Grief and the holidays
By Heather Shelton
Times-Standard Newspaper | December 18, 2022
Photo: Pictured on the Hospice of Humboldt campus in Eureka are Grief Support Services counselors Mayra Samano and Mandy Mauerman.
Many people are filled with happiness and joy this time of year, but for those dealing with loss and grief, the coming days can be especially challenging. “The holiday season seems to bring constant messages to be excited, giving and close to family and friends, yet those who are grieving may approach this time with sadness and even a sense of dread as they are remembering the loss of loved ones. While friends and family gather, those who are grieving may feel sad and lonely,” said Jeanne Reilly, director of social services with Hospice of Humboldt in Eureka. (She oversees the Grief Support Services department.) Some people may or may not experience some of the following changes while they are amid the grieving process, she said. • Physical changes: Feeling tired, having a lack of energy and even numbness, not sleeping or sleeping a lot. • Emotional changes: Loneliness, feeling abandoned or feelings of guilt or regret, shock, numbness, restlessness, relief after a prolonged or difficult illness, fear about resulting changes in one’s life such as home, job, financial support. • Mental changes: Difficulty concentrating or becoming forgetful, struggling to follow through on simple tasks, a lack of interest in daily affairs, questioning the meaning and purpose of life. • Other changes: Some may tend to isolate or withdraw socially and some may expect their loved one to call or they may sense the loved one’s presence. Reilly offers a few suggestions that may ease the pain and assist in the healing process, but she says, “Please keep in mind that there is no single right way to be in your grief. Do what is comfortable to you.” • Acknowledge that it won’t be the same this time (this year). • Express your needs — let others know what might be helpful. • Plan ahead — continue old rituals or create new ones. “The key is to practice rituals and activities that honor your personal needs and the memory of your loved one,” Reilly said. • Take time to reflect and treasure your memories — share stories, gather photos for an album, play a loved one’s favorite music, etc. “There are no hard and fast rules about how people grieve. Grief may be more intense and prolonged the closer one is to the person that died,” Reilly said. “Through the grieving process,” she said, “we gradually accept the loss and we heal. There is still sadness, but it is not the deep hurt we have felt before. With the sadness, we still have happy memories of our loved one who has died.” Reilly offers several tools people can use to help themselves with grief and sadness: • Be patient with yourself. Give yourself time for healing. • Find supportive, trustworthy friends and family, and share feelings honestly. Feelings are neither right nor wrong, they just “are.” • Take one day at a time and soon those days will become weeks. • Seek help from those who know how to help you heal. • Grief can lead to physical symptoms. “Unexpressed words or tears can cause lumps in your throat. Anger held inside can lead to headaches or upset stomach,” Reilly said. • Keep a regular schedule, if possible. Maintain realistic goals and expectations. • Focus on taking care of yourself. Be aware of your body’s need for nutrition, rest and exercise. “If you notice something worrisome, seek professional support,” she said. To help people with the grieving process, Hospice of Humboldt provides grief support services for individuals and in groups. Grief support counselors provide emotional support and grief education to individuals and families. Hospice of Humboldt also offers free grief support groups every week with trained facilitators. For more information about these groups, call 707-267-9801. “Every week people gather to share their experiences of grieving,” Reilly said. “The focus is on creating a safe place to express and heal feelings that come with grief. These meetings are facilitated by bereavement volunteers who are trained and supervised by grief support counselors.” Hospice of Humboldt also offers free individual sessions for children and will be offering a teen group in the spring of 2023. Reilly shares some other resources that could be helpful: • North Coast Association of Mental Health Professionals: This website provides an extensive list of mental health professionals in the area. www.ncamhp.org. • Two Feathers Native American Family Services: Counseling and Native youth suicide prevention programs. 707-839-1933. • Good Grief: Provides tips and support. www.good-grief.org. • Realize the Gift: An extensive web-based resource hosted by Gemini Adams, grief expert and multiple award-winning author of “Your Legacy of Love: Realize the Gift in Goodbye,” offering hundreds of articles, expert advice sections and links to recommended organizations, books, films and websites relating to all end-of-life and grief issues. www.realizethegift.com. • The Dinner Party: A worldwide community of 20- and 30-somethings who have experienced the loss of a parent, partner, child, sibling, other close family member or close friend. TheDinnerParty.org. • Refuge In Grief: Blog, videos, even a 30-day “Writing Your Grief” course. www.refugeingrief.com. • Dougy Center: A national support center where children, teens, young adults and their families grieving a death can share their experiences. www.dougy.org. • Compassionate Friends: Assists families toward the positive resolution of grief following the death of a child of any age and provides information to help others be supportive. www.compassionatefriends.org. • Adults Alternatives to Suicide Zoom peer support group: Free online group for ages 18 and up. Meets Mondays, 6 to 7:30 p.m. Zoom meeting ID: 160 522 9687. Email Erik at firstname.lastname@example.org. • Humboldt County Mental Health Crisis Line: 707-445-771. • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call for national, confidential, anonymous, 24/7 crisis line, 1-800-273-8255. Ayuda en Español: 1-888-628-9454. This site also has resources for helping yourself and others, suicidepreventionlifeline.org. • Crisis Text Line: Free 24/7 support. Text HOME to 741741 to connect with a crisis counselor who can provide support, but not medical advice. www.crisistextline.org. Reilly also offers a few ideas about how people can help their friends and loved ones who are dealing with grief: • Leave them care packages. • Be specific about how you can help. • Ask questions. • Remember big dates and acknowledge little dates. • Just be present, you don’t have to talk. • Share memories of the lost loved one, “Say their name,” she said. • Let them be sad • Be awkward. It’s OK if you do not know what to say. “Your friends/family just need you,” Reilly said. For more information about Hospice of Humboldt — located at 3327 Timber Fall Court, Eureka — call 707-267-9801 or go to https://www.hospiceofhumboldt.org.
"Mr. Harry" gives back: Life lessons & dog hair
By Julie Mastroni, volunteer with Hospice of Humboldt and Guide Dogs for the Blind
Senior News | December 2022
The dog hair is my mom’s fault. My first volunteer memory is clumsily rolling 2-inch strips of old sheets with my mom. I was about 4, so my mom’s explanation was simple: there were people in Mexico who didn’t have bandages and we could help. It was enough information for me to begin learning that I could help someone with my time and that it mattered. Mom always found hours in her busy weeks to help a school, church group, children’s organization or an environmental cause. It’s no surprise after years of watching her volunteer, I did the same. Shortly after my grandmother gracefully died while under hospice care in San Diego, I became a board member for Hospice of Humboldt in 2003. I enjoyed learning about the team-centered care provided so lovingly to hospice patients and their families. I also met the nicest people — everyone had an end-of-life story and volunteered with heartfelt purpose! If giving a little time is good, then giving more must be better. Why be satisfied with a monthly board meeting when you can volunteer 24/7 raising a puppy for Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB)? At the start of 2012, we brought home Harry, a yellow Labrador puppy from the GDB headquarters in San Rafael. I began the fulltime work of teaching him basic obedience, house manners and socialization, which included attending hospice meetings. By the middle of 2013 our wiggly puppy was a giant dog, ready to return to GDB for formal guide training. Graduation was bittersweet. After months apart, our joyous reunion was soon followed by a tearful goodbye as he headed to Arkansas with his new partner for a career of service. The most common question puppy raisers receive is how we can give up a dog we have loved so deeply? My answer is that our loss is overshadowed by the enormity of our work. Raising a pup that profoundly changes a person’s life is not trivial, so it only follows that our hearts are forever changed. After seven years of guide work, Harry retired and came home to live with us. No longer spry enough to guide, he still went to the front door wanting to work. Hospice had the perfect position: Canine Volunteer. Mr. Harry, as his official nametag reads, accompanies me to the Hospice House several times a week, where he loves (and sheds) on the patients, family members and staff. He happily takes treats, gets ear rubs and naps peacefully at bedsides. He even comes to vigils with me when I have the honor of sitting with someone during their final hours. His deep brown eyes seem to carry the wordless, soulful understanding so often longed for at the end of life. When I talk to my mom, who at 86 is still volunteering, about how meaningful and fulfilling my time with hospice and Harry feels, she smiles knowingly and replies, “I know, honey.” Thanks, Mom.
Hospice of Humboldt observes national event.
By Times-Standard Newspaper | November 16, 2022
Throughout the month of November, Hospice of Humboldt will be joining organizations across the nation celebrating National Hospice and Palliative Care Month. This year’s NHPCM theme is “Meeting you where you are.” For more than 44 years, Hospice of Humboldt has help provide supportive care to thousands of people, allowing them to spend their final months wherever they call home and surrounded by their loved ones. Hospice of Humboldt’s teams craft plans of care that ensure pain management, therapies and treatments that all center on the patients and their loved ones goals and wishes. Hospice care also provides emotional support and advice to help family members become confident caregivers and adjust to the future with grief support services. “At the heart of hospice and palliative care is meeting patients and their loved ones where they are during difficult times when support is needed most,” said Dianne Keating, CEO, Hospice of Humboldt, “National Hospice and Palliative Care month recognizes the crucial role hospice and palliative care providers play in caring for their communities year-round.” Each year, Hospice of Humboldt provides compassionate care to patients ranging in age from infant to over 100 years old. When a patient is not eligible or ready for hospice care, they may benefit from home-based palliative care. “Palliative care is patient and family-centered care that optimizes quality of life by anticipating, preventing, and treating suffering,” said Amy Bruce, director of Palliative Care Services. “Palliative care provides an extra layer of support by addressing physical, emotional, and social, needs guided by patient goals and wishes. One way to celebrate with Hospice of Humboldt this month is by participating in its Light Up a Life season. For more information, visit www.hospiceofhumboldt.org/light-up-a-life or call 707-267-9811. Donations can be made via the Hospice of Humboldt website, www.hospiceofhumboldt.org, by phone at 707-445-8443, or can be mailed to 3327 Timber Fall Court, Eureka, CA, 95503. Hospice of Humboldt has been serving families locally since 1979, has a staff of 100 employees and has more than 75 volunteers.
What our patients and families say...
We received incredible care from every hospice person we came in contact with.
I now believe angels exist!
I cannot begin to sing the praises of Hospice of Humboldt adequately.
Thank you, you are quite the team over there. You deal with patients not just a disease, and it means the world to me.
Everyone who came into my home was kind, compassionate & knowledgeable. They met needs I didn't know I had. Deepest thanks to all!
"Our House"- Ida Emmerson Hospice House
By Dianne Keating, Hospice of Humboldt Chief Executive Officer
Senior News | October 2022
This month marks the sixth anniversary of when we opened the doors and welcomed our first patient to our Ida Emmerson Hospice House, the first and only specialized end-of-life inpatient care facility on the North Coast. With the theme of this month’s Senior News about houses, I wanted to take the opportunity to talk about “Our House.” I have been a part of the Hospice of Humboldt team for over 21 years, and I have to admit that I often refer to the Hospice House as my fourth child. I am blessed with three amazing biological children, and this “fourth child” is something I am deeply proud to have been a part of making a reality for our community. For over 44 years, Hospice of Humboldt has been providing heartfelt end-of-life care for patients in their usual place of residence — private homes, assisted living facilities or skilled nursing facilities. But not all hospice patients can remain at home, and “Our House” offers a place to die peacefully, comfortably and surrounded by loved ones. “Our House” allows family to be family again instead of 24-hour caregivers. As one resident described it, “There is a spiritual energy in the hospice house and on the ground surrounding it. It is a calm and peaceful place where you inhale courage and exhale fear.” Over the last six years, Ida Emmerson Hospice House has touched so many lives in our community and has positively impacted countless family members. There are certainly many stories to share, but honestly, I can’t share about “Our House” without telling you what this special place meant to me and my family as my own father was ending his life journey. My father was a man of few words, but during his short time at our Hospice House, he bonded with the hospice team and shared with them how much he missed his Portland and San Francisco kids — my two children who lived out of town. They were, in fact, coming home the next weekend to see Papa. When I learned of this conversation, I felt an overwhelming urgency to get them here, and arranged for them to arrive the next day. We all spent the afternoon laughing and reminiscing. Later that day, Dad had a sudden decline and his death became imminent. I felt so blessed to be present with him and my children, holding his hand while he took his last breath. As it has done for so many families, “Our House” provided the support we needed when we needed it most. Both as CEO and a loving daughter, I am forever thankful to everyone involved and the support our community provided to help build the Hospice House, which helps us fulfill our mission to provide heartfelt end-of-life care and grief support services, creating a community in which no one dies alone or afraid, and where all who grieve are comforted. For information, visit hospiceofhumboldt.org
Filling a "large gap"
Hospice of Humboldt expands services to include home-based palliative care
By Times-Standard Newspaper| April 13, 2022
Hospice of Humboldt has been caring for the seriously ill in the community for over 43 years. Now, the nonprofit is taking the next step in expanding its compassionate services to include home-based palliative care. “Hospice of Humboldt is uniquely positioned to fill the large gap in care that currently exists for those in our community suffering from late-stage cancer, pulmonary disease, heart failure and other life-limiting illnesses,” said Karen Ayers, clinical director, palliative care, Hospice of Humboldt. Ayers said, “Currently, these individuals often need to go to the emergency room and endure hospital stays in order to obtain the support they need. Once their symptoms are controlled, they are discharged home, and sadly, this cycle recurs, causing much suffering and stress for the ill individual and their family. Palliative care breaks this cycle of suffering,” Many people with life-threatening illness are coping with complex medical conditions and see a variety of specialists. Palliative care doesn’t replace a patient’s other doctors, or require them to give up curative treatment. The palliative care team provides an extra layer of support to a patient and works collaboratively with their other doctors. “When a seriously ill individual leaves the hospital and moves under the care of a home-based palliative care team, this team, comprised of a medical provider, nurse, social worker and community health worker, is able to meet the needs of the patient and family at home, and support them in defining the goals they have for their care and their life,” said Dr. John Nelson, medical director, Hospice of Humboldt. He added: “The focus on someone as a whole person, rather than a disease to be cured, is what sets palliative care providers apart. This distinct focus and skill set makes hospice providers uniquely situated to provide excellent palliative care.” For more information about palliative care services call 707-267-9880 or for Hospice services, call 707-445-8443. “We want to extend our profound gratitude to Providence St. Joseph’s local Community Health Investment Fund, the Rose Perenin Foundation, and the McLean Foundation for their support to help offset some of the start-up costs of our new home-based palliative care program,” said Dianne Keating, interim CEO for Hospice of Humboldt. To make a donation to Hospice of Humboldt, visit www.hospiceofhumboldt.org, call 707-445-8443, or mail donations to 3327 Timber Fall Court, Eureka, CA, 95503. Hospice of Humboldt has been serving families locally since 1979, has a staff of over 100 employees and works with nearly 100 volunteers. The person-centered care Hospice of Humboldt provides allows patients comfort and dignity and gives families support at a time when they need it most.
A meaningful impact: Hospice of Humboldt seeks volunteers to support patients, families
By Heather Shelton
Times-Standard Newspaper | September 5, 2021
Over 100 volunteers currently donate their time to Hospice of Humboldt, providing office support, engaging in community outreach and helping at the Hospice Shop thrift store. Some of these volunteers offer comfort and support to patients and their families being served by the nonprofit organization, which provides heartfelt end of life care and grief support services throughout northern Humboldt County. “Each patient is offered a care team consisting of a medical provider, nurse, social worker, home health aide, chaplain, grief counselor and patient care volunteer. One of the things that set the volunteer apart is the fact that they have the ability to spend longer lengths of time with each visit. They are able to spend a few hours with the patient, rather than having to leave to care for another patient,” said Dennice Stone, volunteer coordinator. Hospice of Humboldt — located at 3327 Timber Fall Court in Eureka — has been serving families locally for over 42 years, has a staff of more than 100 employees and currently works with 103 volunteers. Hospice of Humboldt provided end of life care to 644 patients and their families last year. Stone said that patient care volunteers go through approximately 16 hours of specialized training and also receive one-on-one training before heading out in the field. Members of the patient care team are also available to offer support to patient care volunteers throughout. “When a volunteer goes into a patient’s home —which includes assisted living facilities and the Ida Emmerson Hospice House — they share compassionate time to do whatever the patient may want,” Stone said. “Common activities include listening to music, reading to them or a favorite hobby like jigsaw puzzles. Patient care volunteers help not only the patient, but also offer the primary caregiver a break — a chance for some quiet time, to go shopping, visit with friends, etc.” Stone added: “If you really want to make a difference in someone’s life that will be treasured forever by their family, be a hospice volunteer. People always remember the unconditional companionship and attention of the volunteer when they lose a loved one.” For people who’d like a different volunteer experience with Hospice of Humboldt, there are plenty of other opportunities, Stone said. “Just as there are many types of staff positions, so too do all Hospice volunteers support our patients and their families in some way,” she said. “The Hospice Shop thrift store in Arcata always needs volunteers. Volunteers can also help with maintaining the beautiful plants and landscaping on the Hospice campus. Grief support volunteers are trained to facilitate community grief support groups. We try to match the individual to a position that will be equally rewarding for them — that way everyone gains from the experience.” For more information about becoming a volunteer or about services provided by Hospice of Humboldt, call 707-267-9813 or visit www.hospiceofhumboldt.org.
Sharing People's Lives - My Best Job Ever
By Malcolm Campbell, Hospice of Humboldt volunteer since 2008
Senior News | September 2021
“Best job I ever had!” That’s a recurring line spoken by Brad Pitt’s character and his tank crew in the 2014 World War II movie, “Fury.” Thankfully, I’ve never had the “best job” of being inside an Army tank during combat, but I have had two other “best jobs” — is that even possible? I began my best paying job in 1977 when I was hired as a UPS driver here in Eureka. That career lasted 30+ years, and although it was a lot of hard work (think Christmas), it was also fulfilling. A UPS driver on any given day can fill any number of roles, including healthcare provider, Santa elf, a first responder, or the last link in a chain conveying a precious family heirloom. It was easy to find excitement out on the road each day. I once came upon a motorcycle accident and (much to my boss’s dismay) transported the very bloody rider a mile to his friend’s house where he could get help and medical attention. I witnessed a woman being assaulted and pushed from her abuser’s pickup truck before he sped away, leaving her slumped in tears. Despite being previously admonished to not transport anyone, I scooped her up and delivered her minutes later to the Fortuna Police Department, where she could receive the help she needed. I’ve been met at the front door by a handgun-wielding woman saying: “I don’t answer the door after dark without THIS.” Another knock was answered with the door being flung wide open by a very naked man, who immediately exclaimed: “OH! I was expecting my brother!” Now figure that out! Every UPS driver has no shortage of funny, outrageous, heart-warming or heroic stories. My other “best job” is the one I currently hold, which is as a volunteer with Hospice of Humboldt for the past 13 years. I called my UPS job my actual paying job, but that certainly doesn’t mean this volunteer role is any less rewarding. As a patient care volunteer, I get the opportunity and the honor of being a companion to a patient near the end of life, and often not so near the end. I’ve been matched with three different patients who lived 1.5, 2, and 2.5 years on Hospice service. Hospice is much more about living than it is about dying, and as a patient care volunteer, I get to be present and learn about a precious life of some wonderful people. I’ve been able to sit with one patient for a few hours on her 107th birthday, enjoyed coffee and pie and vintage TV Westerns with another, recorded wonderful audio stories told by a delightful patient/storyteller, and photographed patients surrounded by family members so the family could have a lasting visual record of their loved one. On four or five occasions, I’ve had the rare privilege of holding a patient’s hand as they took their final breath and left this Earth.
A love story...
Hospice is not always just about compassionate care. Sometimes we help make dying wishes come true. One story we’d like to share from 2021 in memory of a patient who touched all of our hearts and in honor of our staff who go above and beyond the call of duty. Lisa Campbell’s dying wish was to marry her longtime partner Eric Lee and have his last name on her death certificate. Recognizing the limited amount of time Lisa had to live, Hospice Social Worker, Debbie Patton and Chaplain, Pat Basham quickly put into action a plan to make Lisa’s wish come true. Pat and Debbie traveled around Humboldt County securing a marriage certificate, a wedding dress from The Hospice Shop thrift store, and helped her friends and family make the day complete with flowers and decorations. On July 25, 2021 Lisa and Eric were married in an outdoor ceremony at their home in Redcrest surrounded by loved ones. Lisa said she was incredibly grateful that we helped make her last wish come true. Just six days later Lisa passed away far too soon at the age of 57, but she did so with the knowledge that her death certificate would read, Lisa Campbell Lee.