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Music, a universal language in life and death

Music, a universal language in life and death

Drawing on their musical and clinical palliative care training, music-thanatologists use harp and voice to address physical, emotional and spiritual suffering at the end of life. Using music prescriptively, they vary the tempo and tone of music to respond to changes occurring in a patient's body, like a slowing of pulse and breathing, in the final hours of life. During their visits — music vigils — they alternate sound and silence to help patients and loved ones relax and rest.

Music connects us universally. Some will say that it is music that makes us human.

Anthropologist John Blacking in his 1973 book, “How Musical is Man?” bemoans that Western culture music has become the domain of the so-called “experts.” However, when examining the cultures he had studied, music was simply a part of a person’s everyday life.

Music is part of everyone.

All living humans have the tempo of their heart rate and the depth of their respiration rate. But as we die, these mostly lyrical and robust waves change; with a shorter ambitus, a gurgling texture overlaying the breath, and a barely perceptible pulse. How can the living relate to this change, especially we when we in our technology-driven culture, don’t see ourselves as experts in either death or music?

Hospice massage therapy: A gentle touch for body and soul

Hospice massage therapy: A gentle touch for body and soul

As a Massage Therapist for JourneyCare, some of the most inspiring patients begin as the most challenging.

I cared for a hospice patient named Bill, who was a very large man and a former horseshoeman. His wife Betsy called him, “My gentle giant.” I could see he was strong in his day, especially by his rough and calloused hands. He was fading now with the complexities of being bed bound for many years after a stroke. The right side of his body was lame and very constricted.

Betsy told me that Bill had done everything from farming to raising sheep, cattle and dairy cows — he had done it all. Both of them had been hard workers all their lives.

Step inside a JourneyCare physician’s world on National Doctors’ Day

Step inside a JourneyCare physician’s world on National Doctors’ Day

Saturday, March 30, is National Doctors’ Day and we're letting our wonderful JourneyCare physicians know how much they are appreciated! Dr. Dana Delach shares her thoughts on why she is privileged to serve.

I am a medical director for JourneyCare. I have been employed with JourneyCare since 2016. Many of you are probably wondering what does a medical director do? I do a variety of things for the organization. I oversee three out of twenty-one teams for the organization. We have over 35 medical directors that serve over 1,295 patients in Chicago and the surrounding communities.

3 New Ways JourneyCare is Helping to Prevent Patient Falls

3 New Ways JourneyCare is Helping to Prevent Patient Falls

It's Patient Safety Awareness Week and JourneyCare is committed to the safety of those we serve. We're focusing this week on education to help reduce patient falls.

Our population of patients is at a higher risk for falls. Falls can lead to serious injuries that may impair mobility or lead to less independence. For those who want to live better and longer, appropriate steps need to be taken to prevent falls. JourneyCare clinicians have a role in promoting safety to prevent them. Their simple changes and suggestions for change to patients and caregivers about their surroundings can make a big impact.

JourneyCare team members have been exercising Patient Safety Awareness Week through a few different methods.

 

Hospice social workers: serving patients with dementia and families

Hospice social workers: serving patients with dementia and families

For National Professional Social Work Month, JourneyCare Social Worker Rachel Risler explains how hospice social workers provide compassionate care and support to patients with dementia and their loved ones. 

I've been working as a social worker with the elderly population since 2004, the last five years at JourneyCare. I became a social worker specifically to work with patients and families affected by Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Since making the move from long-term care to hospice care, I have been honored to share the journey of end-stage dementia with patients and families. 

Hospice massage therapy touches body and spirit

Hospice massage therapy touches body and spirit

For massage therapists who care for hospice patients, the work we do is full of ongoing lessons and gifts. I’m continually reminded what a privilege it is to meet and participate in some small way in the lives of our patients — such diverse, interesting, wonderful, ordinary and extraordinary people. There is a bond that develops with physical touch through the understanding that as their massage therapist, I am there to make them feel better. They guide me to the best way to help them and I am there to listen and respond.

I’ve had the honor of working with many patients with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). Due to the challenges that befall these patients, massage is a service that often makes good sense. When their muscles stop working as they once did, we can help stretch and massage those muscles to make them feel better for a little while. One such patient gave me delightful gifts of imagination and laughter, and lessons about an unfailing positive attitude and outlook that I will never forget.

Making the holidays brighter at Chanukkah

Making the holidays brighter at Chanukkah

For National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, JourneyCare is celebrating our thoughtful and caring staff and volunteers, who provide comfort and exceed expectations to make the holiday season joyful for our patients and their families.

As a Jewish Care Ambassador for JourneyCare, I’ve often thought of patients in our care during the holiday season and have felt badly that some of them, due to their advanced illnesses, are unable to enjoy the holidays to their fullest extent. This year as December begins, patients in our Jewish Care Services program will celebrate Chanukkah beginning the evening of Sunday, December 2 continuing through Sunday, December 9. Chanukkah is called the Festival of Lights, which is considered a joyous holiday and meant to remind us of the golden menorah in the time of the Temple with the miraculous jar of oil that lasted eight days.

Hospice music: fine tuning the quality of life

Hospice music: fine tuning the quality of life

In honor of National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, we are celebrating the hospice and healthcare workers who hold the hands and hearts of our patients and their families every day. In tribute to the physical, emotional and spiritual work they do, each blog this month will bring you an up close look at how they bring compassionate care to patients and families in extraordinary ways. We hope you will be inspired by these stories which shine the spotlight on these everyday heroes.


As a music therapist for hospice and palliative care patients, I feel incredibly grateful each day that I have the privilege to do this unique work. This November I reflect on National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, and realize I can honestly say that I absolutely love my job and the work that we do here at JourneyCare.

In my journey as a music therapist, I experience so many touching moments with our patients. But what makes my work especially worthwhile are the “WOW” or breathtaking moments. And sometimes, when I least expect it, a “nice” visit can become one of my best.

Tree of Lights…from both sides now

I look forward to our Tree of Lights celebrations every year. My personal experience with grief and loss has been eased by participating not only as a staff member, but a grieving person in my own right. Let me share a story with you ...

In the past 18 years, I have had the privilege of providing grief support to family members of hospice patients as well as members of the community at-large. Little did I know when I began my connection to JourneyCare as a volunteer over 20 years ago, I would become part of one of the most compassionate organizations that serves people at the most critical juncture in their lives. What was once a small agency now reaches across 10 counties in the Chicago region.

Your Hospice Care Team: Soothing body, mind and spirit

Your Hospice Care Team: Soothing body, mind and spirit

For World Hospice and Palliative Care Day, Nurse Katie Fernandez explains the team-based approach care patients and their loved ones receive through hospice.

I have been working with hospice patients for 15 years. My role as a hospice nurse is tightly woven into the team I work with: physicians, other registered nurses, certified nursing assistants, social workers, chaplains and volunteers. We collaborate as we work together to manage the needs of those we care for. I am deeply grateful to work with committed professionals as we apply our strengths to soothe the physical, emotional and spiritual struggles that patients and families are dealing with.

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