For over 30 years, three nonprofit, community-based hospice agencies separately served parts of 10 counties in the Chicago area and northern Illinois. In June 2015, these organizations combined more than 100 years of experience and expertise to become one: JourneyCare. Today, JourneyCare serves nearly 400 communities in those 10 counties. It’s been one year since we made that announcement ... and what a year it has been!
After a 10 year hiatus as a stay-at-home mom, Debra returned to the workforce when she joined the organization in 2013. In her former professional life, she managed the U.S. office for a British manufacturing company, started her own cleaning business, ran a showroom at the Merchandise Mart and practiced law. As a volunteer, she served as an officer for a number of non-profit organizations. In her spare time, Debra enjoys decorating, event planning, gardening, singing and performing in local theatre productions.
I have been so fortunate to be a social worker and now a field team manager for JourneyCare. The patients and families I meet truly affirm why I was drawn to this work. Some of the most challenging circumstances I have experienced working with family members became some of the most exciting, compelling and educational cases I have ever had the privilege of working on and I consider them “gifts.”
In my five years with JourneyCare, there have been so many moments that stand out and truly touched my heart...moments made possible by care teams working together creatively and pooling resources, all to make a difference, big or small, for patients and families.
My nursing career was born in intensive care units and emergency trauma rooms, serving patients in fast-paced, critical settings. When dealing with cardiac arrests or other life-and-death emergencies, I felt highly comfortable helping patients in these crucial moments.
So when my nursing focus shifted to hospice and palliative care (first in Northern Virginia), I was also comfortable asking the tough questions.
My mentor, author and RN Maggie Callanan, taught me to use the first two to three hospice visits with our patients to build trust and understand their beliefs, wishes, and needs so that we could best serve them in whatever time they might have.
Maggie stressed the importance of hoping for the best by preparing for the worst and so during the initial visits we intentionally asked: “If you could design your own death, how would you do it?; Where would you want to be and who would you want to be there?; Do you believe in something after death?; What do we need to do to make you feel as comfortable as you can be?”
It was earlier this fall that the idea struck me and four of my fellow volunteers. After several years of giving our time at JourneyCare’s Markshak Family Hospice CareCenter in Glenview, so many people had thanked us for our time and effort. But we realized there was no special event for us to thank the dedicated CareCenter staff for their hard work.
I feel so blessed to live during a time when advances in medical care and technology have helped many to live with or live through life-altering conditions, exceeding disease trajectories by not just weeks, but months and even years. But there comes a point in a serious illness when even the most cutting-edge, technical, and specialized medical interventions do not get us where we want to be.
I have worked at Midwest CareCenter for over ten years and have had the privilege of working with many wonderful people and in three different departments.
I first worked in HomeCare Assistants, helping with the scheduling of caregivers, and then transferred to our Home Health division in the Evanston office. I later became a Hospice Administrative Assistant and now work in the Glenview office.
For me, the joy in my role as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) comes from my interaction with our patients. No day is ever the same. I take great pride in my work and do my best to make each patient feel as if they are the only patient I am caring for that day. I have been a CNA for many years and always strive to create special relationships with patients.
I spent more than a decade focused on a career with GE, specializing in customer service and then finance. My business career even briefly took me from Chicago to Baltimore and Philadelphia, managing an entire sales region on the East Coast.
In the early 1990s, my path led me back to Chicago to start a family and to return to school to pursue a degree in education. But shortly after returning to Chicago, my father suffered a heart attack that led doctors to discover he also had cancer. Instantly, I began helping my mother with caregiving duties and my career change to education was officially on hold.
I wished to be a nurse for as long as I can remember.
Even while in high school, I served as a candy striper and nursing assistant. When I graduated early at age 16, I only briefly considered a four-year university, but I didn't want to spend two years earning general education requirements in areas like history or literature. I thought "I'm 16 years old and time's a-fleetin', I want to be a nurse!"