Volunteers celebrating life at HPH Hospice
KIM DAMEWhen Tiffany Day Smith found herself tumbling through the final stretch of her mother's terminal cancer, she found HPH Hospice her soft place to land.
Published: December 23, 2012
Published: December 23, 2012
Her mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer 15 years before. And it had metastasized and spread to her brain and her bones.
"She was moved to hospice on a Sunday night," Smith remembered. "And she passed on Wednesday."
During that three-day blur of emotion and preparation, Smith said the hospice dedicated attention not only to keeping her mother comfortable, but also to the care of her father, who was diabetic.
"When I couldn't be there, they made sure he was OK," Smith said. "They even sent someone out to get him food."
She described the environment as comfortable.
"They addressed us by name," she said. "And they kept checking on us, which was especially important for my father."
HPH Hospice focuses on the "palliation of terminally ill patient's symptoms."
Yet the hospice, with its main campus located on Cortez Boulevard, does so much more. They cater to the patient as well as offering support for the family. This includes Bereavement Support even after the patient has passed.
Smith said the process after her mother's death helped re-jumpstart her father's life.
Carla Hayes, HPH Hospice marketing communications coordinator, said without the dedicated volunteers, HPH Hospice simply would not have the capacity to provide so many services, many of which have provided so much in terms of comfort and support to families and caregivers.
"We wouldn't be able to do what we do if it wasn't for our volunteers," she said.
Many have extensive time devoted as volunteers. And a select group of amazing givers consists of members in their 90s.
Esther Bauerle, 89, began volunteering for Hospice in 1991. Her reason is simple.
"They were there for me when I needed them," she said. Her husband suffered from Parkinson's disease.
Bauerle had been particularly inspired by one home health aid who provided such dedicated service to both her and her husband during their time of need.
"It takes a special kind of person to do that," she said.
So she volunteered after her husband's death, visiting her first patient who also suffered from Parkinson's. When asked again to sit with a similar patient, Bauerle agreed but had to back out after the first visit.
"It became too difficult," Bauerle said.
The patient displayed similar facial expressions and characteristics she had seen in her husband.
"It became too painful," she added.
But that didn't deter her motivation. Bauerle instead worked in the office, organizing packets for promotional events like health fairs.
Stan Lund, who turned 91 Saturday, tells a similar story about his own hospice experience when his wife was battling pancreatic cancer.
"Hospice was so good to me," he said. "I thought I should give something back."
Lund visited patients in their homes, once traveling 30 miles. Others lived in his Timber Pines neighborhood where Lund commuted in his golf cart.
"I like helping people," he said. "When I would get a patient, it was like I was getting a book because everyone had a story to tell."
Lund was in the real estate business before he retired, perhaps what added to his natural gift for listening. He recited poignant moments he'd shared with patients, describing details that held very special meaning.
One was a mailman from New York, he said, who built floats for parades. There was a fireman from Detroit and a factory worker from New York.
And there was Peter, he said, who was only in his early 40s, lived alone and seemed eager for Lund's visits.
"I guess he thought of me as like a father figure," Lund said.
Peter was eventually moved to Hospice House where he received round-the-clock care. And Lund continued to visit until he passed.
"It's sad when they leave us, but they're going to a better place," Lund said. "They're being promoted."
Lund, who is a World War II veteran, also performs pinning ceremonies for veterans, if they choose it. In fact, HPH Hospice is a partner in the "We Honor Veterans Program."
Nellie Fynan, 93, lost her husband to Alzheimer's in 2008. Her experience with the volunteers at Hospice House helped motivate her to give her time.
"I was part of the group that took meals to the people," she said. "It is such a wonderful place because you can get them what they want. Some liked to just eat popcorn. Others just wanted cookies."
Fynan was asked once by a patient why she volunteered. "I told them I would hope someone would do this for me."
Ruth and Joe Lanni, a couple married 68 years, have been hospice volunteers since 2003. Both are 91, although Joe considers himself "the child bride."
Retired from the school system in New Jersey, the Lannis moved to Spring Hill and spent their time playing golf.
"When we couldn't play golf anymore," said Ruth, "we were trying to decide what to do."
Hospice became their newest passion after reading about the need for volunteers in the newspaper.
The two worked in the kitchen. Joe demonstrated his culinary skills every Sunday while Ruth made milkshakes and cleaned the dishes.
"I did it for five years," Joe said.
"Now he cooks for me," Ruth added.
The Lannis still volunteer each week, filing in the office.
"They really add spice to the office," said Anne Clarke, volunteer coordinator.
While only a small sampling of the hospice volunteers at HPH Hospice, this group strongly represented the vast range of what volunteers can do. While unique in their personalities, each had the same goal in mind. They simply wanted to make a difference.
Hayes' job is to clarify what HPH Hospice is because there are some misconceptions.
Some consider hospice the end of the road, thereby triggering sadness and emotion. The reality, however, is far more enlightening.
"We don't focus on death here," Hayes said. "We celebrate life."