Volunteering with Hospice

Volunteers are an essential part of a hospice team, participating in roles from directly interacting with patients to helping with fundraising efforts. Hospice volunteers often describe their work as purposeful, validating, and meaningful. Hospice volunteers are at the heart of every hospice operation and are valued greatly.

How Hospice Volunteers Serve

Supporting Patients

This is a huge part of what hospice volunteers do. These tasks can include: visiting with patients, reading, taking walks, helping communicate for patients, bringing in therapeutic items, or supervising therapeutic visits. This list is not all-encompassing, and volunteers can do so much more for the patients they work with.

Comforting Family Members

Volunteers can do anything from listening to family members, sitting with them, or helping them with simple tasks like running errands or taking care of family pets. They are also able to help family members have some time alone by sitting with patients while family members take a nap or walk.

Fundraising and Administrative Work

Volunteers can also help hospice organizations by using their skills in the office with administrative duties. Fundraising efforts can include helping with mailings, contacting donors, facilitating events or writing thank-you letters.

Special Skills and Interests

In addition to everything listed above, each volunteer has their own set of skills or interests that could be of use to the hospice they are volunteering for. This could include skills such as: landscaping, musicians, barbers, notaries, sewing, etc. If you feel that your local hospice could benefit from a skill you enjoy, reach out!

 

If you or someone you know is interested in volunteering with Premier Hospice, please reach out by contacting one of our offices near you today.

Breast Cancer Awareness | Be Involved

Did you know? October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This month is dedicated to increasing awareness of breast cancer, raising funding for research into the cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and cure of breast cancer, and providing information and support for those with breast cancer or for those who may be at risk for breast cancer. Here are six ways that you can get involved:

Offer support! Consider charities that focus on supporting those with breast cancer. Charities that assist with gas cards, wigs, the payment of treatment, makeup classes, etc. are all excellent ways to support the fight against breast cancer. Or, if you know of someone personally affected by breast cancer, offer to assist them. Something as simple as offering to bring them dinner or to help with their housework can be a big relief during a physically and emotionally demanding time.

Donate to research initiatives. Look for charities that use funding to research a cure for metastatic breast cancer.

Know the signs and symptoms of breast cancer. According to Clearview Cancer Institute in Huntsville (www.clearviewcancer.com), any of the following signs and symptoms would warrant a consult with a physician:

  • A lump in the breast or underarm area
  • An enlargement of pores around the breast or nipple area (often described as an orange peel’s texture)
  • Dimpling on the breast
  • Unexplained swelling or shrinkage of one of the breasts
  • An inverted nipple
  • Nipple discharge that is clear or bloody

Complete Breast Cancer Screening. Encourage others to do the same! Unfortunately, many people with early stages of breast cancer do not exhibit symptoms, which makes it critically important for patients to schedule yearly mammograms and to complete regular self-exams. According to cancer.org, the latest guidelines recommend that women should begin having yearly mammograms by age 45 and can begin to have mammograms every other year beginning at age 55. The Centers for Disease Control states that the United States Prevention Services Task Force External (USPSTF) recommends that you speak to your physician about when and how often you should receive a mammogram, as certain risk factors may warrant an earlier exam.

Regularly perform Self Breast Exams. Encourage others to do the same! According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, self-exams should be completed once a month. For a information on how to perform a self-breast exam, visit https://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/breast-self-exam.

Know the risk factors and share those factors with others! Some factors, such as gender, age, and genetics are beyond your control. But other factors, such as lifestyle and diet, can decrease your risk of breast cancer. Visit https://www.breastcancer.org/risk/factors for a comprehensive list of risk factors.

It’s Okay to Feel Shocked

The death of a loved one is a hard reality to grasp. Often, it can feel like a bad dream that you just can’t wake up from. Although you may know that your loved one is very sick or in the process of dying, the unavoidability of dying always feels sudden, unforeseen and unbelievable. It’s shocking.

It is important to recognize that shock is a natural part of the grieving process and can occur many times before the loss fully settles in. Although it doesn’t feel normal, it’s your body’s way of handling painful experiences. Given time, the shock will weaken, but you must understand this process is hard, and it takes time to accept death.

Most of all, keep in mind that although the grieving process is difficult and the loss is shocking, there will come a time when you will acknowledge and accept the loss. You will always remember the loved ones you have lost, but you do not need to always grieve their absence.

If you find yourself struggling with the shock and overwhelming grief of losing a loved one, keep these phrases in mind:

  • Allow your grief
  • Be patient with yourself
  • Be willing to change things

 

Our bereavement services are available to families for up to 13 months following the loss of a loved one. We also host monthly support group sessions at our Premier Hospice & Home Health locations. Support groups offer families and friends a platform to share their experience with others in the community who are facing similar situations. Please contact us for more information about our bereavement services. 

Keeping Dignity | Caregiver Tips

Your loved one can no longer do the many tasks they once could. They now depend on you for many of these things. The easiest solution may be to simply take over and make decision, but it’s important to be respectful of your loved ones. As a caregiver, you want to protect your loved one’s dignity and sense of self-worth.

Put yourself in their shoes. Imagine if your independence had slipped away. You can no longer drive, walk, or get out of bed. These once simple tasks now require help from someone else. How would this make you feel? You may feel frustrated. This loss of freedom would most likely cause you to want to keep control over as much as you possibly could.

Here are some helpful suggestions:

  • Put yourself in your loved one’s place. How would you want to be treated if you were being cared for?
  • Educate yourself on your loved one’s condition. This can prepare you for what’s ahead.
  • Help them do what they can on their own for as long as possible. This will give them a sense of control.
  • Talk openly and honestly with your loved one. Try to involve them in decisions and be a good listener.
  • Be flexible. Try an accommodate reasonable requests if you can.
  • Give positive feedback if your loved one does a task on their own.

Premier Hospice & Home Health Receives Award from Healthy Arizona Worksite Program

On May 1st, Premier Hospice & Home Health received a Silver level award from the Healthy Arizona Worksite Program.

The Healthy Arizona Worksites Program (HAWP) is a statewide program that provides Arizona employers with training, technical assistance, tools, and resources to design, implement, and evaluate worksite wellness initiatives. HAWP also works to create linkages between Arizona businesses engaging in healthy worksite efforts so they can learn from each other and share experiences.

The Silver award level indicates that an employer’s worksite program has the minimum components needed for a comprehensive worksite health program including, senior level management support, an active wellness team, a program budget, and use of data. In order to qualify for this award, Monique K. (as Premier’s Wellness Champion) attended a HAWP 101 training, obtained a letter of support from her leadership, completed a CDC worksite health scorecard assessment, and created a worksite health improvement plan. Kianna S. and Monique K. accepted this award on Premier’s behalf.

See Premier listed on the HAWP website here: https://healthyazworksites.org/award/whos-recognized/#1543593402535-a87fa28f-b4d4

Our Bereavement Services

Grieving for loved ones who are experiencing a life-limiting illness is natural for families and friends. This process can often begin before death occurs. Premier Hospice & Home Health Bereavement Services are available for those who are coping with losing a loved one. Our staff is committed to working closely with families who are working through the grieving process. Our services include:

  • One-on-one support
  • Print materials
  • Supportive phone calls
  • In-home support sessions

Our support is available to families for up to 13 months following the loss of a loved one. We also host monthly support group sessions at our Premier Hospice & Home Health locations. Support groups offer families and friends a platform to share their experience with others in the community who are facing similar situations.

Our services don’t stop once your loved one has passed. We are committed to helping families and friends of patients even after they are gone. Please contact us for more information about our Bereavement Services.

Life-Limiting Illnesses – When to Call Hospice

A life-limiting illness is an incurable chronic disease or condition that no longer respond to curative treatments.

Examples of a life-limiting illness include:

  • Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia
  • Stroke
  • ALS
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Heart Disease
  • Pulmonary Disease
  • Liver Disease
  • End-stage Renal Disease
  • AIDS
  • Cancer

A life limiting illness, coupled with symptoms below, could be indicators of decline and hospice eligibility:

  • Frequent hospitalizations, ER visits, or visits to the physician within the last six months
  • Progressive weight loss (with consideration to weight gain factors such as edema, when applicable)
  • Decreasing appetite
  • Dysphagia or difficulty swallowing
  • Increased weakness or fatigue
  • Decline in cognitive status or functional abilities
  • Increasing assistance needed with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)
  • Increasing pain or increasing difficulty in controlling pain
  • Increasing dyspnea or shortness of breath
  • Oxygen dependency
  • Reoccurring infections
  • Ascites
  • Increased nausea and/or vomiting that is difficult to control
  • A desire to forgo future hospitalizations
  • A request to discontinue treatment
  • Recurrent or frequent infections
  • Skin breakdown
  • A specific decline in condition

If you or a loved one has a life-limiting illness and are experiencing any of the above symptoms, consider speaking to your physician about hospice services. You can also call Premier Hospice & Home Health, and one of our team members can help guide you through the process of requesting hospice through your physician.

The Grief Survival Kit

Let yourself grieve. It’s important to let yourself take this roller coaster ride and feel your emotions rather than suppress them. No matter how hard you try to bury those feelings of grief, they will continue to resurface, and you won’t be able to truly move on. Start the healing process by giving into grief.

Lean on friends and family. Your friends and family expect you to be upset. While they may not always know the right things to do or say, they do want to be there for you even if it’s just to listen or offer affection. Never feel too proud or embarrassed to lean on them in this time of need.

Join a support group – online or offline. Whether you find a group through social media or in person, support groups provide ways to talk and listen to others who are in the same position and truly understand what you are going through.

Focus on the positive aspects of your life. The loss you are experiencing could feel like the worst thing that’s ever happened to you and no one can change your mind. Despite this, what you need to do is reflect on all the good aspects that continue to bless your life and are worth pushing through the grief.

Keep yourself busy. Become more involved, go on a trip, try something new – participate in activities you enjoy and that can keep you focused on something other than your grief. Redirect your energy into doing things you’ve always wanted to do but never prioritized.

Breathe. If ever you find the grief to be too overwhelming, take a few deep breaths. The body’s breathing becomes shallow when we are feeling tense or stressed, resulting in insufficient oxygen to the body. This adds to the stress you are already feeling, so focusing on conscious, deeps breaths helps you relax and breathe normally.

Journaling Through the Grief

Journaling while grieving can help you document and process the feelings of grief you are experiencing. As you begin the healing process and reconnecting with who you once were, you may start thinking about or telling yourself things you would want to record. Putting these thoughts and feelings into words can be very beneficial and help in better working through the grief. This is why it is a great idea to keep a grief journal.

There are many, different ways you can start to fill up your journal. From creative writing and poetry to journaling and writing letters to your deceased loved one, each way provides you with a venue to communicate without fear of being judged. Opening up and disclosing your feelings to others can be difficult, but each of these methods allows you to express what you are feeling in a more personal, therapeutic way.

Research demonstrates that grief journaling after a significant loss has beneficial value. Experts explain that ‘reconstructing your personal self-narrative’ is crucial to the healing process. A grief journal can assist you in recording your experience, recognizing patterns, and establishing growth.

Are you interested in grief journaling but aren’t sure where to start? Here are some writing prompts to get you started:

  • Today, I am really missing…
  • I feel most connected to my loved one when I…
  • If I could talk to you again, I’d tell you…
  • My goal for this week…
  • I know I’m going to be okay because…

Sandy Parker’s Experience as an Eleventh-Hour Volunteer

One basic value of hospice care is that no one should die alone without support or the presence of loved ones. In addition to caring for the patient, the loved ones of hospice patients deserve and benefit from support as well. Eleventh-hour volunteers are trained to keep vigil and provide that supportive presence to patients and families in the final hours of life. The following is Sandy’s story and her journey as an eleventh-hour volunteer.

Why Did Sandy Become an Eleventh-Hour Volunteer?

Sandy was already a volunteer with Premier Hospice & Home Health before she became an eleventh-hour volunteer. When the program director approached her asking if she would like to join the eleventh-hour volunteer program, Sandy immediately answered that she would. Since being with the program from its conception in 2015, Sandy has sat with more than 10 patients and continues to dedicate her time in between her busy schedule.

How the Eleventh-Hour Has Impacted Sandy

Sandy spoke about one striking moment that has stood out for her during her time as an eleventh-hour volunteer. She recalls sitting with a patient and his wife during her third assignment. As they were sitting knee to knee, Sandy and the wife talked for a long while beside the unresponsive husband. Despite the circumstances, her and the wife were laughing as Sandy listened to stories about the couple’s lives together. Sandy explained that it was so nice to see that the patient’s wife was so positive about life.

It was like two ladies telling stories over coffee.

As they continued talking, Sandy noticed changes in the patient’s breathing. When Sandy turned to check on the patient again, she noticed he had passed. When she told the wife, her response was, “What? Really? That was so peaceful.” They way she responded was very calm and steady.

Sandy went on to explain that she firmly believes the last thing to go is a patient’s hearing. As she explained this to the wife, Sandy said she believed the husband had heard them and realized how calm and joyful his wife was, and felt it was alright to leave.

“This encounter really made an impact on me because of the peacefulness of the situation. The wife had such a joyful attitude and I found it so wonderful. I was so blessed to be there for that moment.” -Sandy Parker

Why Does Sandy Continue to Volunteer?

“There is something about being with someone who is dying. Often, there can be a lot of stress on family members or friends, so someone needs to be with and advocate for the patient. As I said, I truly believe the last thing to go is hearing, and I don’t want the environment to not be peaceful for the patient. I need to be there for the patient and make sure there is a thread of continuity.”

“It is an honor to walk into a situation where I don’t know anyone and I am able to act as something concrete for both the patient and the family. I blessed to be able to put myself in these situations and be calm and focused. I always make sure to recognize the patient and acknowledge them when maybe others aren’t able to.”

If you or someone you know is interested in becoming an eleventh-hour volunteer, please contact Laura Ehmann at (602) 274-7572 or laura.ehmann@premierhospiceaz.com.