otherwise honor that memory. Include your loved one in your conversation.

Once others realize that you are comfortable talking about your loved one the may be more inclined to share stories that will add to your pleasant memories.

Develop a Plan A and Plan B: Plan A may be, I'm going to go to Thanksgiving dinner, Kessler offers. Plan B can say that, If it's too rough, too hard to be with everyone, I'm going to stay home and watch his favorite movie, take a walk through a favorite place of ours. I'm going to give in to grief if it overwhelms me.

Kessler says that when people go into holiday events with a Plan A and a Plan B, "They usually make it through dinner. Without Plan B, they feel only emptiness. With Plan B, they feel sadness but not emptiness."

Cancel the Holiday: "Many find comfort in the holidays, the routine, the deep spiritual connection," Kessler says. "But if it's too hard for you this year, it's really okay to cancel a holiday." Kessler cites the experience of the actor Anthony Perkins’ family after Perkins died. "The first Christmas, they decided to go on with Christmas, not matter what," he says. "But the following year they looked back on that and felt it had been painful and mechanical and hadn't allowed for their grief. So they canceled Christmas the second year." Taking a year off, Kessler explains, lets you and your family "go through your feelings without pressure to be joyful and fun." Starting the third year after Perkins’s death, Kessler adds, his family was able to "create a new Christmas."

Seek a sympathetic ear: "If you feel you're not able to function, to find balance, to find any distance from the pain, seek help," Dale Larson, professor of counseling psychology at Santa Clara University in California, advises. "Find a grief support group, where you'll find instant empathy from people who have suffered similar losses." Don't like groups? Look for an individual counselor. Or, use our Drop-In group for the holidays.  Hospice of Santa Cruz County has helped thousands of people through their grief journey. If you'd like information on our services available to help through our Grief Support Program, please call (831) 430-3000 or visit our website at

Sunday, December 22, 2013

You Will Survive the Holidays

You may hurt, but you will survive. The holidays may be the worst of your grief time. Eventually, you will heal, and your memories will persist without pain. Meanwhile, it’s OK not to have a good time. There may be no way you can make this holiday fun and there may be nothing you want to do. Allow that you may not enjoy the parties, reunions and events of the season. If you are hurting and unable or unwilling to have your attention on anything else, let yourself be.

It is also OK to have a good time, even though you have experienced a loss. You do not have to deny pleasure to yourself or your family. While grieving, we often feel guilty about having fun, as if we should be miserable all twenty-four hours a day. That is not necessary. Often, we think it is how much we grieve that signifies how much we care about the one who died. Not true! Our love is not measured by the extent of our grief. We can love forever without having grief as our testimonial to that love. Remember, few of us would want others to be forever bereft because we were gone.

Perhaps the best testimonial we can give to our missing loved ones is how we live our lives. Don’t deny yourself life because someone has died. If you can do so, enjoy the holidays and every day, for death teaches us, more than anything, that every day of life is precious and worth living to the fullest. The best gift we can give ourselves and others for the holidays and every day is to live our lives wholeheartedly.

Symbolic Ways to Honor Our Loved Ones

  • Purchase a special remembrance candle. Place it in a prominent place in your home. Burn it all day or at special, selected times.
  • Place a special flower or bouquet of flowers on a table by a photograph.
  • Attend a religious service.
  • Visit the cemetery.
  • Spend spiritual quiet time alone.
  • Include a memory of your loved one in your holiday cards.
  • At holiday gatherings, ask people to write a memory on a piece of paper and place it in a basket by the door. It may comfort you and encourage others to share their memories.
  • Buy flowers for your church or other organization in memory of your loved one for many people to enjoy.

Grief is a natural part of life when someone we love dies. Finding your way through the changes and often painful emotions that arise during the days, weeks and months that follow a death can be difficult. You don’t have to do it alone. Hospice of Santa Cruz County has helped thousands of people through their grief journey. If you'd like information on our services available to help through our Grief Support Program, please call (831) 430-3000 or visit our website at

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Resolving How or Where to Spend Holidays

Choosing how or where to spend the holidays may be your biggest dilemma. There is no perfect solution. Holiday time may be hard no matter what you do or where you are. The choices are to celebrate as usual, avoid the holidays altogether, or do something entirely different.

Celebrate as usual. Many people wish to keep their holiday traditions intact, to celebrate as usual. This way is bound to be painful, accentuating the gap left by the loss. It is fine to follow family traditions as long as you know they cannot be the same as before your loved one died and you have the energy to do so.  Pretending you can recreate the past may cause you more grief. Just remember to allow any feelings as they occur.

Avoid the holidays. It is not wrong to want to avoid Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Christmas or other holidays entirely. If celebrating seems too difficult to bear, you can choose not to observe the holidays and go somewhere else - skiing, a cruise, a resort, a different city. If you cannot afford to travel, walk in the woods, go to the beach, the movies or some other distracting or quiet place. There is no guarantee that this will erase your pain, but it may lessen it some.

Do something new and different. If NOT celebrating would deeply disappoint or deprive children or other family members, you probably cannot run away from them. Yet, you can avoid repeating your traditional ways and perhaps observe your holidays more simply than before. People often work too hard cooking, decorating, planning, shopping and entertaining at holiday times, so you may want to consider easing up.

Often, the more we try to recreate the past, the more obvious is our loss, so changing tradition can be a freeing and satisfying way to spend the season. You can celebrate Thanksgiving, Chanukah or Christmas in a brand new way by going to the home of a different relative or friend, having a family reunion away from home, or eating in a restaurant. You can do anything that will make your holiday experience new rather than a memory with someone in it missing.

If it’s too hard for you personally to think up a new way to do the holidays, give the job of planning to a creative friend or relative. Again, most important in taking care of yourself is not to feel you have to do it all - whatever the circumstances.

Grief is a natural part of life when someone we love dies. Finding your way through the changes and often painful emotions that arise during the days, weeks and months that follow a death can be difficult. You don’t have to do it alone. Hospice of Santa Cruz County has helped thousands of people through their grief journey. If you'd like information on our services available to help through our Grief Support Program, please call (831) 430-3000 or visit our website at

Friday, December 20, 2013

Survival Strategies for the Holidays

Be kind to yourself. This is a time when it is important to take good care of yourself. Nothing you do will make a bigger difference than respecting yourself, your needs and your feelings. Handling your emotions may be the only job you can manage right now. Because no one knows your needs as well as you do, you need to notice them and honor them. Don’t overwhelm yourself just because it is the holiday season. Instead, do only as much as you can comfortably manage. Get the rest, nourishment and affection you need. Choose what’s best for you – to be with people or spend time alone, choose to be immersed in the holiday spirit or not.

Express your feelings. The surest road through grief is to feel it, not deny it. If you are hurting, the best advice is to allow your feelings. Cry if you need to cry, rage if you need to rage. Admit the longings, the loneliness or whatever you are feeling. Feelings expressed ultimately will disappear, but when feelings are suppressed, nothing changes.

Ask for what you need. Other people do not know how you feel unless you tell them. Don’t just go along with people or plans that are not for you. Tell people what would help you most. Friends and relatives may think you will feel better if you do not talk about your loss, or they may be afraid to upset you by mentioning the missing person. If you want to talk about the person who is gone, say so. If you want your privacy respected, if you need companionship or want a shoulder to cry on, say so. People outside your grief may feel awkward and not know what to do. As much as they want to help, they need you to direct them.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help with planning, shopping, entertaining or just getting through today. Ultimately, asking for help will make your life a little easier. If you cannot shop or decorate this year, ask a friend, relative, or other agency volunteer to help. What looks challenging to you may be a lot of fun for someone else. As hard as it may be to imagine, remember that serving you can be very satisfying and rewarding for the other person.

Create support for yourself. Be sure you have people with whom you can talk. Most of us can cope best with tough times if we have a loving presence – a relative or a friend to walk with us through this painful time. When spouses/partners or family members hurt as much as you do and cannot be a support, find an alternative. Look for a short-term support partner, perhaps a friend, another person in grief, a relative, a counselor. Or, create a small group of people who have similar concerns with whom you can stay in touch daily or frequently through the holidays or beyond. Supportive people and support groups really help.

Help another person in need. Contributing to someone else moves your attention elsewhere. Helping another can be a very effective way of healing after a loss, because when you are immersed in someone else’s needs, you can be free of your own distress and pain. If you have the energy, there are many ways to volunteer. Some possibilities are to volunteer to be with older folks or children, to help in a hospital or a soup kitchen, or to help a friend in need over the holidays.

Appreciate your other loved ones. Enjoy the people you love. It is natural to feel alone in your grief and want to isolate yourself, yet that closes off all chances for closeness and nourishment from other people. Don’t deprive your children, spouse/partner, other loved ones or yourself. As hard as it may be to get your attention off your loss, they need your love too. And in return, their love can nourish you and help you begin to heal.

Don’t compare your life with other people. Feeling jealous of intact families and feeling deprived are natural reactions after a loss - as if other families are happier than yours, as if other people have what you do not. We have a lot of illusions about how other people live. Contrary to our illusions, holiday times are often not ideal times for families, intact or not. Don’t try to compare lives, it only adds to your misery. Embracing what you have, gives you much more power than regretting what is missing.

Grief is a natural part of life when someone we love dies. Finding your way through the changes and often painful emotions that arise during the days, weeks and months that follow a death can be difficult. You don’t have to do it alone. Hospice of Santa Cruz County has helped thousands of people through their grief journey. If you'd like information on our services available to help through our Grief Support Program, please call (831) 430-3000 or visit our website at

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Surviving the Holidays When Someone You Love Has Died

We know that during the Holidays those of us who are grieving the loss of a loved one can find this time to be particularly difficult.

Hospice of Santa Cruz County wants to help.

We may need extra support for surviving the holiday season if we are in the midst of grief. In the next couple of weeks we will be posting a number of survival strategies and suggestions adapted from Judy Tatelbaum, MSW and James A. Avery, MD - Medical Director VNSNY Hospice Care; along with poems and photos. Using these suggestions won’t necessarily take your grief away, but they can help you manage your grief at a time of the year when the world is supposed to be joyous.

We’ll start by sharing the following poem written by Jacqueline Brown for National Children’s Memorial Day:

Lights of Love
Can you see our candles
Burning in the night?
Lights of love we send you
Rays of purest white
(Loved ones) we remember
Though missing from our sight
In honor and remembrance
We light candles in the night
All across the big blue marble
Spinning out in space
Can you see the candles burning
From this human place?
Oh, angels gone before us
Who taught us perfect love
This night the world lights candles
That you may see them from above
Tonight the globe is lit by love
Of those who know great sorrow,
But as we remember our yesterdays
Let's light one candle for tomorrow
We will not forget,
And every year in deep December
On Earth we will light candles
As................we remember

Grief is a natural part of life when someone we love dies. Finding your way through the changes and often painful emotions that arise during the days, weeks and months that follow a death can be difficult. You don’t have to do it alone. Hospice of Santa Cruz County has helped thousands of people through their grief journey. If you'd like information on our services available to help through our Grief Support Program, please call (831) 430-3000 or visit our website at

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

We Honor Veterans Quilt Winner

The lucky raffle ticket for the beautiful “We Honor Veterans” quilt was pulled at the annual Hospice of Santa Cruz County Tree of Lights event on Sunday, December 8th (the anniversary weekend of Pearl Harbor).  This stunning quilt entitled  “Comfort at Pearl Harbor”  honors our WWII veterans.  It was made and donated  by the Pajaro Valley Quilt Association as a fundraiser for Hospice of Santa Cruz County’s We Honor Veterans program.

Congratulations to Elaine-Maryse Solari who was delighted beyond words to hear that she was the lucky winner of the “We Honor Veterans” quilt. We also want to extent a sincere thank you to all the folks that purchased raffle tickets and to the Pajaro Valley Quilters that supported our We Honor Veterans fundraiser.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Santa Cruz County 19th Annual Community Assessment Project

HSCC was honored to be a sponsor of the Santa Cruz County 19th annual Community Assessment Project (CAP) yesterday.   Spearheaded by the United Way of Santa Cruz County, Dominican Hospital and Applied Survey Research, The CAP is a multi-year initiative to measure and improve the quality of life in Santa Cruz County. The study evaluates the quality of life of Santa Cruz County residents in six subject areas:  the economy, education, health, public safety, the social environment, and the natural environment.

Along with the Mayor of Watsonville Lowell Hurst, our CEO, Michael Milward was the co-emcee of the event and introduced community leaders who reported findings in  the six categories to a standing-room-only crowd at the Watsonville City Council Chamber.  The report highlighted successes and challenging issues faced by county residents in 2013.  The full report can be found viewed by visiting Santa Cruz CAP Report 2013

Mike also presented awards to the 18 Community Heroes who were honored for their efforts to improve the quality of life for our residents.  Will O'Sullivan from Encompass Community Service’s Community Recovery Services was one of the Community Heroes honored in the category of Public Safety.  Congratulations to Will and to all our Community Heroes!

Monday, November 11, 2013

We Honor Veterans

In honor of Veterans Day, and as part of our We Honor Veterans program,  HSCC is holding pinning ceremonies with our patients to recognize and thank them for their service to our country.

HSCC’s Cathy Conway is pictured with veteran Bob Jackson, and his son Tim.  Bob served in the Army in World War II and was a medic during the Battle of the Bulge.  We thank Bob and all of our veterans who have served our country with courage and honor.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Sockshop & Shoe Company Fundraiser for Hospice

November 1-3, 2013, The Sockshop & Shoe Company “Walking with Compassion” fundraiser for Hospice of Santa Cruz County was an event not to miss, and that was proven by the hundreds that attended on Friday, November 1st.  We are happy to report that $6,040 dollars were raised in support of our programs. 

Sockshop & Shoe Company "Walking with Compassion" Fundraiser for Hospice of Santa Cruz County
At the event all four senses were stimulated by the talented sounds of the band, Wooster; the great tastes of local wines from Sante Arcangeli Family Wines, cheeses from Harley Farms Goat Dairy, fruit from New Leaf Community Markets and ice cream sampling from The Penny Ice Creamery; the wonderful sight of 24 framed and matted, original artistic photographs depicting members of our own staff who walk with compassion on a daily basis; and the sense of smell came from all the brand new leather shoes being purchased by the folks that came to support Hospice of Santa Cruz County!  

Artwork Display from Hospice of Santa Cruz County
The Penny Ice Creamery
The generosity of the Sockshop & Shoe Company owners, Ellen and Eric Gil was an exceptional outpouring from their hearts.  This year the Gil’s donated 9% of all weekend sales from the Sockshop & Shoe Company to Hospice of Santa Cruz County. This year’s event was dedicated to the memory of Kelly Short, our dear friend and HSCC co-worker who was one of the creators of this fundraiser.  Thank you Ellen and Eric for helping to make Kelly’s vision of this event become a reality.

Ellen Gil and son Hunter Gil
Photo of Kelly Short
Folks of all ages also took a special moment to reflect on their loved ones as they pinned colorful, “Walking with Compassion” memorial paper shoes on the Hospice of Santa Cruz County memorial quilt (the Comfort at Pearl Harbor quilt that was donated by the Pajaro Valley Quilt Association to HSCC as a fundraising quilt for our We Honor Veterans program).  Generous donations were provided from Socksmith, Merrell, UGG Australia, Dansko and Keen.
Comfort at Pearl Harbor Quilt
If you happened to have missed the Sockshop event there still is time to purchase your raffle tickets for the beautiful Comfort at Pearl Harbor quilt.  The lucky name will be drawn by a WWII veteran at the annual Hospice of Santa Cruz County Tree of Lights event on Sunday, December 8, 2013 (the anniversary weekend of Pearl Harbor).  To purchase raffle tickets call Adrienne Meier in development at extension 386. The raffle ticket pricing is 1 ticket for $5 and 5 tickets for $20 and you need not be present to win.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Why We Support Hospice

by Ellen Gil of Sockshop and Shoe Company

Kelsey Wolf, Ricky Gutierrez, Ellen Gil - owner, Nathaniel Wallner, June Rose Guerra,
Eric Gil - owner, Hunter Gil - son, Lee Sylvia.

On November 1, we’ll host a First Friday event at our store, Sockshop and Shoe Company in Downtown Santa Cruz, from 5:30 PM to 8:30 PM. We’re sponsoring this activity to support Hospice of Santa Cruz County. There will be music, art, refreshments, and wine on Friday night.  A portion of all purchases made during the entire weekend will go to Hospice of Santa Cruz County. We’re donating some great shoes that will be raffled off as well. We think it’s important to support our community and Hospice is such a worthy organization, which makes sponsoring this event such a pleasure.

We hope the event makes people more aware of the compassionate care provided by Hospice of Santa Cruz County. In fact, we first became aware of hospice many years ago when we went to a local Jackson Browne concert. At the start of the concert he mentioned that his mom was a patient of Hospice of Santa Cruz County and said he was thankful for the care she received. I've also known people in this community who have been Hospice patients and I know that they got incredible support from the entire patient care team.

This will be our second benefit for Hospice at the store. The program got started more than a year ago with Kelly Short, who was working for Hospice, and knew my husband Eric Gil since high school. She thought the store would be a great venue for an event and asked Eric to sponsor the program. With Kelly’s help, along with other people from Hospice, we were able to create a memorable, festive activity at the store last year. Sadly Kelly was diagnosed with cancer shortly before last year’s event and she recently passed away. I will always remember her kindness, humor and enthusiasm. I am thankful that she and others at Hospice gave us this opportunity to demonstrate our support.

Last year’s event was magical, and this one will be as well. The event will support the programs made possible by the outstanding people at Hospice of Santa Cruz County who make such a difference in the lives of patients, their families, and their friends. These programs include grief support services, transitional care services, children’s bereavement programs, education and outreach, and hospice care for military veterans. The programs are entirely funded by community members and local foundations.  We hope you’ll join us in supporting this great organization.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Reflections on Oktoberfest 2013

By: Adrienne Meier – Assistant Director of Development
Hospice of Santa Cruz County

It's a few days after Hospice of Santa Cruz County’s largest  fundraiser of the year, Oktoberfest, and our 30 year strong Friends of Hospice, are still working around the clock making sure that all auction items get to their new owners!

The Friends of Hospice are a group of selfless women who volunteer and donate hours upon hours to raise necessary funds for Hospice of Santa Cruz County’s many community programs.  Their energy and dedication to fundraising events such as Oktoberfest is astoundingly profound and this year was no exception.

Friends of Hospice working hard in the background for Oktoberfest
Since I am a new employee of Hospice of Santa Cruz County, Oktoberfest 2013 was my first taste of this   well seasoned event!

Great Oktoberfest food, drink and traditional live Oktoberfest music were just a small part of this expansively popular event.  The Santa Cruz Elks Club was the venue for this annual fundraiser and it was efficiently transformed by the rows and rows of quality silent auction items, tables of highly desired gift certificates, a full banquet room of choice wines offered for auction, as well as top quality local art, which personally caught my attention and pocket book!

Auction items on display at Oktoberfest
Outdoors, I was greeted by not only the pristine Indian summer weather we were blessed with, but another entire area that rivaled the best- of –the- best of garage sales!  This Cash and Carry area was host to the many veteran shoppers that return year after year but I was also pleasantly delighted to witness a clientele of young newcomers (many from our local colleges), that enjoyed the prospect of finding a “Great Deal” and boy did they ever!

I was told at one of our Oktoberfest planning meetings about the stunning garden and plant component of Oktoberfest, but I wasn’t really prepared for the lush variety of plants and annuals that were artfully displayed as you entered Oktoberfest.   My head swirled since the prices didn’t match the top quality of plants and topiaries.  Without hesitation my wallet came out and my home garden was immediately transformed into an autumn retreat because of my abundant purchase of bedding flowers at Oktoberfest!
One of the most exciting aspects of the event was the highly anticipated, live auction. Promptly at 2:45pm bidding numbers were raised in unison as a fun, exciting and a healthy dose of competition ensued. Twenty live auction items were coveted and secured by a variety of generous community folks that came out to have fun and support Hospice of Santa Cruz County.

Beautiful plants from Oktoberfest
Overall, this event was way more than what the name implies.  The Friends of Hospice Oktoberfest is a complete act of love and  generosity from the many women that plan, gather, tote, load-in, haul, set-up, show-up, decorate, call, transport and load-out all in the name of “love” for the many folks that are facing the end of life and their families that stand beside them.

Without our Friends of Hospice and Oktoberfest I would hate to see the impact that it would have on the longest serving Hospice of Santa Cruz County.  I just can’t help but be in gratitude for the positive impact that each member of Friends of Hospice adds to the exceptional quality of care and comfort to our patients and families that are on service.

Thank you dear Friends of Hospice of Santa Cruz County for your hearts to be always by the bedside of the dying while at the same time your hands are lugging boxes!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

My First Gourmet Grazing on the Green

Adrienne Meir (left) with Hospice of Santa Cruz County Board member, Cara De Simone

By Adrienne Meir

In all the years that I have lived in Aptos, I have never had the opportunity to attend the Santa Cruz Cancer Benefit Group's annual event, Gourmet Grazing on the Green. However, this year, being the new Assistant Director of Development for Hospice of Santa Cruz County, it was one of my job assignments to man the Hospice booth at this annual outdoor fundraising event. (Gourmet Grazing on the Green raises important funds for non-profit organizations that support individuals with cancer).

I was quite pleased with this assignment since my colleagues raved about the wonderful food and wine that restaurants and wineries all over the county offer in abundance at this well attended event.

The morning of Grazing on the Green came and I was anxious to set up my display early to avoid the normal last minute rally for parking for such a popular event.  Even though I had set my alarm clock for an early Saturday morning wake-up I had another wake-up call of the rhythmic pitter-pattering on my bedroom window….rain!

Of course anyone that hears the word “rain” for an annual outdoor event usually displays that look on their face, even if it is not spoken, of “oh, isn’t that too bad”, but I would have to say that the reason that I am writing this is to relay quite a different experience at my first “Grazing”, in fact the experience I had was somewhat Divine in nature.

There is something profoundly symbolic about the first rain of Fall.  A renewal, a starting over, a cleansing and a sense that the earth is being fed, as well as our sometimes weary human souls. I would have to say that Mother Nature offered a memorable gift to all that attended this event.

It was if we were all given permission to splash in mud puddles, get sopping wet and not care, and huddle under common umbrellas and tents with folks that we hardly knew.  As I sat at my booth and observed the pure joy on so many faces it was euphoric! Please note that some that attended this event are currently battling cancer, or may be in remission from cancer or may have just found out they have cancer or in some cases are in the dying process with cancer.  Some are cancer survivors and others are the loving families that support their loved ones by living right along side them. The great part is that they all had smiles and giggles and bad hair and muddy shoes and they all exuded an authenticity and a sense of peace of being joy filled right in their moment.

As I watched with a pure contentment of being in the right place at the right time, I could hear stories of survival and support and gratitude all around me.  College students, babies, families, retired couples walking arm in arm, and even the event volunteers all seemed to embrace a childlike wonder in the rain.

Santa Cruz Cancer Benefit Group’s Gourmet Grazing on the Green was a huge success in raising needed funds for many of the non-profit organizations that support folks with cancer.  Beyond this huge gift, which “Grazing” gives to the community every year, came an unexpected gift….which reminded us all of the power of community and the transformative effect it brings even when we simply huddle together with strangers when the rain comes.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Every Day is a New Day

Walking into the Gallagher home in Aptos is like walking into a sports museum. A ceiling-high glass case holds jerseys, caps, pennants, and countless other memorabilia from the San Jose Sharks and San Francisco Giants. But the standout item is the Sharks hockey jersey bearing the name “Gallagher,” a memento from the evening in May when the dream of a lifetime came true for 28-year-old Nicholas Gallagher, a Hospice of Santa Cruz County patient battling brain cancer. On that unforgettable night, Nicholas and his family were VIP guests of the Sharks, front and center at a playoff game. The dream became reality courtesy of the Dream Foundation through the efforts of Hospice of Santa Cruz County social worker Robin Spring, who submitted the application on behalf of Nicholas, known as Nick to his family.

During a visit with Robin a few weeks after the big event, Jan Gallagher, Nick’s grandmother and caregiver of many years, talked about what that special night meant to Nick and his family. “Nick is just such a positive guy, and he’s been so very excited about all of this,” she shared. “It’s just boosted his ‘get up and go.’” Nick indeed was still glowing, all smiles as the family reminisced and passed around photos of the night at the game when they helped cheer their team to victory. “He’s been wanting to meet them all his life, and he really felt like a rock star that night,” Jan added.

On the evening that the red carpet was rolled out for Nick and his family, they were picked up at home and escorted to the HP Pavilion in a limousine. They had dinner alongside the Sharks staff and NHL broadcasters, then watched the Sharks warm up on the ice. Just before game time, Nick was escorted outside the Sharks locker room where from his wheelchair he high-fived the team members as they skated out through the giant shark head to start the game. But the highlight may well have been intermission, when Nick was invited to ride atop the Zamboni ice resurfacer. As the Bay Area NBC news outlet featuring Nick’s story put it, “He might as well have been sitting on top of the world...looking up at the crowd...soaking it all in.”

“Ever since I became a fan, I’ve always wanted to meet them and I got the chance to meet them,” Nick told reporters that night with a big smile on his face. “It’s going to be the experience of a lifetime for me. I say, live life as you can, day to day. Every day is a new day.”

Nicholas Gallagher died on June 28, 2013, in his home surrounded by his loving family. We are grateful to Nicholas, his grandmother Jan and his father Matthew for sharing the beautiful story of their experience. The Hospice of Santa Cruz County care team was honored to provide care and support to the Gallaghers – it was a privilege to help make Nicholas’ dream come true.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Hospice, Redwoods, and Love

By Linda Donovan, Hospice Grief Support Volunteer

When my late husband, Paul, and I decided to move here from Southern California more than 15 years ago, one of the main reasons we chose to live in Santa Cruz County was because of its natural beauty. We were mesmerized by the redwoods, drawn to them like a magnet. It was worth the drive over Highway 17 to work because at least we got to stare at the beautiful trees along the way. We never failed to appreciate their majestic beauty when we drove by them or walked through Henry Cowell Park.  We treasured the precious train rides through the redwoods that gave us an even closer look from a new perspective.

The Hospice Journey

In late 2005, Paul was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given less than six months to live. When he could no longer walk very far, I drove him by the redwoods and they always brought a smile to his face. By February 2006, we called in Hospice of Santa Cruz County to help our family with Paul’s next journey. They provided grief support for my family, medical care, pastoral care, help with all the paperwork that goes along with illness, and so much more during this very difficult time. The volunteer visitors also offered comfort and gave us much-needed help.

Hospice helped Paul have the best possible quality of life in our home before he died in 2006. I wanted to have his life continue to make a difference. If I could share his story and people could benefit from hospice, then his loss would somehow not be as painful. Paul could “live on” though me. He was a great communicator – he even proofed the eulogy I wrote for him and told me to “Irish it Up,” as he would say, by making people laugh and cry. He inspired people with his sense of humor and courage, even as he was dying.

When I was receiving grief support services, I visited the Scotts Valley hospice office on Disc Drive fairly often. When they created a memorial wall outside of the building, I immediately bought a plaque with his name. After all, the people that gave him such great services and care worked from that office. It was a nice tribute and I would stop by and visit the wall just to pay my respects.

Back to the redwoods

I recently learned that I could “memorialize” Paul with a plaque on one of the ten redwood trees in the grove outside the hospice office in Scotts Valley. It’s a lovely setting, and as I looked at the trees, one of them “called” to me. It was like Paul was saying, “Linda, remember how much I love the redwoods?”
The redwoods meant so much to him and having a tree in his honor close to an organization that gave him unsurpassed comfort and care when he needed it the most, would be just what he would have wanted. I will visit Paul’s tree often and remember the love that he brought into the lives of so many people. There are nine other trees right by his, just waiting for people to come along and put their loved ones names on the tree. Redwood trees live for thousands of years and I think that choosing one is a great way to recognize your loved one and help Hospice of Santa Cruz County continue to provide such exceptional services to the community.

On Sunday, September 15, Hospice of Santa Cruz county will hold a Memorial Wall ceremony from 2:00 – 3:30 PM at 940 Disc Drive, Scotts Valley, where you can remember and honor your loved ones. I’ll be there nodding to Paul’s plaque on the tree with the hopes that he will be joined by others sometime soon. For more information about the memorial service or about naming a redwood tree in honor of your loved one, contact Kathleen R. Hughes, Director of Development at (831) 430-3033.

Friday, August 23, 2013

My Son, My Hero

A Miracle Story from Hospice of Santa Cruz County Community Table-

In the last few months Hospice of Santa Cruz County has hosted four community table luncheons with the intent of deepening our connection with our community.  These luncheons let us learn more about the individuals who have been touched by Hospice of Santa Cruz County and allows us to find new ways to stay connected.

Lenore Doler, a new member of our event fundraising group, the Friends of Hospice, brought her friend Kate Engelbrecht-Crow to one of the community table luncheons. Kate mentioned that one of her hobbies is creating memorial quilts for special loved ones in her life.  As a result of her passion, Hospice of Santa Cruz County connected Kate with Bunnie Jacquay, the mother of a 23-year-old veteran who was killed in the line of duty in Iraq.

Bunnie gave Kate a variety of Sgt. Cody Legg’s favorite childhood clothes as well as his military uniforms. With much love, compassion and care, Kate created a stunning gift of warmth, comfort and remembrance.  This unique one-of-a-kind quilt will be presented to Sgt. Cody Legg’s mother, Bunnie, in September -- on what would have been Cody’s 29th Birthday.

We are privileged to display this loving gesture of comfort at Hike-Bike for Hospice of Santa Cruz County. We hope that you take the time to learn more about our Hospice of Santa Cruz County’s We Honor Veterans program that offers special services to our end-of-life veterans.

Thank you to Kate Engelbrecht for your loving gift to Cody’s mother, Bunnie, and to all the individuals that support our We Honor Veterans program here in Santa Cruz County!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Local Quilters and Hospice of Santa Cruz County Honor and Support Veterans

From the Desk of Cathy Conway
Vice President of Communications & Philanthropy

Hike-Bike for Hospice of Santa Cruz County on August 24th is shaping up to be a great opportunity for the community to remember their loved ones and raise funds for our compassionate care programs. I’d like to share with you some exciting news about one of the programs that will be supported at the event, known as the We Honor Veterans Program.

We are delighted that members of the Pajaro Valley Quilters Association created a beautiful quilt, named Comfort at Pearl Harbor, which will be unveiled on August 24. This stunning handmade quilt is a tribute to all the veterans that Hospice of Santa Cruz County serves in our community and supports our We Honors Veterans Program.

Bea Casey and Betty Whitman present the Comfort at Pearl Harbor quilt to Mike Milward, CEO of HSCC at a luncheon to thank the PVQA for their generosity.

HSCC’s We Honors Veterans program is a partnership with the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Together we are committed to bringing comfort, dignity, and quality of life to veterans in our community.  Our clinical teams are trained to recognize and provide hospice care that is focused on meeting unique needs of veterans.   And we work to educate our veteran community about our services to increase awareness of and access to hospice care.

More about Quilts of Love
The Pajaro Valley Quilters Association (PVQA) members 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. The Pearl Harbor quilt showcases a variety of vintage Pacific Island fabrics that have been quilted in a stunning geometric pattern known as Flying Geese.

This quilt was created by Bea Casey and Betty Whitman.  Bea, who has been sewing since she was 14 years old, donated all of the vintage fabric.  Betty worked on the quilt diligently while she was recovering from a surgery.

Many of the PVQA members are also involved in making lap quilts for disabled and recovering veterans.  The quilts are collected and taken to VA hospitals in Palo Alto and Menlo Park. We have also received many of these beautiful quilts, which we’ve given to veterans who are receiving our hospice services.

Schedule for the “Traveling” Quilt
People can purchase raffle tickets for the Pearl Harbor quilt at the Hike-Bike event and the other events listed below. (More information about the Hike-Bike event is available at The quilt will “tour” the balance of the year, ending with the winning ticket being selected at our Tree of Lights Ceremony in December.

  • August 24th, 2013 – Hike/Bike for Hospice of Santa Cruz County at the State Forest of Nisene Marks 
  • September 14th, 2013 – Hospice of Santa Cruz County Memorial Wall Open House 
  • December 8th, 2013- Hospice of Santa Cruz County Tree of Lights

All proceeds from the quilt raffle benefit the Hospice of Santa Cruz County We Honor Veterans Program. You do not need to be present to win.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Connecting Through Flowers - The Homeless Garden Project and Hospice of Santa Cruz County

“I have a particular patient who I bring flowers to.  She is a woman who rarely speaks and when she does, her words don’t always make sense,” shares chaplain Paulette Forrest.   “However, the first time I brought her a bouquet, I put them close enough for her to smell and touch.  She said clear as a bell ‘that is the nicest thing anyone has done for me.’  I was amazed.” Paulette is one of the Hospice patient care team members bringing bouquets to her patients.    “She cried and stroked the flowers for some time.  Since then she has not been able to speak much but she always tears up when she sees the flowers and smiles.”

The flower bouquets are donated to Hospice of Santa Cruz County by The Homeless Garden Project, a job training program for homeless men and women.  The program serves on average 15 people who are in need of recovery and teaches trainees about organic farming and general job skills. Many people involved in the program have been out of work for sometime, and the program helps renew confidence in themselves and their overall work ability.

“Bringing flowers out to patients is one of my favorite things to do. Not only are they beautiful, but who doesn't like to receive flowers?”, said Jessica Brandin, HSCC nurse.  “I love talking about the community partnership we have with the Homeless Garden Project.  Patients and their families seem to really like this too, especially the ones who have been in the county for a long time and know about Homeless Garden Project.  Other people who don't know about the project get excited to learn about it.” Social worker, Jori Leslie agrees and shares, “It’s a wonderful feeling to walk into a patient's home with a bouquet of flowers; they usually smile pretty big!”

Another HSCC nurse, Tricia Keenan, became involved in the Homeless Garden Project as a volunteer in the kitchen and is now managing the program's Flower Enterprise. She has the opportunity to work out in the field with Homeless Garden Project trainees and also in the holiday store workshop.  “I have been able to see how the program has helped people regain confidence in themselves through committed work,” said Tricia.  It takes many hands to bring these beautiful bouquets to our patients.  The flowers are planted and maintained by farm trainees and harvested and arranged every Tuesday.  A volunteer from Hospice of Santa Cruz County picks them up and brings them to the office for staff to bring to our patients.

Tricia commented, “The trainees are excited to know that their work is being enjoyed in the community. Not only do they get to be a part of the process of growing healthy organic food but they also are able to grow flowers that inspire others. The trainees are proud to know that their flower bouquets are being distributed to hospice patients. It really is an amazing partnership!”

Employees of Hospice of Santa Cruz County with family members receiving care from HSCC have been touched by the project too.  Linda Stephens, Clinical Administrative Assistant said, “When my Oma was on hospice I would bring her flowers from the project and let me tell you her little face would light up like a Christmas tree!  Even if she was in bed and not feeling well she would ask me to bring the flowers in her room and she would put them on her table so she could look at them.  Oma would tell me the flowers always made her happy.  Of course if you took her a bag of chips with those flowers you were queen for the day. Thanks to all that work at the garden project.”

Hospice of Santa Cruz County is grateful to The Homeless Garden Project for helping us to brighten our patients’ days by connecting through flowers.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Ladies 18 Holers to Host Golf Tournament at Seascape Golf Club

Brenda Holquin, Ladies 18 Holers - Seascape Golf Club
Each year, the Women's 18 Hole Golf Club from Seascape hosts a charity tournament.  For the last 13 years, the club has chosen  Hospice of Santa Cruz County as their beneficiary.  According to Brenda Holquin, Captain of the club, they choose HSCC “because we all need it in life and it has been utilized by a lot of our members.”  Brenda has been a member of the Women’s 18 Hole Golf Club for five years and an employee at Seascape Golf Club for seven years, working in the pro shop and doing the books on the weekends.  The club was formed over 50 years ago to promote the sport of golf among its members and to conduct tournaments and activities. Over 40 women are members of the club.  Last year they presented HSCC with over $5,200 from the tournament.

The sold out tournament will take place on July 23rd and 80 members & non-members are registered.  “It sold out immediately,” Brenda shared.  “HSCC is really supported by the community.  It's one of the charities that it's unbelievably easy to get support for because of the services hospice provides .”  The Women’s 18 Holers are grateful to Seascape Golf Club for allowing the club to host the tournament at their course and Hospice of Santa Cruz County is grateful to Seascape Golf Club and its members for their support and generosity.

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

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Santa Cruz County: More Medicare patients choose hospice at end of life than anywhere else in the Bay Area

By Linda Donovan, Grief Support Volunteer - Hospice of Santa Cruz County

I was very impressed, but not surprised when I read the excellent article in the San Jose Mercury News, The Cost of Dying: A shift in how we end our lives. This article highlighted how more Medicare patients are choosing hospice over hospitals at the end of life. It referenced research that said 70 percent of Californians would rather die at home and 67 percent said it was extremely important to not burden families with care costs. The article discussed the value of “shifting patients to hospice and family homes where caregivers try to ease the discomforts of dying.”

Santa Cruz County was highlighted for having 53.1 percent of Medicare patients choose hospice at end of life in 2010 —the highest proportion of patients selecting hospice in the Bay Area. That was about 10% higher for Santa Cruz than in 2007. In fact, Santa Cruz is one of the few areas where’ out of pocket costs for these people declined. Why didn’t any of this news surprise me? Because my family used Hospice of Santa Cruz County services when my late husband was terminally ill and I’ve been actively involved as grief support volunteer for hospice since 2008. I’ve seen, experienced, and shared the gift that this hospice provides to people with compassionate care at the end of life.

The article mentioned that Santa Cruz stands out for its low-intensity, high-touch standard of care. It attributes Santa Cruz County’s success to the tight bond among doctors, hospitals, and civic groups and referenced the value of Hospice of Santa Cruz County: “Additionally, its leading hospice has existed for 35 years, cultivating trust.”

Michael Milward, CEO of Hospice of Santa Cruz County, said in the article, “We have a remarkably collaborative community that is able to meet each other at the edges, having tough conversations that involve high-quality, low-cost and practical solutions.” According to Milward, by having these conversations, hospice knows who can offer the best service to people at the end of life, as well to their families.

What does this best service look like when people choose Hospice of Santa Cruz County? It includes an array of qualified people, resources, and services available to meet the many needs of seriously ill individuals and their family. When you or your family selects this hospice, a whole team is assigned to help. The social worker identifies needs and concerns    and helps guide the individual and family through this difficult time. Nurses visit regularly and can be available at 24 /7 with just a phone call. It’s like the old days of when doctors routinely made house calls instead of sick people having to wait in an office lobby for medical treatment. Medications and medical equipment are delivered to the home. A chaplain is available to provide spiritual guidance. Volunteer visitors offer much-needed support to everyone involved with caring for their loved one.  Hospice even offers   transitional care services to support people who are not yet ready for hospice care and need help with clarifying their healthcare decisions and identifying other community resources.

Grief support is a critical service provided by Hospice of Santa Cruz County. Resources are available to help the family while they are caring for their loved one. After the loss, people in the community can attend one-on-one grief support sessions, scheduled grief groups, or specialized programs, such one focused on the needs of children. These services help prepare people as they adjust to their lives after the loss. In addition, grief support services are not only for hospice families — they are also available to the entire community.

Hospice of Santa Cruz County continues to make a difference in the lives of so many people. Just recently, hospice broadened its reach by opening a Center for End of Life Care in Watsonville. I’ve seen and experienced the depth of compassionate care by hospice. Having it recognized in the San Jose Mercury News article validates the commitment and service of this amazing non-profit organization.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Physical Effect of Caregiving

About two-thirds of all family caregivers are women. It’s these tender souls who give up much in order to take care of those they love who are on their final journey in life. It’s also these gentle souls, and maybe you are one of them, who tend to put all their energy into taking care of everyone else and fail to take care of their own physical needs.

Let’s look at some statistics:

-  Female caregivers experience higher levels of depression and anxiety and also a lower level of general wellbeing than their male counterparts.

-  Twenty-two percent of female caregivers go to bed exhausted.

-  More than 1 in 5 women fail to get their regular mammograms on time.

-  Due to increased stress, 21 percent of all caregivers have a higher abuse level of alcohol and prescription drugs.

-  Female caregivers are more likely to smoke or consume fatty foods.

-  Female caregivers don’t fill their prescriptions on time and don’t go to the doctor as often as they should.

-  Female caregivers are more susceptible to heart disease and they don’t eat well or exercise regularly.

All of this neglect of their own physical needs often leads to higher mortality rates in women family caregivers; especially if they are over 65 and caring for a loved one.

So what is the message you should take from all this information? Well, it’s multi-layered.

Start by realizing that you are abusing yourself by neglecting your own physical needs. You can always say, “I just don’t have time for all those things.” Find a way to make time for yourself without feeling guilty.

Set goals and follow through with them. This might be a simple as saying “I will do one thing every day to take care of me.” That one thing might be a half hour walk, keeping a doctor’s appointment, shopping with a friend or going to your son’s baseball game. You will be happier and your quality of care will be better.

GET HELP!  Honestly, please get help. You must realize that it is possible that you can’t be all things to everybody. Call on family. Call on a friend. Get help from Hospice of Santa Cruz County, hospice can help support you as a family caregiver. Schedule a volunteer to come read to your loved one while you go to the doctor. Have a friend come over to visit the patient while you exercise for an hour. A family member might be willing to pick up your prescriptions if you don’t have time. You would be amazed at how many people are will and able to assist you.

It is important to you, the patient and your own family that you stay whole through this difficult time. That may take a little work on your part to coordinate and schedule with others, but it is well worth it if it means you maintain your physical and mental health.

“Health is the greatest possession. Contentment is the greatest treasure.” – Tao Tzu