1 in 4 of All deaths in the U.S. are Veterans
Many Americans do not realize that 1 in 4 of all deaths in the U.S. are Veterans. As the nation honors these American heroes for their military service on Veterans Day, November 11, it’s important to remember that they also deserve recognition and compassionate care when dealing with a serious illness.
As a We Honor Veterans participant, Houston Hospice is providing specialized care to Veterans who are facing a life-limiting illness. The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs created We Honor Veterans to empower hospice and other healthcare providers across America to meet the unique needs of seriously ill Veterans and their families.
We’re Intentional About Caring for the Unique Needs of Our Veterans
“Through We Honor Veterans we are taking a giant step forward in helping healthcare professionals and volunteers understand and serve Veterans at the end of life,” said J. Donald Schumacher, NHPCO president and CEO. “It is time that we step up and acquire the necessary skills and fulfill our mission to serve these men and women with the dignity they deserve.” Houston Hospice CEO, Jim Faucett, noted the benefits of the program to patients and families and the organization, “As we’ve trained to meet the unique needs veterans face at the end of life, our staff has become more aware of all veterans. We’ve been enriched by seeking out our veteran volunteers and learning their stories, and we’re less hesitant to introduce ourselves to other veterans and thank them for their service.”
Within the We Honor Veterans program, there are four levels of distinction that hospices can earn based on their involvement with Veteran education and their interaction with the Veterans and their family members that they are caring for. The goal of these levels is to ensure the very best care is being provided to those who have served our country. Houston Hospice is working toward the highest level of participation. It is meeting the specific needs of Veterans by being knowledgeable about the wars in which they served and the associated traumas; such as radiation exposure from atmospheric nuclear weapons tests after World War II, and pulmonary maladies resulting from the oil rig fires of the Gulf War. Houston Hospice is also strengthening its relationship with the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center and offering community outreach educational programs for Veterans’ groups about advance care planning, available resources, and care options.
Houston Hospice volunteer, Mike McCardle, began visiting veteran patients 15 years ago. Because he’s a veteran, he said patients open up to him about their lives and the emotional burdens they’ve carried since battle. “I walk in, give my military pedigree, then they give me theirs and we’re off and running. They know they don’t have to explain. They know I understand.” Mike served in Vietnam from 1964-69. He went to war as a young private and left Southeast Asia just five years later as a battle-seasoned Captain in the United States Army. Often, the wives of the veterans he visits have not even heard the stories their husband’s share with him. “The biggest surprise is how much I get out of it. I form a bond with these guys. I’ve met some real characters. I’ve heard about the Battle of the Bulge, and lots of stories about the South Pacific. I was just mastering my own PTSD and these guys really helped me to know that what I was going through is normal.”
As we celebrate our nation’s heroes this Veterans Day – and every day of the year – we must not forget that it is never too late to give them a hero’s welcome home. Learn more at www.WeHonorVeterans.org.
Interfaith Blessing of Hands
Houston Hospice Cockrell Chapel
1905 Holcombe Blvd., Houston, Texas 77030
Wednesday October 28, 12 p.m. and 3 p.m.
Blessing of Hands is a tradition among many cultures and religions as well as in many medical institutions. The Texas Medical Center’s Houston Hospice believes this voluntary, nondenominational act recognizes and unites health care employees, volunteers and caregivers who have chosen the shared journey of caring for patients, directly and non-directly. Blessing of Hands is a spiritual exercise and prayer to honor those who give of themselves each day. Affirming their work through this blessing is meant to strengthen and renew their efforts.
This service is for all Texas Medical Center staff, volunteers and caregivers. The services will last about 15 minutes.
For more information about these Blessing of the Hands services, contact Chaplain Gordon Robertson at 713-677- 7220.
First Instrument Of Its Kind To Explicitly Refer To Palliative Care
The resolution that older persons should enjoy all existing human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal basis, couldn’t be timelier. For years, international conventions have protected the rights of children, women, and people with disabilities—groups recognized as vulnerable to marginalization and human rights violations. Yet the rights of older persons, who are susceptible to the same violations, have been woefully neglected in the human rights framework. Finally, there’s a sign that this is beginning to change.
In late June, the Organization of American States released a resolution in which member countries adopted the Inter-American Convention on the Human Rights of Older Persons. It was immediately signed by Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, and Uruguay, and completed in record time, with drafting efforts initiated in 2012 and final text approved in 2015.
The convention recognizes that older persons should enjoy all existing human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal basis, and is based on general principles including dignity, independence, proactivity, autonomy, and full and productive integration into society.
The resolution couldn’t be timelier. Advances in science, technology, and medicine have helped make the older population one of the most rapidly growing age groups in the world. Yet older persons are often denied access to health, social benefits, work, food, and housing. They bear a disproportionately large burden of chronic, life-limiting, and incurable illnesses, and they often experience severe, debilitating pain.
This is the first instrument of its kind to explicitly refer to palliative care. It requires countries to provide access to palliative care without discrimination, to prevent unnecessary suffering and futile procedures, and to appropriately manage problems related to the fear of death. It also mandates that countries establish procedures to enable older persons to indicate in advance their will and instructions with regard to health care interventions.
the active, comprehensive, and interdisciplinary care and treatment of patients whose illness is not responding to curative treatment or who are suffering avoidable pain, in order to improve their quality of life until the last day of their lives. Central to palliative care is control of pain, of other symptoms, and of the social, psychological, and spiritual problems of the older person. It includes the patient, their environment, and their family. It affirms life and considers death a normal process, neither hastening nor delaying it.
The Resolution Is Not Without Its Flaws
The resolution is not without its flaws, however. For instance, it does not address important legal aspects of palliative care, such as concerns related to inheritance laws and the future of the patient’s property, access to social benefits, patient confidentiality, and the care of children and grandchildren. These legal concerns are closely tied to emotional distress during end-of-life care, and addressing them is part of palliative care’s holistic approach.
The Inter-American Convention established a follow-up mechanism to monitor progress in implementing its provisions. Countries must submit periodic reports to a committee of experts, and people or NGOs may submit petitions concerning any violation of the convention’s provisions.
The convention will enter into force as soon as two signatory countries ratify it, which is expected to happen soon. Once it does, human rights advocates in Latin America will finally be able to rely on a legally binding instrument to demand accountability for the failure to respect older persons’ rights.
There’s More Work To Do
But the effects of the convention could reverberate even further, helping to interpret the human rights of older people elsewhere in the world. For example, it comes at a critical moment to influence the African Regional Human Rights System, which is currently in the process of considering a draft Protocol on the Rights of Older Persons in Africa. And it strengthens civil society’s long-standing call for a UN convention on older persons, which was repeatedly raised during this year’s sixth session of the UN Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing.
We hope that the Inter-American Convention can set an important precedent for the drafting of other human rights instruments that include the right to palliative care. From the right to decide about end-of-life care, to relief from unnecessary suffering, to the need for adequately trained health professionals, palliative care is a human right the world must come to recognize.
From: Open Society Foundations
Houston Hospice nurses Reagan Denmon and Karen Hoover received the Bronze Excellence in Nursing Award, and Paige Prokop received the Silver Excellence in Nursing award from the Good Samaritan Foundation at a luncheon ceremony on September 1, 2015 at Houston’s Royal Sonesta Hotel. The event was chaired by Craig Cordola, President of the Central/West Region for Memorial Hermann Health System.
Reagan Denmon began her medical career as a Nuclear Medicine Technologist (NMTCB) and certified PET tech (Positron Emission Tomography). Her work with oncology patients created a desire to serve in palliative care. Reagan pursued a BSN at UT School of Nursing, finishing Summa Cum Laude and gained clinical experience at St. Luke’s in the Texas Medical Center as a renal telemetry nurse before joining Houston Hospice as an RN Case Manager in 2013. Since then she earned the Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse credential (CHPN) in 2015. Reagan was nominated by Clinical Services Patient Care Manager, Jeff Boynton, who praised her saying, “Reagan is a true hospice case manager, and she is able to be proactive in her patients’ care, anticipating their needs and the needs of their families. She always gets high praise from her patients and families and has a can-do attitude.”
Karen Hoover was nominated by Houston Hospice Education Coordinator, Hope Cook, who wrote about Karen’s leadership and commitment to excellence saying, “Karen has been a strong leader on her team. She has promoted a culture of cooperation and concern among the nurses. She works to provide excellent care and this is contagious. She has served as a mentor for many staff members and nursing students. Her positive attitude and hard work to ensure all patients get the care that they need is exceptional.”
Paige Prokop was nominated by her Clinical Services Patient Care Manager, Dianne Gilbert, who wrote, “Paige is a wonderful nurse and human being. She is always thinking outside the box and looking for ways to help others – patients, families and colleagues. Paige is constantly thanked by patients’ families for her kindness and caring. She helps her colleagues by sharing her ideas and thoughts on the challenges we all face as hospice nurses. She is a mentor for our new nurses, and their patients and families benefit from this guidance. Paige is always trying to learn more and encourages others to learn. She enjoys sharing her knowledge with others. Houston Hospice is very lucky to have Paige Prokop as one of their outstanding nurses.”
Grief may be experienced in response to physical losses, such as death, or in response to symbolic or social losses such as divorce or loss of a job. The grief experience can be affected by one’s history and support system. Taking care of yourself and accessing the support of friends and family can help you cope with your grief experience.
There is no right way to grieve. It is an individual process and a natural part of life. Life won’t be the same after a loss, but experiencing your grief will allow you to adjust to life after loss.
Grief lasts as long as it takes to adjust to the changes in your life after your loss. It can be for months, or even years. Grief has no timetable; thoughts, emotions, behaviors and other responses may come and go.
The importance of advance planning for aging adults (especially those suffering from chronic illnesses) cannot be overstated. Without the right legal and financial documentation, caregivers and their loved ones could be faced with a host of problems in an emergency. Doctors may refuse to discuss important medical information with a caregiver, a dying elder may not get the end-of-life care they desire, and control over an incapacitated loved one’s bank accounts and property could be given to a complete stranger.
6 Must-Have Legal Documents for Family Caregivers
You can help a loved one plan for their current and future medical and financial needs by working with them to prepare six essential legal documents, described in further detail below:
Important documents for managing medical care
- HIPAA Authorization: The Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) aims to protect medical record privacy. This law prevents doctors and other medical professionals from discussing an individual’s health information with anyone but that person. Even caregivers can’t to access an elderly loved one’s medical records, or talk to their doctor, until they sign a HIPAA form. Fortunately, this document is easy to obtain; most doctor’s offices have extra copies on hand.
- Healthcare Power of Attorney (POA): This document allows an individual to grant legal authority to a trusted relative (i.e. the family caregiver), or friend, to make healthcare decisions on their behalf. A person with healthcare POA can determine (among other things) where an elder lives, what they eat, who bathes them, and what medical care they receive. (*see note below)
- Advance Healthcare Directive: An advance healthcare directive combines a healthcare POA with a living will. A living will outlines how an individual wishes their end-of-life care to be managed (i.e. aggressive medical care versus hospice care), and may also include a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order, or instruction not to insert a feeding tube if they become incapable of eating on their own. Learn how to Avoid the Number One Mistake Elders Make With Healthcare Directives.
Important documents for managing finances
- Financial Power of Attorney (POA): A financial POA gives a trusted family member, or friend, the ability to make legally-binding decisions about a person’s financial assets. An individual with financial POA has the authority to manage their loved one’s finances, which may include paying bills, liquidating assets to cover expenses, or making other investment decisions. (*see note below)
- Trust: Trusts—essential estate planning documents that specify how a person wishes certain assets to be disbursed—come in several different varieties. Each type of trust has its own rules and requirements that affect how funds will be distributed after a loved one passes away. The main difference between a will and a trust is that a trust can be enacted while a person is still alive, or after they have died. A will only goes into effect after an individual has passed on.
- Will: There are many different kinds of wills, each with different stipulations regarding how assets and property are to be doled out after a person dies. As previously mentioned, a will can only be activated by the death of the individual. For more information on writing wills, see What is a Will and Why Every Senior Should Have One.
An elder law attorney can assist with the preparation of these documents; as well as valuable guidance for taking into account your loved one’s individual situation and preferences when planning for the future.
Getting the necessary documents in order before a medical or financial disaster strikes can make an extremely difficult situation just a bit easier to navigate. Knowing that you’re carrying out your loved one’s wishes, even though they may not be able to voice them, can ease the crushing feelings of guilt and doubt than caregivers often experience in these situations.
*An additional note about POA: There can be confusion with regards to the difference between “durable” and “nondurable” powers of attorney. A durable POA is one that endures a person’s incapacitation, meaning that, until a person either passes away, or is able to regain control of their own affair, the POA remains in effect. This is as opposed to a nondurable POA, which becomes null upon a pre-defined contingency—such as a particular date, or in the event of a person’s incapacitation. For additional information on POA, see: Things You Can and Can’t Do With POA.
Provided courtesy of AgingCare.com, the go-to destination for family caregivers. AgingCare.com provides resources and guidance through financial and legal concerns, such as guardianship of elderly parents. This article is one of a series of articles included in the eBook, Family Caring for Family. Download your free copy at www.AgingCare.com/ebook.
Terri and John Havens to Receive the 2015 Laura Lee Blanton Community Spirit Award
On behalf of its Board of Directors, and Spirit Award Dinner Chairmen, Kay and Paul Mansfield, Houston Hospice is very pleased to announce that Terri and John are the recipients of the 2015
Laura Lee Blanton Community Spirit Award. Terri and John Havens have channeled their success as business owners into support for the community. They each have a passion for growing businesses and are fully dedicated to all of the charities they support.
As the leader of Seismic Exchange, Inc. (SEI), John has grown the business to be the largest 2D and one of the largest 3D seismic data and marketing firms in North America. John has led the charge to vertically integrate the business with the additions of a seismic reproduction company and seismic data processing company. John has also acquired other businesses, including Vista Valley Country Club in California, and is a minority owner of the Houston Astros and Houston Oaks Golf Club.
Terri and John are the owners of Cal-a-Vie Health Spa and Vista Valley Country Club. Nestled on 200 private acres in a secluded valley in Vista, California, 40 miles north of San Diego, Cal-a-Vie is an exclusive retreat known to many celebrities, and boasts 32 guest villas and a 5:1 staff-to-guest ratio. Terri’s advertising and marketing expertise, along with her natural “Southern Hospitality” and commitment to promoting a healthy lifestyle, has helped cultivate Cal-a-Vie’s award-winning wellness and fitness program, which has been voted the number-one “Destination Health Spa in North America” by Travel + Leisure, amongst others.
In addition to encouraging health and wellness for their spa guests, the Havens put their heart into causes that are dear to them, as evidenced by their many philanthropic endeavors. Terri and John support numerous organizations that ensure access to healthcare, education, and culture. Terri serves as the Secretary of I Am Waters and is a board member of the Astros Foundation, the Children’s Museum of Houston, and Bayou Bends Gardens and is actively involved with Star of Hope. Terri acts as the Texas Children’s Hospital Ambassador Chairman and is an active supporter of Texas Children’s Hospital Heart Center. She has chaired commendable events such as the Hermann Park Gala and Heroes for Handbags.
Terri and John have each received honors for their philanthropic efforts. John has been inducted into the LSU Hall of Distinction and Terri has been voted a top mom by the Easter Seals’ Great Houston’s “Hats off to Mothers” event. Together, they were voted one of the most outstanding couples in Houston by Inspire Women, were the 2012 Gala honorees and recipients of the Krist Samaritan Spirit Award, and were the 2014 Houston Children’s Charity Gala honorees, among others.
Terri and John have found a perfect balance of success, both professionally and personally, coupled with an active household of three children, Prentiss, 17, Davis, 13, and Mallette, 12. Admitted Francophiles, John and Terri always find time for family, friends, travel, collecting antiques, and restoring historic homes.
Terri and John will be recognized at the 17th Annual Laura Lee Blanton Community Spirit Award Dinner on Thursday, October 29, 2015 at 6 p.m. at River Oaks Country Club at 1600 River Oaks Blvd., Houston, Texas 77019. Table sponsorships for the dinner will help fund medical care, pain management, and emotional and spiritual support provided by non-profit Houston Hospice. A special challenge is to provide care for patients who are financially indigent. Each year Houston Hospice helps families who have exhausted their resources in the fight against a terminal illness.
To sponsor a Spirit Award Dinner table, contact Cynthia Nordt at 713-677-7123 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many years ago, after a particularly harrowing Friday in the Volunteer Department, my coworker Ruth decided we should go home early as a reward for making it through the day still standing and somewhat sane. I was ready to bolt when Ruth told me she had a little side trip for me to make “on my way home”. The wife of a patient needed a ride, and according to Ruth’s brain, they lived close to me. I gladly accepted the assignment with gleeful thoughts of getting a jump-start on Houston’s Friday afternoon traffic mayhem.
Eager to leave early, I immediately went to the patient care center to meet the patient and his wife. I was a bit shocked when I noticed Mrs. G.’s aqua hair — not be confused with the socially acceptable “blue” tint of my grandmother’s social set. That should have been my first clue about her unique personality. But no, I trusted Ruth and forged ahead not thinking twice that a lady with aqua hair might be rather ‘interesting’. Her frail husband thanked me repeatedly. They were such a cute, sweet little elderly couple, and taking her home was a small price to pay for getting to leave early, or so I thought.
I slowly pulled my almond gold PT Cruiser with the chrome package out of the garage and stopped in front of Mrs. G. who was waiting in her assigned spot. She gawked at my car, then at me and hesitated before she finally got in. She looked from side to side as she inspected every inch of my car. Then, she shook her head and said, “My friend and I wondered who bought these ugly little cars.”
There are two camps when it comes to PT Cruisers, love or hate, no in between. Mrs. G. was definitely on the hate side. She told me about every two minutes how ugly she thought my car was. She could not understand why Chrysler made such an ugly car. Her husband had a Chrysler and it ran good. Chrysler made nice, dependable, cars but she had no idea what they were thinking when they made these ugly ones. Deriding my car was only interrupted with detailed driving instructions. “Stay in this lane, don’t pass that bus, slow down, turn here, watch that!”
When we finally entered her neighborhood, which was nowhere close to mine, driving instructions and ugly car comments were complimented by a running commentary on the stores where she shopped, where they got their gas, where they bought auto parts for their good looking Chrysler and what streets had potholes. I inched along, dodging every aforementioned, pre-announced pothole. About half way down her lengthy street, Mrs. G. pointed to her house. It was the one on the left where three men stood on the porch eyeing my car. “They’ll never expect me to be in this thing,” she giggled. All three men rose as we approached. Through squinting eyes one of them recognized Mrs. G. and came to open the door for her. Before getting out, Mrs. G. took one last wide-eyed gander around her and announced, “I’ll have to tell my friend that nice people drive these ugly cars!”
As I left Mrs. G. and her three friends, I called Ruth. She did not answer. She had left early, without any side trips.
Eleven-year volunteer, Debbie Hoelscher, has been named volunteer of the year by Houston Hospice. As a nonprofit organization, Houston Hospice relies upon over 300 volunteers to help set the tone for the compassionate care patients and families receive. Since 2003, Debbie Hoelscher has volunteered in both the inpatient care center and in patients’ homes. Volunteer Coordinator, Patsy Piner said, “It wouldn’t be Monday at hospice without Debbie here tending the flowers, tending the patients, and bringing serenity and calmness into our lives.”
About her work in hospice Debbie states, “The families truly appreciate the smallest gift of your time and doing this type of work gives me a great sense of gratefulness.” Debbie also trains incoming volunteers and many have noted her ability to engage and be at ease with patients and their families. Ms. Piner added, “We often say that volunteering with hospice is not for everyone, but Debbie has a gift for this type of work and we are glad she spends her Mondays with us.”
Volunteers are an integral part of nonprofit Houston Hospice’s team; serving patients and families with caring expertise in the Houston Hospice care center, in patients’ homes and in assisted living facilities. To learn more about volunteering at Houston Hospice, call 713-467 7423 or visit www.houstonhospice.org.
Founded in 1980, Houston Hospice has evolved from an alternative, grass roots concept to a leader in hospice care for people of all ages and walks of life. Houston’s oldest, largest, independent hospice, is a 501 (c) (3) organization that is community-based, community-supported and not for profit. Thanks to the support of corporate and private sponsors, Houston Hospice serves Texans from all socio-economic groups irrespective of a person’s ethnicity, beliefs or ability to pay. Hospice care is provided in-home and in residential facilities throughout Austin, Brazoria, Colorado, Fort Bend, Harris, Jackson, Matagorda, Montgomery, Waller and Wharton Counties. In-patient and respite care is provided through the Margaret Cullen Marshall Hospice Care Center located in the Texas Medical Center.
-Karla Goolsby, Houston Hospice Communication Specialist