My dog Sydney and I have been a pet therapy team with Journey Care for the last two years. When people think of therapy dogs most picture a little pup who will come lay quietly in their lap or on their bed. But when we arrive we can see the surprise in their eyes; Sydney is 80 pounds of labradoodle. Her size makes it easy for patients to reach her from their chair or bed. And people have shared that having a big dog lean on you is like getting a wonderful furry hug.
Most of us will enjoy Memorial Day weekend as the kickoff to summer. But the reason the holiday began has a sobering history, which JourneyCare’s We Honor Veterans program will help area senior living communities to remember this year.
Memorial Day pays tribute to the more than 1 million Americans who left home to fight for our country but did not return: to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for us, and to pay them homage. There are currently more than 21 million military veterans living in our country - but this is not their day.
On Sunday, April 29, I had the pleasure of attending the annual Mitzvah Day program at Congregation Beth Tikvah in Hoffman Estates, one of more than 400 communities served by JourneyCare. A Mitzvah Day is a day in Jewish communities when congregation members come together to perform a wide variety of deeds that benefit their community. Many congregations in our service area have these annual programs.
I'm a hospice volunteer who offers companionship and support to patients, but I felt anxious about visiting a hospice patient with memory loss. Would I make a connection that could provide comfort? Donna became my first teacher.
Donna, not her real name, was in her 70s, living in a nursing home, with advanced Alzheimer’s disease. She appeared short with a slight frame. She sat in a reclining chair in the television room, which was sparsely decorated. She had pads on her hands to keep from scratching her skin.
Just over two years ago, a young mother arrived at our Barrington CareCenter to receive end-of-life care. One of her final wishes was to create some memories with her young daughter during her very limited time left.
One request was to have a final “spa day” together. After contacting multiple local salons to assist with this very special request, Spa Bleu quickly returned the call to say they would love to offer their services for no charge and make her wish a reality. This began our amazing partnership with Spa Bleu.
I'm Buttons, a JourneyCare therapy dog that works with Steve, my partner and owner. We've been a pet therapy team with JourneyCare for over six years. We bring joy, companionship and stress relief to comfort care patients who like animals or miss their own pets. We visit patients and their loved ones in the CareCenters, and at retirement homes, hospitals, assisted living facilities and their homes. Steve's first therapy dog was Annie, a golden retriever, and they were partners together for six years also.
The buzzwords “comfort care” are creating questions since the Bush family announced that former First Lady Barbara Bush, 92, will no longer seek medical services. Bush lives with illnesses that include congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.
Instead, the family announced that Mrs. Bush is now receiving “comfort care” at her Houston home and news outlets report she is spending time with her husband, former President George H.W. Bush, and her sons, former President George W. Bush and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
Advance Care Planning was the focus of JourneyCare’s Life is a Journey education event that took place on April 17. This cause was a passion of mine even before I headed out on my first 'Ride for 3 Reasons' in 2001. After I completed three solo cross-country bike rides, I passed the torch to my fellow Barrington resident 17-year-old Jan Gierlach last year. The trip we had in common took us more than 3,200 miles from San Diego to St. Augustine, Florida to raise awareness and funds to benefit three causes dear to our hearts. One of these is hospice. Part of the proceeds has benefitted JourneyCare and is helping to fund the very special 'Life is a Journey' event this month.
I am often mindful of the quote by Albert Einstein, “I have no special talents, I am only passionately curious.” I feel that there is a driving force inside of me to help others, to relieve suffering, not as a noble endeavor to call attention to myself, but because I have been given so much. I want to use my talents and opportunities to help relieve the burdens of others. This is what I strive to do.
What is a memorable patient story for me? My husband’s dear friend of many years was diagnosed with a rapidly progressing form of ALS at age 62. He and his wife were part of a group of friends who had stayed in touch for many years, through many changes. His daughters were my children’s babysitters.
This is my 29th year as a hospice social worker, and my 26th year with JourneyCare and its legacy hospices. I wish I had a dime for everyone who has ever said to me, “Gee, your work must be so depressing …” I would have a truckload of money and I might have retired by now! But I think it’s better this way: I love what I do, I have never found it depressing and I’m in no hurry to retire from it.
Being a hospice social worker demands a very full toolkit of both clinical and non-clinical skills. Sometimes people have misconceptions about what a social worker is and does, so when I walk into a patient’s home for the first time, I am very conscious of the need to quickly establish a rapport so I can explain my role on the team and patients and their families begin to share freely with me.