Everyday Compassion: Volume 9 Issue 1

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Compassion A Publication of Compassus










Salute to veterans Providing respect, dignity and the best of care to our military heroes.

Vol. 9 Issue 1


Compassion Everyday Compassion is published periodically by Compassus. Please address any comments or questions to: Editor, Everyday Compassion Magazine, Compassus, 10 Cadillac Drive, Suite 400, Brentwood, TN 37027



Carol Fite Lynn Director of Communications

We Want to Hear from You You have plenty of stories to tell and we’d like to hear them. Is there a particular patient who was extra special? Does your program have wonderful pet therapy? Do you know of a caregiver who has found a unique way to manage the demanding work of caregiving? We’re working on the next issue of Everyday Compassion and we’d like you and your stories to be part of it. We also welcome your questions, comments, feedback and suggestions. Email us at everyday.compassion@compassus.com. And don’t forget: • We love our military veterans, and we always want stories about Compassus veterans. • Compassus colleagues have some of the biggest hearts around, and we want to share your uplifting Dream Team stories. Tell one on yourself or brag about a colleague. • Nominate your medical director to be highlighted in our Physician Spotlight.

ASSISTANT EDITORS Sloane Sharpe Director of Branding

Dear Colleagues, Friends and Associates,

Lovell Communications, Inc. Nashville, Tenn.

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Gary Blackmore Volunteer Columbia, Mo.

Nancy S.F. Oxenhandler Volunteer Coordinator Colorado Springs, Colo.

April Braun Volunteer Coordinator Chantilly, Va.

Monica Perez CNA Yuma, Ariz.

Chris Burns Social Worker Payson, Ariz.

Rita Phinney Bereavement Coordinator Bedford, N.H.

Carol Davis Locomotion Creative Nashville, Tenn.

Mary Jane Rogers Executive Director Payson, Ariz.

Kathleen Gresham Everett Patient’s Family Branson, Mo.

Pamela Sengstock Bereavement Coordinator Green Bay, Wis.

Jesse Hoyer Volunteer Coordinator Huntsville, Ala.

Diana Spranger, R.N. Volunteer Coordinator Eastern Iowa

Marlene Letvin Bereavement Coordinator Flagstaff, Ariz.

Marcia Winn Social Worker North Andover, Mass.

Lovell Communications, Inc. Nashville, Tenn.


Locomotion Creative, LLC Nashville, Tenn.

Copyright 2018 © Compassus. All rights reserved. No part of this periodical may be reproduced in any manner without the written consent of Compassus. e-mail comments to: everyday.compassion@compassus.com

During the Vietnam War, U.S. Air Force pilot Gene Hollingsworth of Idaho flew 91 missions with the highest decorated squadron to date. His decorations and awards include the Air Force Commendation Medal, Airman’s Medal and the Distinguished Flying Cross, reserved for those distinguished by “heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight.” So when it was time for this American hero to face end of life, nothing but the best would do. That’s why Compassus partners with We Honor Veterans, a program of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to improve end-of-life care for American veterans. We Honor Veterans allows us at Compassus to acquire the skills to serve and honor with sensitivity and dignity those who put their life on the line for their country. We honor their service with pinning ceremonies and special events dedicated just to them. We coordinate with the Honor Flight Network, which transports our heroes to Washington, D.C., to visit their memorials. Many of our locations provide trained veteran volunteers who understand the unique needs of veterans and offer camaraderie and compassionate care for fellow veterans. In short, Compassus honors veterans in gratitude for their service. As always, we are interested in your reaction to our words, and we are eager to hear and share your stories.


James A. Deal Chief Executive Officer


Salute to veterans Military veterans assimilate their experiences not only in how they live outside of active service, but also in how their lives end. Through our partnership with the We Honor Veterans program, we can better understand those experiences so we can better meet their unique needs with honor, sensitivity and respect. Serving military veterans also gives Compassus the privilege and opportunity to publicly honor their sacrifice and service.





A 92-year-old Nebraskan marks 10 years volunteering with Compassus.

Honoring veterans: It’s about us, too.

Honoring a Navajo Code Talker’s unique contribution to the U.S. military.

What is your hospice I.Q.?

Dedicated volunteer

Our military connections


Sharing a common language


Spotlight on hospice The impact of Barbara Bush’s choice for comfort care.


We Honor Veterans We Honor Veterans program helps Compassus deliver a higher level of care to former soldiers.

Native warrior


‘Quite a storyteller’

Bring your military experience as a hospice volunteer.

Ralph Bohlin was one of those veterans you never forget.



Humble hero Ray was modest and unassuming about his military service.


Paying respects Vietnam veteran Joe Juharos heals himself by serving other veterans.




‘Easy in the Going’ A daughter’s experience as a caregiver for her mother inspired her to write poetry.

Volunteer spotlight Creatively calming dementia patients.

‘Wisconsin remembers’

In Every Issue

The emotional ”A Face for every Name” exhibit visits Appleton, Wis., thanks to Compassus.

By the Numbers American veterans in the United States.


Gathering stories A Vietnam veteran and Compassus volunteer listens for the stories of his fellow veterans.


Poetic expression A Compassus CNA writes poetry based on her experiences.


Granting a wish Everyone pulled together to help a patient go home.


The Dream Team Bringing the theater to the patient.

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The List Supplies you’ll need when bringing home the hospice patient. Physician Spotlight Featuring Benjamin Getter, D.O.




Corina Tracy began her career as a hospice nurse and has served patients at the end of life for more than 25 years. Today, from her vantage point as executive vice president and chief operating officer of Compassus, she says a cultural shift is required to make end-of-life care more mainstream. Research data repeatedly confirms patients are receiving hospice care too late. One study by Yale University physicians found half of patients admitted into hospice care were admitted only within the last two weeks of their life although they had experienced symptoms related to their conditions for weeks or months prior. “For physicians and other providers, the conversation around hospice is a high-risk conversation… you’re not sure how the patient’s going to respond,” Corina says. “There’s a lot of data that says if certain things happen, it means you have a limited prognosis, but we don’t let the data, the evidence, trigger the conversations. “It’s a dilemma. Never do we want to remove autonomy from a clinician; I would never suggest data replace clinical judgment, but I think we can put more data in the clinician’s hands so they feel more confident about their decision… it would be a trigger and a reminder that those conversations need to happen. “Many years ago I met a wonderful palliative care physician, and she used the term ‘medically possible.’ I think it’s a great and honest way to approach patients about what’s going on with them and helps hope remain, because this is what’s medically possible. It doesn’t mean there aren’t miracles or things that happen outside of medicine. There may be nothing else medically possible we can do, but there are many other things we can do from an emotional and spiritual support side.”

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‘One-of-a-kind chaplain’ Mary Jane Rogers, Executive Director of Compassus–Payson, wrote to pay tribute to Chaplain Harley Faber for his work and dedication to the We Honor Veterans program, as well as the heart he brings to every part of his responsibilities. Harley Faber has been our beloved chaplain in Payson since December 2013. Prior to that he spent seven years in our sister office in Casa Grande as their chaplain. Harley is most assuredly a one-of-a-kind chaplain for Compassus colleagues, patients and family members, who have come to rely on him for unwavering spiritual support, which he delivers wholeheartedly. And often he shares his gift of music ministry with them, too. You see, Harley plays guitar and sings all kinds of songs — spiritual, fun and favorites — with his beautiful voice. If that was all he did, we would acknowledge that he was a great blessing to us. But that doesn’t begin to capture everything about Harley Faber. He is also the prime leader in our We Honor Veterans program, leading all the Final Bedside Salutes for our veterans — not only those on service, but for community veterans, as well. Harley does the most remarkable job of incorporating patriotic songs into each celebration, in addition to playing and singing each anthem for every branch of the service. In our community, Harley presides over many Celebration of Life services and weddings for families in Rim Country. He is most definitely considered “An Angel Among Us,” to quote a famous song by country group Alabama. This man shares his enormous heart and soul with all those he meets and we are so honored to have him on our Compassus team. It is my greatest pleasure to work with Harley.

Interested in volunteering for Compassus? Volunteers interested in assisting hospice patients and their caregivers can help in three key areas that offer a wide variety of tasks and activities.

Patient Support

Patient Support Volunteers provide companionship to the patient and respite for the caregiver with friendly visits, running errands and more.


Bereavement Volunteers support families and friends of deceased patients by assisting with grief support groups, writing letters, making calls and more.


Administrative Volunteers help the hospice staff, often by helping with light office work, making deliveries and more.

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Continuing a long life of service Eleanor Timmerman may be 92, but she has no plans to cut back her volunteer work at Compassus–Kansas City, where she provides companionship, support and dignity to hospice patients and their loved ones. Timmerman marked her 10th anniversary as a Compassus volunteer last November. She first became interested in volunteering after visiting a woman from church who was in hospice care. Now she visits up to two patients a week at their homes or nursing facilities, giving loved ones respite from caregiving duties.

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Hospice volunteers, whether simply providing companionship or a listening presence, make a meaningful impact on patients and their families. When asked her favorite part about volunteering, Timmerman replied, “To see patients smile.” While Timmerman now lives in the Kansas City area, she spent a large portion of her life in Puebla, Mexico, where she opened Puebla Christian School and taught for nearly 40 years. In February 2017, she returned to the school to celebrate its 50th anniversary. She brought back keepsakes including maracas and weavings to share with the hospice patients she visits. “We are proud to recognize Eleanor for her efforts to honor life and offer hope to individuals facing life-limiting illnesses by supporting them with compassion, integrity and excellence,” said Shonda Shaw, volunteer coordinator for Compassus–Kansas City. “She is truly a very special woman and has contributed tremendously to our volunteer program.” Timmerman is among some 400,000 trained hospice volunteers providing more than 19 million hours of service to hospice programs each year, according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.


What Barbara Bush’s decision can teach us about

END-OF-LIFE CARE Former First Lady Barbara Bush’s decision to cease curative measures for her health issues helped shine an important spotlight on end-oflife care decisions. For too many Americans, conversations about what is desired at the end of life occur too late, or not at all. Surveys repeatedly show the vast majority of Americans would prefer to die in their homes, free of pain, surrounded by family and loved ones. Hospice works to make this happen and is covered by Medicare and most insurance plans. Despite this preference, most Americans die in institutions, many receiving unwanted and burdensome care. Barbara Bush’s decision to surround herself with family and concentrate on “comfort care” at home allowed her and her loved ones to focus on making the time she had left as meaningful as possible. A former hospice volunteer, Mrs. Bush no doubt had seen the benefits of hospice care firsthand. Comfort care refers to care focused on controlling pain and symptoms while maximizing quality of life. Hospice care has the same goals, putting patient preferences and choices at the forefront of the plan of care. Considered the model for quality compassionate care for people facing a life-limiting illness, hospice provides expert medical care, pain management and emotional and spiritual support expressly tailored to the patient’s needs and wishes.

Support is provided to the patient’s family as well. When a family is dealing with the stress of a loved one’s serious illness, the responsibility of initiating end-of-life care conversations often falls to the health care provider. While these discussions can be extremely difficult, it is important for clinicians to ask questions about care goals and discuss options once a terminal prognosis is delivered. As senior vice president and chief medical officer of Compassus, I work with our company’s physicians every day on how best to initiate these delicate conversations to ensure patients receive personalized care tailored to their needs, regardless of their condition. Patients and their families enjoy the most benefits from hospice care when it is introduced early. In a survey by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, 98 percent of respondents whose family had previously been served by hospice said it was a positive experience, citing the most important aspects of a good death as one occurring with dignity, pain-free, with family members present and with the benefit of spiritual counseling. It is my hope and belief that Barbara Bush’s stated preference for her end-of-life care allowed her and her family to find peace and focus on one another in the time she had remaining, and that her decision can aid in educating more Americans to the benefits of hospice.

Kurt Merkelz, MD

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Providing respect, dignity and the best of care to our military heroes

Compassus partners with We Honor Veterans to improve end-of-life care for American veterans.

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When volunteer Tammy Clements pinned an American flag on the lapel of fellow veteran Gene Hollingsworth and presented him with a certificate of service, the simple yet meaningful ceremony at the Compassus location in Meridian, Idaho, was another example of the Compassus commitment and dedication to serving U.S. military veterans. Compassus partners with We Honor Veterans, a program of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to improve end-of-life care for American veterans. Research and clinical practice have shown that military veterans assimilate their experiences not only in how they live outside of active service but also in how their lives end. So the better caregivers understand those experiences, the better they are able to meet their unique needs with honor, sensitivity and respect. Hospices can pursue four levels of partnership with the We Honor Veterans program. The first level demonstrates a provider’s commitment to provide relevant

education and training for staff and volunteers, and to identify patients with military experience. Subsequent levels — up to Level Four — require additional education and training and other activities including community education, outreach and partnership with veteran organizations, and establishing veteran-specific policies and procedures. Compassus–Meridian is a Level Four Partner — the highest level attainable — of the We Honor Veterans program. “We Honor Veterans helps hospice professionals and volunteers better understand and serve veterans at the end of life,” said Clement, a volunteer with Compassus for five years. “The program allows us to acquire the necessary skills to fulfill our mission to serve and honor these men and women with the dignity they deserve. The pinning ceremony is a formal way to acknowledge a veteran’s service and the meaning of that service to their life.” The pinning ceremony at Compassus–Meridian recognized and commemorated Gene Hollingsworth’s contribution to and sacrifice for the Vietnam War. He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force as a pilot cadet in 1956, starting as a B-47 pilot and working up to a helicopter pilot until he was discharged in 1976. During the Vietnam War, he flew a total of 91 missions in the HH53, affectionately known as the “Jolly Green Giant,” with a crew that is the highest decorated squadron to date.

Hollingsworth’s Air Force decorations and awards include the Air Force Commendation Medal, Airman’s Medal and Distinguished Flying Cross, reserved for those distinguished by “heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight.” “The courageous service of our veterans and their colorful memories of defending our nation at home and abroad should be treasured,” said Victoria Brutsman, director of clinical services for the Compassus program in Meridian, Idaho, “and Compassus is pleased to show appreciation for individuals like Gene Hollingsworth, who is among our community’s most valuable members.”

We Honor Veterans helps caregivers better meet veterans’ unique needs with honor, sensitivity and respect.

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HONORING VETERANS: It’s About Us, Too For us at Compassus, it’s all about the veterans. It’s about thanking them, recognizing them and honoring them. So many of America’s veterans have gone unthanked for decades, unrecognized for much of their lives, but in Colorado Springs, we want to change that, one ceremony at a time. As a Level Four Hospice Partner with We Honor Veterans, we make it our mission to reach out to the 8 Everyday Compassion Vol. 9 Issue 1

communities we serve and honor all of the veterans there — residents and colleagues alike. As we prepare for pinning ceremonies, gathering U.S. flags, printing personalized certificates, producing the program and packing the flag pins and all the other items needed for the event, we’re remembering that it’s all about the veterans. But in the end, it’s about us, too.

Each and every time, without exception, there are tears shed at these events — by the veteran, the veteran’s spouse and family, the staff who cares for those veterans day in and day out and our own team. Veteran or not, military family or not, we all become emotional just thinking about the sacrifices these men and women made to fight for the freedoms we enjoy every day in our country. So many of us have some sort of military connection whether it’s near or far — a close family member currently serving, a father, a grandfather or great-grandfather who served in World War II, a neighbor’s son or daughter just joining the service or a co-worker’s sibling who served in the Gulf War. Some of us live in cities where the local military base comprises a good part of the local economy. Some of us are connected only by the broadcast of the nightly news showing our military still fighting for our freedom all over the world. But no matter how we’re connected to our country’s military, we all owe it to our veterans to thank them for their service. And as a hospice team, we are inspired to do just that not only for our hospice patients who are veterans, but for all of the veterans in the communities we serve. Each fall in the week before Veterans Day and each spring in the week before Memorial Day, we present many veterans pinning ceremonies at several facilities. We’ve been going out into our communities for several years doing these ceremonies, so you might think it becomes rote at first, using the same basic program, the same format for the ceremony and the same team that comes together for the event. But it’s different each time as we visit with different residents and get the chance to learn their individual stories. It’s different each time, when one of our own veterans actually pins the honoree with a Compassus U.S.

flag pin. Each handshake, each pat on the back, each “thank you” from the veteran is the start of a new story. After the formal ceremony, we sit with each veteran to give them a chance to tell their own accounts, one-on-one, to a truly interested listening ear. At the end of each week, our team is exhausted but gratified at the opportunities we’ve had to thank so many veterans right in our own corner of the world. And so, the honor is all ours — to be able to offer our thanks, and to recognize the veterans in our own city. We are honored that communities welcome us in as guests to present the veterans with our simple and humble recognition of their military service.

Honoring veterans means much to the veteran, but it also is meaningful to their caregivers, family, friends, fellow citizens and those who revere military service.

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Are you a veteran who wants to continue to serve? The Veteran-to-Veteran Volunteer Program aims to pair recruited veteran volunteers with hospice patients who once served in the U.S. military. Veterans are part of a distinct culture with their own common language and experience, so veteran volunteers have the unique ability to relate and connect with patients who share military experience. Strong bonds are created and the resulting camaraderie is beneficial to all involved. These are some activities veteran volunteers can do:

Educate and assist patients in receiving veteran benefits.

Reminisce and share life stories. The bonds between fellow veterans create a safe environment where the patient can express and release haunting memories they’ve carried too long.

Assist in replacing lost medals. If you’re a veteran interested in helping veterans in hospice care, contact your local Compassus program or visit Compassus.com. 10 Everyday Compassion Vol. 9 Issue 1

Provide transportation, if allowed.

Take part in pinning ceremonies or distribute certificates for Veterans Day and other recognition events.




AN UNASSUMING HERO Ray is a lovely gentleman who does not want people to go out of their way for him. “He never asks for anything,” says one of his care team members. “He doesn’t want to be a bother to anyone.” Ray’s hospice team wanted to incorporate a special We Honor Veterans event for this unassuming and kind man who served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Ray’s love of seafood would be the theme for a special luncheon, which was to be delivered along with a “Compassus Salutes” certificate of recognition. Ray’s eyes lit up when he saw his meal presented on a colorful, veteranthemed tray. “You people are great,” he said with a smile. “You folks think of everything!” After lunch, Ray was persuaded to reminisce about his life and role in the military and he revealed that he served as a signalman on board ships, which safely escorted a variety of ocean vessels during his service. He served on ships in both the North Atlantic and Pacific Theaters of World War II. Ray recounted that at times there could be as many as 100 ships in their convoy, including dirigibles that served as lookouts for enemy submarines. “Our ship never came under direct fire,” Ray continued. “Other sailors and ships were not always so lucky,” he added as he sadly looked off in the distance. As Ray discussed his role as a signalman, he explained how that job combined both visual communications and advanced lookout skills. He laughingly recounted that flagmen

were nicknamed “Flags or Skivvy Wavers.” His responsibilities as a signalman included transmitting, receiving, encoding, decoding and distributing messages. Ray relayed that vital military information was obtained via the “visual transmission system of flag semaphore, visual Morse Code and flaghoist signaling.” He paused, closed his eyes for a moment and quietly said, “Those flags spoke their own language.” Then he pointed to a wooden figure of a signalman. “That’s what I looked like. I carved that myself,” he said. Despite the significance of his job, Ray downplayed the vital role he played. “It was nothing,” he said. “Just doing my job.” Still, in recounting his military work, Ray’s voice exhibited a sense of pride in his service and he became animated as he told his stories. As his special event came to an end, Ray deflected any thanks for his sacrifice and service. “No, thank you,” he said. “It was an honor that you wanted to visit with me and listen to my story.” Writer’s note: Ray passed away a few days following this We Honor Veterans event. I will be forever grateful for the incredible gift from Ray during that visit — the gift of Ray’s most precious time. It was truly an honor to have met such an unassuming man.

Ray’s special day included a seafood meal and the chance to talk about his wooden carving of a U.S. Navy signalman — a duty that Ray performed in World War II.

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‘Let me keep being of service’

Joe Juharos, standing center above and right below, has made it his mission to lead the We Honor Veterans program at Compassus–Payson.

U.S. Marine veteran Joe Juharos is witty, talkative and skilled at making funny cartoon voices — a talent that served him well during a 25-year law enforcement career. He even engaged youngsters, appearing as Tallulah the Traffic Safety Clown, complete with orange curls and baggy pants. But Joe’s cheerful personality turns serious when it comes to honoring veterans. Joe, a Vietnam veteran and son of a World War II combat veteran, has made it his mission to lead the We Honor Veterans program at Compassus–Payson. The We Honor Veterans program, developed by the Veterans Administration and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, reaches veterans nationwide by partnering with hospice organizations such as Compassus that are dedicated to meeting the special needs and recognizing the contributions of

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service and sacrifice made by the veteran hospice patients they serve. “Joe has really taken the reins on this, enlisting the help of our police chief and many other veterans in Rim Country to make sure these veterans get the honor they deserve,” said Hospice Care Consultant Rebecca Friend. For almost four years, Joe has recruited a team of 15-20 veteran volunteers from Air Force, Navy,

Army, Marines and members of the American Legion to be a part of the team that responds to the requests to hold a veteran’s bedside salute and a “celebration ceremony” for a veteran who is on hospice. Chaplain Harley Faber works with Joe on the music and spiritual aspects of the program. Joe’s approach to the work is, “an effective use of playful engagement,” Faber says. “Joe has a way of drawing out each veteran and getting them to share their stories because he speaks their language.” Joe is open in talking about his own traumas, which include being treated with contempt upon his return home after Vietnam combat and the challenge of caring for his daughter who suffered from birth defects related to Agent Orange, a powerful herbicide used by U.S. military forces during the Vietnam War to eliminate forest cover for North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops. Joe has made a choice to channel his personal pain into service to others by pouring all his talent and energy into the We Honor Veterans program. PROPER ACKNOWLEDGMENT

Each ceremony contains enough pomp and circumstance to ensure the veteran is properly honored and acknowledged for his or her service. Joe makes sure each certificate is properly framed and each veteran is given the VA pin on one collar and their branch of service pin on the other collar. He stretches out the moment of a bedside salute by asking the uniformed veterans present to hold their salute while he speaks to the veteran being honored:

“With this salute, we as fellow veterans who have also worn the same boots and marched the same mile, wish to express our gratitude for your service to our beloved United States of America.” Families of the celebrated veteran often find fulfillment as their loved one is honored. A daughter of a World War II veteran listened intently as her father was encouraged to share stories of his service during his ceremony. “We had never heard these stories before, and he hasn’t smiled like this in a long time,” she later told Joe. Joe’s dedication and hard work is moving We Honor Veterans forward not only in Payson, but everywhere he goes, says Mary Jane Rogers, executive director of Compassus– Payson. “Joe is the most compassionate person I have ever met. He honors us by not only being a Compassus volunteer but by his work as an advocate for the We Honor Veterans program; Joe has carried that love for his fellow vets across the region and the country by visiting hospices wherever he goes to talk to them about what a bedside salute means to a veteran on hospice,” she says. “Joe is the spirit of this work and we couldn’t do this without him.” For Joe, his personal mantra is simple yet profound in encapsulating his purpose in life: “Let me keep being of service until the day I die.”

Joe, standing far right, a Vietnam veteran who suffered war-related traumas, chooses to channel his personal pain into service to others.

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A Navajo Code Talker’s exceptional role in history Recently, Compassus– Flagstaff had the privilege of serving a World War II veteran who helped shape the history of our nation in a unique manner. George B. Willie, Sr. was one of a select group of Navajo Code Talkers who used their native language as a means of secret communication for U.S. forces during World War II. Their primary job was to transmit classified tactical messages over telephone and radio communications using codes built around the Navajo language. The syntax and tonal qualities, which differ even among the numerous dialects, makes the language unintelligible to outsiders. The Code Talkers were commended for their skill, speed and accuracy throughout the war. It wasn’t until 1997, after the government released information on the existence of Code Talkers, that Willie began to share his experiences with his family. Like many Navajos, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, inspired Willie to join the armed forces. However, he was too young 14 Everyday Compassion Vol. 9 Issue 1

George B. Willie, Sr. was a Navajo Code Talker, a secretive, select group who used the language of the Navajos as a means of secret communication for U.S. forces during World War II.

and had to wait two more years until he was 17 before he could enlist. Willie served in the Marine Corps with the Second Marine Division from 1943-1946 as part of a specially chosen Navajo speaking contingent of the Marines. Following in the footsteps of the original 29 who developed the code, he delivered and received messages the Japanese were unable to decipher. Willie participated in the Battle of Okinawa, serving as a vital communication link between the action that was going on all around him and headquarters, which was directing the battle. He was born in a small Navajo community in Northern Arizona. His mother died when he was young and in addition to his father, who was a lumberman, he was cared for by his grandmother, aunts and uncles. He remembered as a boy waiting by the gate of the sawmill for his father to get off from work, and they would walk home together to where his grandmother awaited them. Willie went to school through the seventh grade. His education ended at a vocational school where students studied academics in the morning and took farming courses in the afternoon. Upon his return to the United States from military service, Willie lived in Leupp, Ariz., where he cared for an ailing grandmother who had helped raise him and tended her sheep. During this time he met and married his wife, Emma Jean. Willie retired from the Leupp school district where he’d worked as a janitor. After retirement, he spent time herding sheep and marking their paths with stones. He enjoyed singing gospels. Willie participated in the Navajo Code Talkers Association and traveled with the organization to

bring attention to the achievements of Marine Code Talkers. Willie’s contributions were officially recognized in 2001 when he received the Congressional Silver Medal. With family present, Ryan Zimmerman, Compassus–Flagstaff chaplain, performed a veteran pinning ceremony to recognize and honor Willie’s contributions to the safety and Willie’s security of our contributions nation. George B. Willie, Sr., were officially a well-respected recognized in 2001 member of the when he received community and Navajo nation, passed the Congressional on Dec. 5, 2017, at Silver Medal. the age of 92. He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Emma Jean, 10 children and many grandchildren. His memorial was held at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Park at Camp Navajo in Bellemont, Ariz. It was an honor to pay tribute to Mr. Willie and the Navajo Code Talkers. Their unique contribution to the preservation of our country serves as an enduring symbol of pride for their families and the nation.

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Ralph Bohlin’s military career was quite colorful and his memory still holds exciting, noteworthy bits and pieces of history.

Every veteran is honored and respected by Compassus, but occasionally one of those American heroes is distinctively exceptional and notable. Ralph Bohlin is one of those veterans. Ralph initially came onto our service in June 2016, but he was discharged for a period of time before becoming back on service. When he was initially admitted in 2016, he consented to a pinning ceremony in September 2016. We enjoyed a day of recognition with him and continue to enjoy his stories of war time and his many adventures in the military. Despite his challenges — he turned 100 last March — Ralph is quite a storyteller, with such adventures as when his shoe laces got caught in railroad tracks with a train bearing down on him. Needless to say, he broke free. Ralph grew up during the Great Depression and tells a story of jars of pennies appearing at his bedside and later disappearing at the hand of an uncle with a gambling problem. As a young man, Ralph was quite the athlete. He competed in golf tournaments around the country and he once tried out, though unsuccessfully, for the Chicago Cubs professional baseball team. Ralph, who speaks, reads and sings in three languages — Arabic, German and English — served in the U.S. Air Force and later in the Army Air Corps during World War II, spending time in the South Pacific. It is clear to all who visit with Ralph that his military career was quite colorful and his memory still holds exciting, noteworthy bits and pieces of history.

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Ralph also was an accomplished businessman who formed his own company, Bohlin’s Better Painting Co., in 1953. He taught Modern Marriage at the University of Iowa and was quite active in the First Methodist Church in Coralville, Iowa, taking responsibility for the financial needs of the church for an extended period of time. Ralph was a family man and married the love of his life in 1940, Zilphy Hummer. They raised two children, who remain involved in his care. Ralph recently moved from his home to a long-term facility in Iowa to ensure his quality of care continues. We are honored that the children of Ralph are willing to entrust his end-of-life care to us.



1.6 million

American veterans in the United States 18.5 million 18.5 million veterans are alive today in the United States.

1.6 million 1.6 million veterans are women.

11.5% The District of Columbia has the highest percentage of veterans per capita, at 11.5 percent in 2015.

65/50 Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs / U.S. Census

California has the highest number of veterans at 1.6 million, followed by Texas (1.5 million) and Florida (1.4 million).

362 362 World War II veterans die each day.

9.2 million The number of veterans age 65 and older in 2016.

50% In 2016, almost 50 percent of male Americans, aged 75 years and older, were veterans.

The median age for veterans is 65 for men and 50 for women.

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‘A Face for Every Name’ As we develop our We Honor Veterans program at Compassus– Green Bay, it has become important to not only recognize our individual patients through pinning ceremonies but to represent our organization as a community supporter of all veterans. For that reason, Compassus–Green Bay brought “Wisconsin Remembers: A Face for Every Name,” a traveling Wisconsin Vietnam Veterans Memorial Display, to the Appleton (Wis.) Public Library. The exhibit is a powerful

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reminder of the true impact of wartime death. The Wisconsin Veterans Museum, Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television have made the exhibit available to local libraries, historical societies, schools and community spaces throughout the state. This panel exhibit features photographs of the 1,161 Wisconsinites officially listed on the Vietnam Veteran Memorial Display in Washington, D.C., as well as additional photos for names listed

on The Highground Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Neillsville, Wis. The photos were collected by volunteers from throughout Wisconsin over the past eight years. Friends and family of those killed in Vietnam submitted photos, but so did students, teachers and others who simply wanted to put a face to the names listed on the Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. The images they found help tell the story of the men and women who are listed on the Memorial Wall as part of a new Education Center the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund is building on the National Mall. Wisconsin was the fifth state in the nation to find a photo for every resident listed on the Wall. As Bereavement Coordinator, I organized the exhibit’s visit to Appleton. There also was a very personal connection for me, because I found my brother-in-law’s uncle in the exhibit. I often heard my brother-inlaw and his family speak of the uncle with respect and sadness. Seeing his name and photograph as part of the exhibit stirred a sense of admiration for his sacrifice.

The exhibit did the same for those who came to see it. One couple began looking at the photos, eventually finding names of those they knew and those who were acquaintances within the community. I answered some questions for them, which led to a visit that lasted about an hour. I listened with fascination about his experiences in the Vietnam War and those of his wife, who married him overseas. Their speech was animated and their stories were amazing. They had seen things that most of us will never see. As they left, they thanked me for bringing the exhibit to the community, and I knew it had an impact on them. As in all areas of hospice care, there is a need to honor our patients and families — to respect their individual experiences and to hear their life stories. In working with veterans, let us remember how their service has a lasting effect on their lives, and let’s learn from them and take the time to listen. It’s an important gift to those who gave so much.

The collected photos put a face to the names listed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., to help tell the story of each one.

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A VOLUNTEER SALUTES HIS FELLOW VETERANS When military veterans come into hospice, they generally request a volunteer who has also served in the military. They seek out the bond that only veterans can understand. As one of the veteran connections for our hospice, my patients are usually veterans. I cherish the time I get to spend with them, though it is always hard to let that patient go when the time comes. Here are just a few amazing stories from some of my hospice patients/ friends with whom I have been honored to share their end of life.

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Teddy was a World War II veteran suffering from severe Alzheimer’s disease. He didn’t know if it was time for lunch or breakfast or if his son had just come or left. But every time I would visit, he would commence talking about his military service. He would say, “Did you know I was in the Alligator Navy? That means we were amphibious — land and sea.” “It was April 1, 1945 — Easter Sunday — and we were invading Okinawa,” he would tell me. “The Japanese were really strafing us — we were the medical corps for the Marines. We’d go up in the canals and take care of the wounded. We would take their bayonets and put them on the end of their rifles and stick it in the ground and start an IV.”

Volunteer Gary Blackmore now and during his tours in Vietnam.


Earl, a World War II veteran, shared memories of being a flight instructor in Florida for four years, training the new recruits how to fly and do maneuvers so they could go overseas and fight in the war — “The Big Dance,” he would call it. He reminisced about the arrival of radar, a revolutionary new technology then that could detect, among other things, the presence, direction and speed of aircraft and ships. “It was highly classified, a real top secret and we were sworn to not talk or tell anybody about it,” he recalled. “Then one day, I’m in the commissary eating breakfast and I pick up a Reader’s Digest and there is the headline on an article: “United States now using radar in the war.” RALPH

Ralph was among the brave soldiers who landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day during World War II. He recalled how, when the door first opened on the naval vessel and they started unloading into the water, he stepped off into an artillery crater and went under. Unable to swim, he was picked up by the collar by his buddy, Frisbee. They would make it to the beach only to have Frisbee take an incoming round, mortally wounding him and then, Ralph shot through the pants leg. “There were so many bodies that we literally had to crawl over them because there was so much machine gun fire hitting all around that you didn’t want to stand up,” he said. “I would eventually make it up the cliff. We would blow out a German pillbox and we would start our trek across Europe.”

These are just some of the stories that I have heard during my visits with just three veteran hospice patients. I thank the Good Lord every day that if it weren’t for these young men who had put their lives in harm’s way back then, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m able to do today. So when I am called on to visit another patient who is a veteran, I feel it’s the least I can do to provide some quality of life in his last days and say, “God bless you, sir, and thank you for your service.” Everyday Compassion Vol. 9 Issue 1 21


Take this true-or-false quiz prepared by the former American Hospice Foundation. Do you know as much as you think you do?

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About 90 percent of us die from long, slow illnesses, rather than suddenly. Half of the people who die in hospitals die with persistent pain. Most Americans want to die at home. Most Americans actually die at home. Hospice is only for people with cancer. Hospice programs support the wishes of dying people. Hospice care is rarely provided in the home. Hospice care requires that you stop all medical treatment. You can receive hospice care indefinitely. Hospice care is very expensive.

ANSWERS: 1. TRUE. Only 10 percent of deaths are sudden. The overwhelming majority of people die from long-term illnesses. 2. TRUE. While many people who die in hospitals and nursing homes have persistent pain, almost all hospice patients are relieved from pain and other symptoms. 3. TRUE. About 70 percent of Americans want to die at home. 4. FALSE. Only about 25 percent of Americans actually die at home. However, most hospice patients die at home, surrounded by loved ones. 5. FALSE. Hospice is for people with cancer, Alzheimer’s, AIDS, cardiac, liver, respiratory and kidney diseases or any life-limiting illness with a prognosis of six months or less. Hospice patients include young people and even children. 6. TRUE. Hospices help people die with dignity by honoring their wishes. 7. FALSE. Most hospice care is provided at home, but it can also be provided in nursing homes, hospitals and other locations. 22 Everyday Compassion Vol. 9 Issue 1

8. FALSE. Choosing hospice means stopping attempts to cure life-limiting illness in favor of comfort care and relief from symptoms. You still receive curative care for other illnesses. 9. TRUE. After two initial 90-day periods, the doctor may recertify the patient for an indefinite number of additional 60-day periods of hospice care, as long as the patient is eligible. 10. FALSE. Hospice care is covered by Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurance. WHAT’S YOUR HOSPICE IQ?

9-10 correct: You are a hospice genius! 7-8 correct: You are above average on the Hospice IQ Scale. 0-6 correct: You have room to learn more about hospice. Visit compassus.com for more information.


Creatively calming dementia patients Not only has Penny Long lent her considerable skills to the Compassus program in Chantilly, Va., in filing, data entry, supply inventory and designing/checking spreadsheets, but she has helped bring calm to dementia patients by starting the Twiddlemuff Movement. A twiddlemuff is a tube that has been knitted, crocheted or crafted with fabric that has accessories such as ribbons and buttons sewn on to them. They usually contain multiple textures, with different items sewn on the inside and outside of the muff, allowing the person’s hands to stay warm while they play with the buttons, ribbons and other items sewn inside.

WANT TO MAKE TWIDDLEMUFFS? Search for “twiddlemuffs” on the internet to see knitted and crocheted examples, as well as instructions on making these colorful distractions, which allows you to use your knitting talents to do a good deed.

For many dementia patients, one of the changes to their personalities is to become increasingly agitated. Twiddlemuffs help to ease this agitation and calm the person’s mood as they keep their hands and minds occupied. Many medical facilities have found the muffs have a positive effect on patients by keeping them comforted as well as encouraging movement and brain stimulation. Penny’s husband Michael had shown signs of agitation near the end of his life in hospice care. Years later, when reading an article from England on the use of twiddlemuffs to help calm patients with agitation, she realized she could have used this concept with her husband. So, with Penny’s help and guidance, the Compassus office reached out to Jane Torman who works with the Knitzvah Group at Congregation Beth Emeth of Herndon, Va. This group crafted a number of twiddlemuffs that have since been distributed to patients who exhibit signs of agitation. Penny’s drive and innovation has been key to fostering this relationship and maintaining the twiddlemuffs program.

Penny Long, left, and Jane Torman helped get the Twiddlemuffs Movement going for Compassus–Chantilly to lessen agitation in dementia patients.

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A VERY SPECIAL STAGE PRODUCTION Our hospice team and a local high school drama department recently came together to provide a “date night” for one of our patients and her husband. For many years this couple had attended many musical theater events, especially those held at a local theater in the round. Originally we planned to help them go to this theater, but our dear patient became too disabled to attend. So we decided to bring the theater to the patient. For several months we worked with Natalie Cunhe, theater department director at nearby Reading Memorial High School in Reading, Mass., on a plan for the stars and theater manager of their fall production of “Pippin” to bring this musical directly to our patient and her husband at her nursing home. The play tells the story of young prince Pippin, son of fabled Emperor Charlemagne, and his search for meaning and purpose. Despite the difficult journey, love ultimately buoys him up. The players and their student theater manager presented a half-hour selection of famous songs from Pippin, and the best of the story line. The couple and our team were moved to near tears with the intimacy of the presentation, because this couple also had a hard journey and a wonderful love story of their own that continues to this day. The actors, manager, director and one of the parents even presented our couple with a beautiful bouquet, making this last date a very special day to remember. Though this event might seem to be just one moment in time, it demonstrated the power of community organization, a branch of traditional social work. For the theater department, it began with a long tradition of outreach to the community. As our team reached out to the school to see if they might be willing to create our vision of a small theater in the nursing home, we could not have been treated with greater warmth by everyone, especially the drama department. Our whole staff remains committed to finding and nurturing these opportunities in the community to enhance the welfare of, and to maintain as much as possible, the essential elements of our patients’ lifestyles, whenever possible.

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Believe In a Better Today and Trust In a Better Tomorrow He never said life would be a bed of roses But said, come to Me all that are burdened and heavy laden And I will give you rest Believe in a better today and trust in a better tomorrow When life seems to change before you And fear seems to grip you Cling to the One who understands your every need, question and heart’s cry Believe in a better today and trust in a better tomorrow When life is all as it should be No struggles or challenges do you face Don’t let your guard down; continue to run the race Believe in a better today and trust in a better tomorrow When you have all you need And life feels great indeed Never forget your friends and family He has blessed you with to see Believe in a better today and trust in a better tomorrow When you go about your day, appreciate all you have Never take for granted The ability to feel, touch, and see all of life’s pleasures It may be a sunset or sunrise It may be a look in your loved one’s eyes It may be the smell of a fresh-cut lawn Or flowers picked and delivered from your grandbaby’s little hands It may be a smile or hug given to someone just because Whatever life’s simple pleasures are for you Pause, stop, ponder and listen Give thanks to our Father in that moment Take time to embrace the beauty around you Live, love and laugh through this journey we’re on together Know you’re not alone, for He is right there with you Always believe in a better today while trusting in a better tomorrow

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Supplies you’ll need when bringing home the hospice patient Jane Fuller, Admission RN with Compassus– Anaheim, created a list to help families of hospice patients coming home from the acute care setting or skilled nursing facility. “Families are often unprepared and caught off-guard regarding all of the needs a hospice patient may have upon returning home after a new diagnosis, a lifealtering event or coming home to die,” she writes. “I searched the internet to see if such a list existed and could not find one, so I made this up and have shared it with many families.”

Two sets of twin sheets Under-pads, which can be disposable or made of cloth Extra pillows for comfort and positioning Baby or adult wipes (adult wipes tend to run larger)

Distilled or bottled water for oxygen concentrator humidifier bottle, if oxygen is to be used

Adult briefs (diapers), ideally the tab type

Pillbox to organize daily medications

Baby monitor or small bell, so they can alert you that they need your help if you’re not in the room

Night light, so you can check on them during the night without awakening them

Thermometer, ideally a temporal or forehead type so the patient does not need to be disturbed

Small wastebasket and trash liners to keep beside their bed

Bendable straws if they are allowed and the patient does not have any swallowing problems Protein drinks or protein powder to add to a fruit smoothie

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Mild/bland food: Applesauce, oatmeal or cream of wheat, bread, plain yogurt (or patient’s favorite flavor), vanilla ice cream, pudding, bananas

Handheld shower hose Nightgown/night shirt; something loose, comfortable, ideally made of 100 percent cotton and does not have pant legs


Benjamin Getter, D.O., shares drive to improve quality of life for patients in new leadership role Dr. Benjamin Getter, medical director of the Compassus program in San Antonio, was recently appointed to the Compassus Medical Director Advisory Council (MDAC). The Council is an important resource for Compassus medical directors and associate medical directors, providing them with guidance on policies and best practices. We welcomed Getter to the Compassus family last year when Compassus acquired several programs from Optum, where he had served as an inpatient palliative care physician since 2013. There he held a crucial role in the care continuum: helping patients and families navigate end-of-life care. “I saw people who did it well and I saw people who did it horribly, and that bothered me,” said Getter about having conversations with patients and families about their care options. One of his proudest accomplishments was introducing palliative care to a local health system, educating staff, empowering nurses to look for signs, and building relationships with physicians to ensure patients received the right care at the right time. Just five years into the partnership, his team was providing 150-200 palliative care consults every month. It’s his drive to improve the quality of life for patients and their families that made Getter an excellent candidate for the MDAC. “Dr. Getter’s commitment, service and leadership is incredibly valuable

to the continued success of our organization,” said Kurt Merkelz, MD, senior vice president and chief medical officer of Compassus. “I feel privileged to spend each day with patients and families, guiding them through the end-oflife journey to ensure their last moments are meaningful and well spent,” says Getter. “To have the opportunity to join a group of physicians dedicated to increasing access to this special type of care is an honor.” Getter received his bachelor’s degree in computer science from Texas A&M University, Post-Baccalaureate Certification in Biomedical Science from the University of North Texas Health Science Center, and Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine from Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine. He completed his residency in internal medicine at the University of Oklahoma and fellowship in Palliative and Hospice Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center. Getter is board certified in internal medicine and hospice and palliative medicine. Earlier this year, he was included in San Antonio Scene magazine’s “S.A. Best Doctors and Dentists 2018.” A native of Keller, Texas, Getter lives in San Antonio with his wife and two daughters, ages six and nine. When he’s not working, he enjoys spending time and traveling with his family — they recently went on trips to Alaska and Japan. Everyday Compassion Vol. 9 Issue 1 27


A FINAL FLIGHT HOME Late last November, the Compassus office in Florence, Ala., received a phone call from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, Ark., concerning one of their patients who had been receiving treatment for cancer. Treatment options for Mitchell were exhausted and his final wish was to come home to Alabama to be with his four children and other family members, especially during the holiday season. Unfortunately, he could not make the trip by car due to his deteriorating condition. That’s when everyone went into action. We prayed for guidance, and guidance we received. Sharon Scoggins, RN, of the Northwest Alabama Cancer Center in Muscle Shoals, which had originally treated Mitchell and then coordinated his care with the Little Rock hospital, connected with an Angel Flight team willing to fly to Little Rock to bring Mitchell home. Angel Flight requested a nurse to assist with the patient on his return to Alabama, so Tracey Branham, Compassus Clinical Director for North Alabama, traveled on her own time with the flight crew from Muscle Shoals. Upon his arrival in Alabama, Billie Mock, RN, a Compassus nurse, admitted Mitchell and began caring for him in his Sheffield, Ala., home. Mitchell’s family gathered around him and he was able to spend his final hours with them in his own home. His children were able to walk that final journey by his side. The smile on Mitchell’s face was captured for all times. 28 Everyday Compassion Vol. 9 Issue 1


My mother, Rose Allen Gresham, arrived in heaven April 26, 2016, as the angel band played a loving welcome. She was easy in the going and for that we are eternally grateful. She had splendid care from the nurses, aides, chaplains and staff. They were truly a blessing during this time.

Easy in the Going She waits for the word to come down her train is leaving soon – ticket purchased and held tightly in her beautiful hands.

(parchment pale hands, thin and strong, that once held such powerful music. And in all the keys, she played our lives so that we were formed by the sound of her heart.) She waits for the bells to toll and for the band to start – she is easy in the going and longing for the gentle rocking of the rails.

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