As a Marine veteran who served two tours of duty in the Vietnam War, I’m well-aware of the sacrifices our men and women make to serve their country in the armed forces. And as a hospice volunteer who works primarily with veterans, I’m able to express my gratitude to veterans for their service in multiple ways.
Time visiting with a veteran and his or her family ̶ the sharing of stories and experiences ̶ are some of the most precious moments in my life. The Marine Corps motto is Semper Fi, meaning always faithful to God, country, and your fellow marine. Well, JourneyCare's volunteer program enables me to carry out that mission not only to other marines but to all veterans.
I’ve been employed as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) for the past 25 years. I never thought I would work as a CNA for this long, but when you have passion for what you do, it’s easy to find comfort in your work. It gives me great pleasure to serve the people within my community. If I can put a smile on someone’s face each day, that makes my life worth living.
But at times, there are occasions when being a caregiver can be stressful. To reduce stress when caring for others, I first take the time to take care of my own well-being.
I've been a CNA since 1984, with 12 of those years dedicated to hospice. I have always enjoyed caring for people. My motto is: You get out of self by doing for others. My belief is that we are here to serve one another to the best of our ability.
This journey has been comforting. The name JourneyCare is so fitting — because the CNAs that are in the field are always on a journey to give care to another person. It has been a blessing that a group of individuals can come together as a team and be able to comfort, while respecting patient and family needs.
As a palliative care nurse practitioner, I get an opportunity to meet a variety of patients that are at differing stages of their lives. A new patient, who I’ll call Caroline, recently taught me that we should never ever make up our plan of care before we meet the person.
What I read about Caroline made me think I was about to meet somebody who was dying.
When my wife Michelle was sick and dying, she would often tell me of her fears that everyone would forget her. That she would become a distant memory. That nobody would speak of her anymore. That it would be like she never existed.
Nope. Not going to happen. Not on my watch. Not now. Not ever.
As the Jewish holiday of Shavuot approaches, (at sundown on May 30 through nightfall on June 1), I’m reminded of a hospice patient that I had the honor of studying Torah with during our visits together over a year’s time.
The patient, whom I’ll call Esther, had moved from Philadelphia to Chicago to be closer to her family at the end of her life. She had recently lost her husband, her tight knit Torah study group, and her social network in Philadelphia.
Hospice can be a very scary and ominous word to many people. As a hospice admissions nurse, I see the fear, indecision, vulnerability, confusion and despair firsthand.
Some patients I meet have a newly diagnosed terminal disease, and others suffer from a long-protracted disease that is now in the last stages. More often than not, the patient is ready to stop treatments and focus on pain and symptom management. They want to remain at home in safe, warm and familiar surroundings, rather than the grueling routine of a hospital or skilled nursing facility with endless doctor visit cycles.
As an Advanced Practice Nurse and International Psychologist, I'm passionate about providing hospice and palliative care simply because it is the right thing to do.
Everyone facing serious illness deserves this holistic, compassionate care, and I feel extremely blessed to be part of an organization like JourneyCare – one that shares my vision of delivering care to all who need it.
Part of our shared mission is spreading the word about the need for this supportive care in our communities, in the United States and throughout the world. That is because, unfortunately, many people are not able to receive the hospice or palliative care they need. This includes not only patients in developing countries, but even citizens of our own country who are part of marginalized, stigmatized and vulnerable groups.
Before becoming a hospice nurse, my professional career included extensive time serving in an intensive care unit, a coronary care unit and an emergency room, where the adrenaline and energy was high. Goals for a patient would be improvement and the constant search for “what would make them better?” — a frequent question asked by families. No one would mention in-depth comfort or quality of life.
I had always admired hospice nurses, not completely understanding myself (already a nurse) what hospice was all about. I believed hospice was called in when end of life meant almost end of shift.
I held various other roles, including working at a community clinic, public health facilities and home health agencies. When I had the opportunity to work firsthand with various hospice agencies, for the first time I had the audacity to believe I could be a hospice nurse.
My beloved late husband, who died November 11, 2014, was in the care of JourneyCare in our home for the last four days of his life. Coming from Serbia, neither one of us knew much about this health service, except that we were both scared by the word “hospice!” We associated it with the end of life and we were both horrified.
“Please don’t mention the word hospice,” I begged a social worker, who later helped both of us a great deal. “No worries, nobody likes that word,” she told me with a hug like a sister, and sympathy deep in her eyes.