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Compassion A Publication of Compassus










Salute to volunteers Volunteers like Peggy and Art Ellison are vital to the success of any hospice program.

Vol. 8 Issue 2


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 EDITOR Sloane Sharpe Director of Branding

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Gary Blackmore Volunteer Columbia, Mo.

Bart Larson Chaplain Jefferson City, Mo.

Nance Coyne Volunteer Coordinator Butte, Mont.

Bridget Lewis Volunteer Coordinator Dayton, Ohio

Carolyn Crank Volunteer Freeport, Ill.

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

Carol Davis Locomotion Creative Nashville, Tenn.

Joseph S. Wadas Chaplain and Bereavement Coordinator Savannah, Ga.

Mike Fritz Bereavement Coordinator Central Texas

Dale Willis Volunteer Coordinator Columbia, Mo.

Keith Gebhart Chaplain Dayton, Ohio Misse Iverson Executive Director Billings, Mont.


Locomotion Creative, LLC Nashville, Tenn.

Dear Colleagues, Friends and Associates, Volunteers are essential to the success and outreach of any hospice program. Whether they’re providing companionship to a hospice patient, offering respite to a caregiver or helping with office duties, volunteers help extend the reach that Compassus is able to provide patients and families. Volunteers are motivated by any number of reasons to contribute their time to serve terminally ill patients and their loved ones. Those whose families were once served by hospice are drawn to help others travel the painful journey; some are simply givers at heart; and others are driven to make a difference. These “angels of mercy,” as some call them, bring care and compassion through such areas as patient support, with friendly, helpful visits and companionship; bereavement, by supporting families and friends of deceased patients; and administrative support, by helping the hospice care team with office duties. Being a hospice volunteer is not easy work, but the return is immeasurable. Compassus volunteers tell us they are inspired by the courage and character of their patients and that they come away from each patient feeling uplifted. Stories in this issue salute our volunteers and spotlight some of those who go above and beyond, offer tips on how to be a good hospice visitor and provide information on ways that you might want to serve hospice patients and their families. As Misse Iverson, executive director for Compassus–Billings says, “All our volunteers are priceless and we cannot thank them enough for the time they devote to our program and patients.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. As always, we are interested in your reaction to our words, and we are eager to hear and share your stories. Sincerely,

Copyright 2017 © 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

James A. Deal Chief Executive Officer


Volunteers Volunteers are fundamental to the success of Compassus, or any hospice organization. These caring individuals extend the reach of hospice employees, creating the opportunity to do more for more patients and their families. Volunteer possibilities are endless, ranging from visiting with a patient to office work to running errands to helping patients achieve a final goal.




How truly ‘being there’ for hospice patients makes all the difference.

Volunteer Diane Ruff gives her valuable time to office practices and organization.

Volunteers are invaluable to both patients and staff.



Volunteers Art and Peggy Ellison have enhanced the lives of countless patients.

A volunteer couple brings a special kind of peace to one hospice patient.

The power of being there

Volunteer heroes

‘A giving heart’

Sweet reconciliation


The gift of presence Tips for visiting the terminally ill.

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The other side of the door A former longtime hospice volunteer expresses what it was like to become a hospice patient.

Worth their weight in silver and gold

In service to others The world’s leaders, authors and thinkers celebrate volunteerism.



Doug Huston’s calling is as an eleventh-hour volunteer — making sure someone is with patients and families during the final hours.

World War II veteran Alfred Block was honored with a trip to Washington, D.C.’s World War II Memorial.

An angel among us

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The last mission A volunteer made it possible for a hospice patient to ‘visit’ the national memorial honoring him and other World War II veterans.

She makes the most of patient visits The little things volunteer Kelly Rusoff does for her patients creates a caring bond.


Serving others Ways to volunteer with Compassus.

Taking a flight of honor

In Every Issue The Dream Team Joe’s medals.


By the Numbers The dedication and commitment of U.S. hospice volunteers.


Physician Spotlight Featuring Dr. Larry Doroshow, D.O., staff physician at Roxborough Memorial Hospital, Philadelphia, Pa.



Technology brings a family together to say goodbye Graham Paterson D.Min. Chaplain for Compassus–Round Rock When Geraldine Harrison passed away earlier this year, her unique funeral service, in which I was honored to participate, reached across the country and even overseas through the wonder of technology. Gerry’s is a large, loving family, and her cousins, nephews, nieces and friends came from all over to see her before she passed, indicating the positive impact Gerry’s life had on so many people and brightening her last months on earth. After Gerry passed, her husband Fred didn’t want family and friends to bear the expense of returning to Texas for the funeral, so his sons Gregory and Jeffrey devised a plan to live stream the funeral on YouTube. A date and time were set. The funeral began with a 20-minute slide show remembering Gerry’s life. Then Fred from his armchair in their living room, took the microphone and opened his heart. Fred, who had to stop occasionally as emotions overwhelmed him, recalled their many joyous years together, along with their journey through disease. Fred had the most lavish praise for Compassus and the treatment we provided Gerry. He bragged on how their home health aide, Yensi, had become one of their family and expressed gratitude for Roberta, his angel of a volunteer. Gerry’s son Jeff moved us all as he reflected on the “best Mom in the world,” and how much fun they had growing up. When it was my turn, I thanked the family for allowing Compassus the privilege of caring for Gerry in the latter stages of her life. In all, 42 people watched the live stream, not only from around the United States, but from Holland, as well. The miracle of technology allowed Gerry’s family and friends to come together one last time to celebrate a woman who so lovingly touched all of their lives. 2 Everyday Compassion Vol. 8 Issue 2


Compassus–Meridian makes generous donation to Computers for Kids The Compassus hospice and home health programs serving Meridian, Idaho, and the surrounding communities recently donated 20 computers to Computers for Kids, Inc. (CFK), which will be refurbished and given to local students. The donated equipment included 20 central processing units, 19 hard drives and seven LCD monitors that have been retired or replaced by the programs. Prior to donation, the equipment was cleared of all data and restored to factory settings. CFK is a nonprofit organization based in Boise, Idaho, that takes donated computers, refurbishes and licenses them and then gifts fully-equipped computer systems to local schools, nonprofits and students. “We are proud to give back to our community, especially to an organization that empowers our youth,” says Vicki Brutsman, executive director of Compassus– Meridian. “We encourage other local businesses and individuals to donate any unused or non-working computer equipment to CFK. It’s a simple deed, but the benefits are widespread for students who do not have access to this technology.” CFK aims to equalize the educational opportunities that children have by providing them with home computers for their use, thereby closing the “digital divide” between those who have easy access to computer technology and those who do not. For more information about donating to Computers for Kids, visit cfkid.org.

Setting the Table This is a picture of our home health aide Patti Piaskowski and one of our patients, Dorathy. Every Thursday when Patti makes her visit, Dorathy prepares the table for the two of them to share a doughnut. This is a tradition and new friendship they both look forward to each week! Terra Hubacek Hospice Care Consultant Compassus—Sheboygan

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JOE’S MEDALS If you went to visit Joe, you would find him lying in bed gazing out the window of his nursing home. His final days were upon him and he knew. With a cup of coffee, he would share short stories of his past. His breathing was labored, his body was failing him after standing strong for so many years, yet there was a peace in his room. He gazed out the window… One afternoon our hospice Chaplain Sandi Maynard sat with Joe. Sandi has a way of drawing a story from a person and a true gift to connect with veterans in particular. As they sat together and reminisced, Sandi learned that Joe was a Korean War veteran who had earned a Good Conduct medal — a proud honor for him. But sadly, the medal had been stolen long ago, and though he had worked for years to get it replaced, he was never able to do so. Joe expressed his wish to have his medal replaced. As they continued to visit that day, Sandi tucked that bit of information away. It had certainly planted a seed in her mind: Could we get this man his medal before he passed away? Was there enough time? How would we do it? 4 Everyday Compassion Vol. 8 Issue 2


The beauty of a hospice team is collaboration with the only goal being to serve patients at the end of life in the best possible way, from comfort issues to last wishes. Sandi brought this wish to our Interdisciplinary Team Meeting and the brainstorming began. Joe’s social worker Monica contacted the county Veteran Services office to verify he had earned the medal. She learned that he’d earned not one but three medals. She also was told it would take 12-18 months to acquire those medals through the military system. This length of time was not an option for Joe. Through digging and researching, our team discovered a website where medals could be ordered and received in a very timely matter. Volunteer coordinator Bridget Lewis ordered the medals right away; it would take a week for them to arrive. In the meantime, Joe’s hospice team went one step further. Recently, through our goal to integrate the We Honor Veterans Program into our services, we’ve become active participants with the Ohio Hospice Veteran Partnership through the Midwest Alliance. Several members of our team were present at a meeting in which Larry Blackmore and Al Bailey, both of Honor Flight Dayton, presented on the Honor Flight Program. Joe was

not able to travel to Washington, D.C., but his photo could go. Joe agreed to this honor. His hospice nursing aide spent a morning sprucing Joe up for his picture, explaining that it would be displayed in front of the Korean War Memorial the day the Dayton Honor Flight visited Washington in April. His hospice nurse delivered the picture to the Honor Fight team just in time to make the flight. Joe’s photo was placed in front of the Korean War Memorial. Although he was not able to make the trip, his presence was there and honored. He was informed by Chaplain Sandi that his medals were on the way and he had been awarded not one but three! A very weak and frail patient exhibited absolute delight and a grateful heart. Days later, Joe began to decline. Arrangements were made to have the photo and Honor Flight certificate expedited. A plan to honor Joe was set on Tuesday, April 30, at 9:30 a.m. His hospice team planned to present the photo, certificate and medals with a pinning ceremony. His Power of Attorney planned to be present as well as facility staff; it would be a special morning.

But at 9:15 a.m., just minutes prior to his ceremony, Joe took his last breath in his bed looking out that same window, with his coffee on his tray. JOY IN THE KNOWING

You learn many things working in hospice. Joe taught us that a grateful heart is a peaceful heart. While we did not get to present the awards to him, the important thing was he knew they were coming. He knew that people cared. He was honored in Washington in front of his war memorial just days before he passed. Joe’s medals arrived the day after he passed away. As I pulled them from the mailbox, I felt grateful for being a part of helping Joe achieve his final wish. You see, sometimes joy is in knowing good things are to come. Joe’s family asked that he be buried with the medals once they arrived. Chaplain Sandi officiated a graveside service where Joe received military honors.

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The power of being there Consider these comments, written by a hospice volunteer after a 90-minute visit with her assigned patient: “The patient stated she is sad today. She had gotten a call informing her that her younger, favorite cousin had died. I gave her time to reflect about him and other deceased family members. Her mood seemed to improve. A hard day, but I’m glad I was there for her.” Those five words say it all: “I was there for her.” That is the essence of being an effective hospice volunteer — to be fully present with the other person. Hospice volunteers offer the greatest gift they can give: their presence. Notice what the wise volunteer in the above example did for her patient: she “gave her time to reflect.” In other words, she listened. She gave her full attention — unhurried, caring, without preconceived expectations or hidden agendas. And guess what? “Her mood seemed to improve.” Of course it did. Don’t we usually feel better when someone takes time to listen and truly understand how we feel? 6 Everyday Compassion Vol. 8 Issue 2

Another volunteer wrote this, after her visit: “The patient was asleep, but became aware of my presence and squeezed my hand and held on. No exchange of comments. Prayer and being there was all I could do.” What a beautiful gift this volunteer gave. No words were necessary. Serving as a volunteer coordinator during the past 11 years, a comment I frequently hear — especially from new volunteers — is this: “I feel like I’m not doing any good for this patient.” I think this statement often reflects a lack of understanding of what it means to be a “caring presence” for others. Many hospice patients are unable — due to dementia, stroke, fatigue or a variety of other reasons — to carry on a meaningful conversation. When a volunteer tries to visit someone like this, she can feel awkward or frustrated, not knowing what to do or say. It is important to remember, though, that we don’t have to talk to communicate. Sometimes just sitting quietly by the patient’s side is all he or she needs. Sometimes it is simply your presence — not your verbiage — that brings a sense of comfort. For many years photojournalists have been fond of repeating what has become a mantra among zealous photographers: “F/8 and be there.” It essentially means that this particular camera setting allows the photographer to quickly shoot and get reasonably sharp photos, allowing him to focus instead on what’s around him. “I am very much enamored by the ‘be there’ part of this slogan. And it’s not just the idea that I have to be somewhere at the right time to get the shot, although that is important,” writes photographer Bob Johnson (earthboundlight.com). “It’s that it’s important to really be there … Being there is more than just the physical act of being present. It’s the mental state of being there, too.”

“In my experience, a photographer is best served by adopting an attitude of actively being there, engaged and open to whatever the circumstances may have in store,” he writes. Isn’t this exactly what our volunteers do, each time they visit a hospice patient? May we all have the grace to fully, actively be there for the people around us, and to follow their lead, wherever they take us, especially for those who are nearing the end of their lives. That is truly the essence of being an effective hospice volunteer.

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yn l e v E h t i w s Thursday volunteer’s experience hares a Dale Willis s nt hospice patie a to r o it is v as a

privilege ften have the o I s, u ss a p patients Com ave with our h ordinator for s co er er te n te n lu lu mmary. e vo As a vo iences hospic isits in a brief, written su her er p ex t u o b a of reading spent with ch of their v document ea le of one volunteer’s time onths. These are ey th se u a ec b s is a chronic ing a period of several m om her. What follow ann em fr ice patient, sp s I received th a local nursing home sp a o h st ju ed , n er ig te ss n a lu nt lived in ill s from the vo lyn. The patie r hospice team. As you w ve E selected note is e m a n u ’s o d er m in te o k n fr a lu f The vo isitors, apart ted from the presence o — if any — v w fe benefi rsday. d a h d n a ip every Thu derly woman el sh , n d io re n a ti , p il m a see, this fr ffered her co o faithfully o volunteer wh


APRIL 5, 20 MIN.

There was no interaction with the patient, as she was sleeping very soundly, and I could not waken her with touching or speaking. I did not want to be loud or rough with her; she was snoring. I did take the opportunity to look through the album of her life. A remarkable woman!

The patient acknowledged my arrival, welcomed my company and tried very hard to get up out of bed. Though the visit was positive, I could do little but keep her company and reassure her that she was being cared for. She gains comfort from the presence of a visitor.

MARCH 15, 45 MIN.

The patient woke when I sat by her. She spoke to me, though she thought I was someone else. Again she wanted me to hold her hand. She seems to enjoy the companionship offered by even a brief visit and conversation.

This lady — and she is that! — was awake and aware when I came. She smiled and tried to engage in conversation, but mostly she saw herself as a busy person … kept saying she should get up and get moving. When I started to leave she said, “Don’t leave yet; stay a while.” She seemed to enjoy just having me there. A positive visit.

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MAY 24, 25 MIN.

MAY 31, 25 MIN.

This patient was sleeping soundly and barely acknowledged my presence. I sat with her to offer my company as she looked toward me now and then. I pray for her though she may not be aware of it.

JUNE 14, 20 MIN.

AUG. 23, 35 MIN.

This patient was up and dressed, sitting in her wheelchair. I gave her a birthday card, saying the flowers on it stood for hope, peace and a long life. A positive visit.

(Evelyn has returned, and is now visiting again.) The patient was less responsive to my presence, but I stayed to speak to her a bit and offer her my being there as companionship. She slept soundly through a manicure and a facial by the aide.

JUNE 28, 20 MIN.

The patient did not waken to touch or voice. I sat with her, stroking her head and saying prayers both aloud and silently. Perhaps she was comforted. I said goodbye when I left, for she may be gone when I return. (Note: Evelyn, the volunteer, left after this, to go on a trip for several weeks. In her absence, another volunteer — Joyce — filled in for her, by visiting the patient for the next several weeks.) JULY 3, 40 MIN.

(Written by Joyce, the substitute volunteer) She was asleep when I arrived. After waking her up she tried to talk — very low and slurred. I identified myself and why I was there. They got her up in a wheelchair for lunch. I read to her for a while, and I prayed for her. She told me to be sure and come back. JULY 10, 70 MIN.

SEPT. 20, 15 MIN.

The patient was very soundly asleep. She did not react to touch or voice, so I stayed with her for a short while and said a long prayer for her. OCT. 4, 25 MIN.

The patient was asleep and did not stir or waken when touched or spoken to. I sat with her, spoke to her, prayed for her, and stroked her forehead. Though she did not respond, she may have sensed she was not alone. I offered her companionship as best I could. Note: Later that same day — Oct. 4 at 10:35 p.m. — the patient died. She was 106 years old! Her family lived out of state, and thus could not be there with her that day. But a hospice volunteer was. That is the “power of being there.”

She was awake. We talked about our children. She asked me to hold her hand. I gave her water and adjusted her pillows. I opened a card and read it to her. Also read from Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul. Prayed out loud with her before leaving. I assured her I’d be back next Thursday. JULY 24, 55 MIN.

I held both her hands; she likes touching. We talked about laundry (and) how things have changed. She described carrying water by bucket to wringer washer and three wash tubs to rinse. Also about baking bread and biscuits. She gets to remember her past and relates things about it; repeats a lot of it over and over.

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Volunteer couple gives lovingly of their time 10 Everyday Compassion Vol. 8 Issue 2

When Peggy and Art Ellison sit down to visit with a hospice patient, laughter is likely to fill the room. Peggy is known for wearing bright, sparkly hats that match her bright, sparkly personality and Art has perfected the art of drawing military veterans and others out of their shell. “Art and Peggy Ellison have been a part of our Volunteer Program for eight years and continue to be instrumental in enhancing the lives of countless patients being served by Compassus,” says Nance Coyne, volunteer coordinator for Compassus–Butte. Indeed, the Ellisons have lived a life of service, beginning with the U.S. Navy, in which she served three years and he served 26. They also volunteer with the Department of Veterans Affairs, for numerous veteran committees on the state and national level and with the American Legion, which led them to Compassus.

“We were at an American Legion meeting one night and this gal comes in and starts talking about hospice and needing volunteers and right away my hand went up,” Peggy recalls. “She had a lot of veterans who needed somebody to come in and visit with them and talk with them. With us both being veterans, it just seemed the thing to do.” Though you usually find Art and Peggy together, they each have deeply personal reasons for volunteering with Compassus. Peggy recalls the gratitude she felt when hospice workers relieved her for brief times from caregiving duties for each of her parents. “I thought, ‘This is my time to pay back what hospice did for me when I needed it most,’ and it’s an awesome feeling,” Peggy says. “And I hope I’m giving families the same relief that I got.” Art’s reason stems from the negative treatment he and other soldiers received when they returned stateside from the Vietnam War. “I vowed that when I retired I would work and do the best I can to make it better for those people getting out of the service after I did,” he says. That’s why he has a special affinity for military veterans in hospice and why he and Peggy participate in the veteran pinning ceremonies that Compassus offers to recognize and honor veteran hospice patients for their service to our country. In these ceremonies, a letter is read to the veteran as a flag lapel is pinned to his or her shirt, a certificate of service is awarded and the veteran is encouraged to share their military experience and stories. “These veterans serving and saluting fellow veterans is truly inspirational,” Nance says. Most of Art’s time with fellow veterans is encouraging them to talk about their service and themselves. “Right now, I’m seeing a woman,” he begins. “And I’m not a bit jealous,” Peggy quips.

“She’s from Holland and spent the World War II years in Holland during the German occupation,” Art continues. “I get her talking about herself and her stories and her family, and just whatever.” With other men he plays cards or cribbage. “Whatever we can do to brighten their day,” he says. Peggy and Art enjoy ballroom dancing and have found sharing that part of their lives is quite entertaining for the patients they visit. “That probably is because many of the patients we serve loved the music of the 1940s and it allows them to reimagine a special time in their lives,” Nance says. The Ellisons relish their visits with Compassus patients because they know they’re truly making a difference. “I see it every time I go into someone’s room,” Peggy says. “They just brighten up. It just makes their day.” The jovial couple enjoys life and wants to help their hospice friends enjoy it to the very end. “We pay attention to them. We encourage them that every day is the best,” Art says. “Today is the first day of the rest of your life and you should enjoy it. That’s the way I look at it and I want to help them enjoy it, too.” Everyday Compassion Vol. 8 Issue 2 11




The other side of the door I began my hospice journey almost 18 years ago and, as it happened, I was the first volunteer for a new hospice in Freeport, Ill. I’ve always considered hospice volunteering to be a wonderful turning point in my life. We are all part of one unit — the hospice interdisciplinary team — and we all strive for the same results: to provide patients and their caregivers with the best that we have to offer through training and experience. Volunteer training will be ongoing as you attend “in-services,” and that’s important. But perhaps more important is what you experience as you confront new and often challenging assignments. So let me share some advice, based on what I have learned.

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Every time you enter a new patient’s home, think about what an honor it is for a burdened caregiver to entrust a volunteer to take their place, be it for a trip to the grocery store or lunch with friends. We volunteers are the “cavalry” that hospice sends off to provide respite for a person who can’t abdicate their responsibilities lightly. I would characterize assignments as “significant” or “insignificant.” During the insignificant — or less demanding — assignments, the patient may sleep throughout your visit, and you will have the time to read a book or flip through a magazine. You’d like to feel vital, but the one who really needs you there is the caregiver. Then there will be more “significant” times when the patient is alert and wants the comfort and reassurance that you, indeed, are right there for them. These assignments require that you reach a little deeper inside yourself to present that aura of calm and a look that says, “I’m in no hurry; I’m just here for you.” In either situation, be assured that the caregiver appreciates that you, a stranger, is giving your time to better their day or evening and allowing them to feel “normal again,” if only for a brief time. That said, being a volunteer doesn’t mean accepting every assignment. Not all assignments are a good fit. There will also be times in your personal life that require you to say “no,” and that too is to be expected.

Over time, you will also come across people who may say, “I think you looked after my father.” That’s a powerful way to be remembered. As a hospice volunteer, I have walked through many doors — but always from the outside to the inside. Now I find myself on the other side of the door, as a patient. SURPRISING DIAGNOSIS

My mother lived a mostly healthy life until age 94, and I naturally assumed I’d at least match that, if not surpass it. Imagine my surprise when, in early February 2013, the little cough I had developed in October was diagnosed as stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer. It had returned after 10 years. The first week of such a diagnosis is almost unbearable. Could it possibly be that I will be parting from my husband of almost 53 years, my children and grandchildren, even my sweet dog who won’t know where I’ve gone? It seemed that electrical currents surged through my body every few minutes. A friend had given me a card on a little stand that simply said, “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.” I must have repeated that statement and the Lord’s Prayer 100 times during that first week. I received my diagnosis while wintering in Florida, and there I received nine of 35 radiation treatments and one chemotherapy treatment (of a proposed four-month treatment plan). Neither treatment guaranteed a positive outcome; however, both resulted in a fast decline of my strength and the will to live. After much thought, I opted to discontinue both treatments and return home to Illinois, and to my hospice and the amazing people who make it what it is. I thought that I was coming home to die; I was that ill. My daughter and I arrived home at 5:30 p.m. on a Friday, and by the next morning I was officially enrolled in hospice. Everything has gotten better since then. With proper medication

and unfailing support, I have just had a period of amazing quality of life. ‘THE NATURAL END’

Over my hospice career, I have watched many people pass from life to death over a matter of weeks and months. I feel blessed to have so often been on the sidelines, learning that death is not a monster lurking in a corner. It is the natural end of the birth process, sometimes coming sooner rather than later. Death can be so gentle you fail to notice that it has entered the room. Once, I was doing an eleventh-hour visit, sitting just about three feet from the patient while her husband watched football in the living room. I was reading from my Kindle but looking up every few minutes to check the rise and fall of her blanket. On one such look-up, I was startled to see what I thought was an optical illusion — the blanket had ceased its gentle rise and fall. I looked again, and then put my ear to her mouth to listen for a sign of breath. There was nothing. But, I thought to myself, she was just here! So gently did she go. Having a disease like mine is a blessing. My family and I have time to plan for end of life, a luxury denied to many people. My “ducks” are getting in orderly rows. And after years of Curves and Weight Watchers, I am now eating whatever I want, whenever I want — and as much as I want! I am managing my disease, it is not managing me! Some time ago I also wrote my eulogy; after all, who knows my life better than me? Carolyn Crank was the very first volunteer of FHN Hospice, based in Freeport, Ill. She continued to work in this valuable role for nearly 18 years, mentoring new volunteers, until a diagnosis of stage 4 lung cancer. She died peacefully on July 15, 2013. Reprinted with permission of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. Everyday Compassion Vol. 8 Issue 2 13




‘A GIVING HEART’ Diane Ruff, a volunteer at Compassus–Billings, is an invaluable source of information regarding office practices and organization. She is always willing to come and help any time she is needed. Diane has such a willing spirit, which is so refreshing. Diane came to volunteer for us out of a desire to help others. She is a committed volunteer and definite asset to Compassus and also our community, volunteering in several other organizations. Diane, with her extensive office experiences, has translated into a volunteer with many facets. She assists our Program Assistant and Team Coordinators with marketing materials and numerous packets that Compassus gives out to patients. She also maintains all of our scanning and filing. Once she committed to Compassus in June 2015, she jumped right in. “Diane started her volunteer time by assisting me with a very large project that had fallen by the wayside before I started working at Compassus,” says Kathy Tronstad, Office Assistant. “She diligently came in every week and slowly but surely we were able to complete the 14 Everyday Compassion Vol. 8 Issue 2

overwhelming task in less than a year. Diane truly has a giving heart and freely gives up her time to help us at Compassus.” Kristina Harper, Team Coordinator, also is grateful for Diane’s commitment to Compassus. “Diane Ruff is a wonderful volunteer and helps me with projects every week,” she says. “I appreciate all the hard work she does for our company.” Volunteers such as Diane are essential to helping Compassus provide service and care to our patients and families. All our volunteers are priceless and we cannot thank them enough for the time they devote to our program and patients. They graciously give of their time and hearts to create a compassionate ambience wherever they are serving.

Diane Ruff



The dedication and commitment of U.S. hospice volunteers 20 450,000 An estimated 450,000 trained volunteers work to support the work of our nation’s hospices and the patients and families under their care.

21 million More than 21 million hours of service are provided by hospice volunteers every year.

Patient care volunteers made an average of 20 visits to hospice patients over the course of a year.

60/20/19 Some 60 percent of hospice volunteers assist with direct patient care; 20 percent provide support for clinical care; and 19 percent provide general program support.

5 Medicare regulations require that at least 5 percent of patient care hours be provided by volunteers.

46.3 The typical hospice volunteer devoted 46.3 hours of time in 2014.

Source: National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization

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Sweet Reconciliation Marty, a retired firefighter, and his wife Alice rose to their feet at a memorial service to light a candle in remembrance for a friend. Marty and Alice moved silently and slowly forward to honor the memory of a patient on hospice service who had recently died. They had attended the funerals of many of the more than 20 patients they had visited regularly since serving almost three years as volunteers. But this one was very different. This one was very special. 16 Everyday Compassion Vol. 8 Issue 2

It all started several months before when they first began visiting a patient by the name of Bill, a hulk of a man and man’s man who usually displayed a gruff and rough exterior. Slowly declining in health, Bill spent most of his days alone in a facility sitting in an overstuffed and worn recliner watching TV. But beneath that rough exterior was a man in pain. Emotional pain. More than a decade before his death, Bill went through a divorce. His son and daughter, along with his grandchildren, had become estranged through the divorce. Now declining in health, Bill desired in his heart some closure in the relationships he valued so deeply. It began with Bill telling his volunteers, Marty and Alice, his story — the good, the bad and the ugly of it all. Marty and Bill developed a deep, trusting rapport that allowed Bill to begin the healing that would be necessary for his heart to find peace and closure as his health continued to fail. Bill looked forward to each and every Saturday or Sunday when Marty and Alice would come to visit. On one particular visit, Easter Sunday, Bill was extremely blue and depressed as he related to Marty the emptiness in his heart for his children and the prayer that one day before he died, Bill would see children again. Bill’s cell phone had been disconnected for quite a while and he had given up attempts to contact his adult children. In a flash, Marty pulled out his cell phone

on that beautiful Easter Sunday and challenged Bill for the phone numbers. Two calls were made with the volunteer’s phone, and voice messages were left for his son and his daughter. Marty also sent text messages to both numbers. Bill and Marty sat and visited for a few more minutes until Marty’s phone buzzed and a simple but emotional text message appeared: “I love you, Dad! Happy Easter!” Tears ran down the face of this giant of a man who wept openly with his face buried in his hands. After consoling Bill, Marty and Alice excused themselves from the patient’s room and allowed an exhausted Bill to take a nap with a smile on his face and renewed hope in his heart. Maybe there was still time. Maybe Bill’s wish of seeing the faces of his son and daughter once again before he died would be a reality after all. The next weekend Chaplain Keith Gebhart was making a pastoral care visit with Bill in the facility after a rough week of declining health. Bill was sitting in his recliner with oxygen on as he struggled to breathe. He was slumped in his chair looking ragged and weak. It was becoming apparent Bill’s time on earth was drawing to a close. As the chaplain was talking to the patient, a knock was heard on the closed door. Chaplain Gebhart went to the room door and opened it. In the doorway stood a hulk of a young man, his wife, three children and a young woman. “Hello, is this Bill’s room? I am his son and this is my sister. May we visit our dad?” The chaplain watched as a dying patient turned in shock, struggled out of his recliner and stood wobbly on his feet. The chaplain was astonished at how tall Bill really was as his grown children ran into the room and embraced him after being apart for more than 10 years. Soon the room was filled with tears, laughter, stories and memories as the patient sat for three hours and

reunited with family, some of whom he had never met before. The chaplain quietly slipped out the room so as not to interrupt an extremely sacred moment. A family had been reunited. Forgiveness and grace were wafting out of the room and down the corridors of the facility. A couple of weeks later, the chaplain was in the facility as an aide came up to share that Bill had passed peacefully in his sleep that morning. Thanks to the efforts of two volunteers, reconciliation and peace had come to the heart of a father. Closure was his gift. And a son and daughter had an opportunity to say in person, “I love you, Dad!”

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The gift of


A friend of mine once volunteered to visit hospice patients. He was asked to visit a patient who was very ill and not very responsive. He wondered if his visits really mattered or even made a difference. Some of the questions he asked me included: • “I don’t feel like I am doing anything.” • “The person is asleep, or falls asleep, during my visit. Should I wake them?” • “Should I stay?” • “What should I be doing? Am I helping?” • “What should I say to the person?” I went on to assure him, “Your presence does make a difference. It can be difficult to be with someone who is terminally ill; it isn’t always clear what to do, or say.” Therefore, I would like to offer some suggestions on how to prepare 18 Everyday Compassion Vol. 8 Issue 2

for a visit, as well as ideas to guide you during that time. First, remember that intention is everything. If your intention is to rush in, make small talk and get out fast, it will show. If, however, your intention is to make the person feel encouraged, cared about or put a smile on his or her face, the person will sense that, too. It is so important to make sure you are in a place of peace before the visit. If you don’t feel calm, peaceful and centered, take 15 minutes to quiet yourself before entering the person’s home or room. Once prepared, these practical suggestions can make for a successful visit:

Always approach the person slowly and quietly so as not to startle them. Introduce yourself with a quiet voice: “Hi, it’s your nephew, Jim. I would like to sit with you for a while.” If you want, hold the person’s hand. Start by telling the person what you are doing. “Cheryl, I am going to hold your hand now.” Another option is to put the person’s hand on top of yours. That way if the person does not like touch, they can pull away. If the person has a book or newspaper by their bed, read it softly to them. If the person appears to be in and out of sleep, that is okay. They will know they are not alone. Although it’s natural to be concerned about what you’re going to say, don’t worry so much about the words. The main thing is that your message comes from the heart. Do say, “It’s good to see you.” Let them know you have been thinking of them. Or, if you’re at a loss for words, it’s okay to say, “Mary, I don’t know what to say or do, but I am here and I care about you.” Remember to stop talking at times and simply listen to the person. If the person talks about being anxious, listen quietly. Don’t try to change the subject or silence the person. When he or she is finished sharing concerns, encourage him or her by asking, “What do you want to achieve now?” Then you can gently shift the focus of the discussion to that goal rather than the prognosis or condition. For instance, if a person says she wants to live to see her grandbaby born, ask her how they will celebrate when the baby arrives. Try to keep the conversation positive.

Chatter is overrated. Be present without saying a word. You do not have to fill every moment of your visit with conversation. Just make sure you are focused on the person and not thinking about your next appointment or task on the “to-do” list. Being there — really being there — for someone yields life lessons you can’t get any other way. The important thing about the gift of presence is that a person may never remember what you said or did, but they will notice and remember how you made them feel. The gift of presence assures that they feel loved, comforted and supported. They are not alone.

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“Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more.”

“You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.”

“To ease another’s heartache is to forget one’s own.”

H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Winston Churchill

Abraham Lincoln

“What is the essence of life? To serve others and to do good.”

“The interior joy we feel when we have done a good deed is the nourishment the soul requires.”

“Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.” Elizabeth Andrew

“Volunteers are the only human beings on the face of the earth who reflect this nation’s compassion, unselfish caring, patience and just plain loving one another.” Erma Bombeck


Albert Schweitzer

“Volunteering to help others is the right thing to do, and it also boosts personal happiness; a review of research by the Corporation for National and Community Service shows that those who aid the causes they value tend to be happier and in better health. They show fewer signs of physical and mental aging. And it’s not just that helpful people also tend to be healthier and happier; helping others causes happiness.”

Gretchen Rubin

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“Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve…. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.




Worth their weight in silver and gold Volunteers are the heart and soul of a hospice organization, no matter what activities they choose to perform. Some desire to help in the office; others prefer to see patients. A hospice cannot function without any of these volunteers. Volunteers bring a sense of support, encouragement, connection and resources, not only to patients, but to the hospice organization’s medical and office staffs, as well. There are two descriptions of these volunteers that I think of each time they are willing and able to step up to help: silver and gold. Silver volunteers are silverlined at heart. They help in the organization’s office, doing many projects and duties so that everything runs efficiently. They answer the telephone that tends to ring off the hook many days, file those important papers that tend to pile up, send birthday cards and bereavement notes, make deliveries and more. Their willingness to do these tasks with cheerful hearts helps each office tremendously. Volunteers who are willing to spend time with patients have hearts of gold, as they offer support, encouragement, companionship and compassion that only a friend could give. They truly give of themselves. Many times these volunteers establish such a great relationship with the patients that they often are the first to recognize when something is different about them.

These gold volunteers are priceless and offer deep and abiding comfort. They see the patients with no agenda; they ask for nothing. They are there simply to be a friend at a difficult time when a friend is much needed. From the staff and patients, we extend a big and warm heartfelt “Thank You” to those who make hospice so much easier, friendlier and compassionate for our families we serve. Without these treasured volunteers, we as staff could not do what we do.

Anna BlakesleePaterson, left, and Delayne Johnson, right, were honored for their volunteer service with Compassus–Greater Austin. With them is Mike Fritz, bereavement/ spiritual coordinator.

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The last mission The date was June 6, 1944, and 19-year-old Ralph Orcutt was in a landing craft preparing to make a predawn amphibious assault on Omaha Beach. Ralph was one of more than 160,000 troops who stormed these shores of Normandy, France, in what would become known as D-Day — the turning point of World War II.

Ralph Orcutt may not have physically attended the memorial, but Gary Blackmore made sure he was there in spirit by bringing his military photo along. 22 Everyday Compassion Vol. 8 Issue 2

Fast forward almost 72 years. Ralph thankfully survived that invasion and had lived a long life. He now was in hospice care and I had been asked to be Ralph’s hospice volunteer. I am a Vietnam veteran myself and I cherished the opportunity to visit this true American hero of World War II. I would intently listen as Ralph told his war stories of how he had seen so much death on the beach and beyond and how he had taken 10 German prisoners and on and on. As I listened to every story, I couldn’t help but wish that Ralph could go on an Honor Flight, which is a program that flies American veterans to Washington, D.C., to see their respective memorials. I have been on 19 missions as a guardian and knew how much it meant to the

Gary Blackmore, left, and Chaplain Bill Smart flank veteran Ralph Orcutt as he visits the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., from the comfort of his couch.

veterans. I have heard the veterans comment so many times that the trip was, “one of the best days of my life.” But I knew because of Ralph’s declining health, such a trip was no longer an option. I had heard of something called “Virtual Reality Tour” — a way for the veteran to see his memorial from his living room. I knew Sarah Hill, who had started the Virtual Reality Tour program, and we were able to arrange for it to happen. And so on May 18, three weeks shy of Ralph’s 92nd birthday, we — Sarah Hill, her helpers, the hospice chaplain, family members, Mary Paulsell, president of the Central Missouri Honor Flight and me — watched as Ralph put on the headset and got to see his World War II Memorial from the comfort of his living room.

Pictures were taken, emotions were abundant and tissues were shared. So as I now prepare to go on my 20th Honor Flight mission, I think back to how this one true American hero, Ralph Orcutt, was able to go on a final mission himself that day — a mission made possible by Sarah Hill and the technology of Virtual Reality Tour.

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AN ANGEL AMONG US Some volunteers are just angels, and they just dive right in. They’ve been through all the screenings; they’ve participated and completed all the new volunteer orientation; they’ve done all the readings and role-plays and then, they dive right in. Doug Huston is one of those volunteers. When Doug contacted me the first time, he said he wanted to sit with patients who were actively dying. No, he’d never been a hospice volunteer before. But because of a personal near-death experience, he knew what he needed to do for others, and hospice volunteering was the path he wanted to take. Doug’s first patient was an elderly gentleman whose death was imminent. Doug sat down next to Mr. M’s bedside. He adjusted the volume of the music playing on the TV. He visited with a friend of the patient’s who came in to say his goodbyes. He learned that Mr. M had been retired Navy. Doug made sure Mr. M was covered and the temperature in the room was comfortable. He dimmed the lights. He watched as Mr. M’s breathing changed. He held his hand continually. For several hours through the middle of the night, Doug sat quietly with this gentleman, always observing — to be sure he was doing okay, with no signs of pain or discomfort. 24 Everyday Compassion Vol. 8 Issue 2

Eventually things changed. Mr. M’s breathing pattern altered. He stopped breathing intermittently. And then he’d take a big deep breath. Finally, as Mr. M was taking his last breaths, Doug, a fellow Navy man, stood up and saluted Mr. M, thanked him for his service to our country and then held his hand as Mr. M died. Not long after his first vigil visit, Doug stepped up and took on the volunteer role of team coordinator for the eleventh hour volunteers — coordinating directly with on-call staff to provide as much Doug Huston volunteer coverage as possible to our patients and families during their final hours. Since that very first visit almost four years ago with Mr. M, Doug has gone on to provide eleventh hour support to dozens of patients, providing hundreds of hours — often taking late night or overnight shifts, staying longer than expected because something changed with the patient, or the family couldn’t arrive as planned, or spending time relaying information to the next volunteer coming to provide vigil or to share tidbits with hospice staff coming for their visit. He’s held hands with patients as they lay dying, while they tell him they can see the angels. But the real angel here is Doug, sitting right beside them.




SHE MAKES THE MOST OF PATIENT VISITS Kelly Rusoff joined our volunteer team about a year ago after recognizing the great help our hospice organization provided when her father-in-law was our patient. Since she began seeing patients, she has continually gone above and beyond in her effort to make the quality of life significantly better for the patients to whom has been assigned. It’s the little things that can make such a difference, Kelly has learned, and her ideas may be helpful to volunteers everywhere when they are trying to make the most of their patient visits. Here are a few:

Kelly’s ideas for sharing time with her patients have been highly successful in helping her develop relationships with patients who have diverse needs and personalities. Likely her most endearing quality is the obvious and appreciated warmth and compassion Kelly continues to provide as a stellar volunteer. Thank you, Kelly, for all the good you do. We are grateful that you have joined us!

Visit the local library to find publications that would be of interest to your patients.

Download music by your patient’s favorite artists to share at your next visit.

Bring your patient’s favorite treats, if it’s allowed, when you visit.

Bring a small bouquet of fresh flowers to brighten the patient’s day.

Download movies or snippets of the patient’s favorite things, such as puppies, cats, etc., to share at your next visit.

Simply sit and visit during a meal; the patient usually likes having the company during mealtime rather than eating alone.

Kelly Rusoff

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




Patient support volunteers provide companionship to the patient and respite for the caregiver. Ways to help include:

Bereavement volunteers support families and friends of deceased patients. During the grieving process, the volunteer is an invaluable resource, especially for those who lack a solid support network. Ways to help include:

Administrative volunteers help the hospice staff, often by working in the office. Ways to help include:

Friendly visits Writing letters Reading to patients Light housekeeping Running errands Meal preparation Hair care

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Typing, filing and other light office work

Assist with grief support groups

Sending birthday cards, sympathy cards and bereavement notes

Coordinate community resources

Assisting at community workshops

Help Bereavement Coordinator with writing letters and making calls

Coordinating support services Making deliveries


Larry Doroshow, D.O., R.Ph. finds personal and professional fulfillment in working with hospice patients When Marvin Doroshow was dying from dementia in a nursing facility that did not offer hospice care, his wife felt obligated to do anything and everything to extend his life. “It was difficult watching him go through that,” recalls their son, Dr. Larry Doroshow, a Compassus medical director and staff physician at Roxborough Memorial Hospital in Philadelphia. So years later, when he was invited by the executive director of a hospice organization to work with its patients, Dr. Doroshow embraced the opportunity. “I decided to give it a try and got a lot of fulfillment out of it,” he says. “It’s a time when traditional medicine tends to abandon the patient … and as a doctor, a lot of times you lose contact and control over the case.” But for the past 10 years, working with hospice has allowed Dr. Doroshow to help patients — some of whom have been his own patients prior to hospice — completely through to end of life. “From a professional standpoint, it’s fulfilling to follow patients all the way and help their families during a difficult time,” he says. “It’s affected me personally to see the difference of how you can help someone’s end of life have more quality,” he says. “Instead of worrying about the number of days, they can focus on the quality.” And that is what he wants people to know about hospice care — how it

can make all the difference to both the patient and the family. “We used to think that once someone is in hospice, they just die,” he says. “People still mistakenly think that sometimes, and that delays admission to hospice, which means they don’t get to take advantage of all the resources available to help the person.” But a lack of understanding and late referrals — some patients are not referred to hospice until the last day or two of their life — means that patients and their families can’t take advantage of all the helpful services available, Dr. Doroshow says. “That is where the disconnect is, and where we need to fill in the gaps.” The longtime physician is well situated to help that happen. He is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and serves as president and medical director at General Practice Associates in Philadelphia. Dr. Doroshow is a member of numerous osteopathic organizations and is certified by the American Board of Osteopathic Family Practitioners and American Board of Osteopathic Specialists of the American Osteopathic Association in hospice and palliative care. He also sits on the Compassus Medical Director Advisory Council. He and his wife Yvette have three grown sons, Scott, Jake and Matthew. The couple’s favorite pastime is ballroom dancing. Everyday Compassion Vol. 8 Issue 2 27





Alfred Block as a young soldier and now as a World War II veteran. He was a private first class in the 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Division, and specialized as a heavy machine gunner.

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Earlier this year, with help from the Honor Flight Network, Alfred Block — a patient of the Compassus program serving Northern Michigan — was given the opportunity to see the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. The awe-inspiring memorial honors the 16 million who served in the armed forces of the United States, the more than 400,000 who died and all who supported the war effort from home. The Honor Flight Network, a nonprofit organization, provides veterans with the opportunity to visit this and other memorials dedicated to honoring their service and sacrifices at no cost to them.

The journey itself served as a ceremony honoring Alfred and the 66 other veterans traveling to Washington, D.C., with the Honor Flight Network. They were flown on a private jet, accompanied by a police escort and guided by guardians around the city. Seeing the memorial and the changing of the guard ceremony in Arlington National Ceremony were the highlights of Alfred’s trip. “The green grass, I just enjoyed that,” he says about Arlington. “And they took good care of it and it was the most beautiful grass.” Upon their return home, the veterans were warmly welcomed by hundreds of townspeople with gifts of thanks. For Alfred, the most touching present was the letters he received. Family, friends and school children had written words of encouragement and gratitude; as a soldier unable to communicate with home during his service overseas, Alfred treasured the gift. Originally from Saginaw, Mich., Alfred began his military service in June 1944. A private first class in the 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Division, he specialized as a heavy machine gunner. At the age of 20, he was wounded after a tank assault during the Battle

of the Bulge and was honorably discharged from the Army. For his bravery and service, he was awarded multiple ribbons and awards, including two Bronze Stars, the European-African-Middle Eastern Theater Ribbon, Combat Infantryman Badge, Commemorative War Cross and Grand Cross of Homage, as well as the Purple Heart. For more His unit was also given the Croix de information about Guerre for its part in the Honor Flight liberating France as Network, visit a result of the Battle of the Bulge. honorflight.org We are thankful for the opportunity to show appreciation for individuals such as Alfred who are among our community’s most valuable members. For many veterans, this trip is just a dream, but the Honor Flight Network is helping to make it a reality. For all of us, the experiences and memories we carry through our life’s journey change our perceptions. This is especially true for our nation’s veterans who have selflessly and Mr. Block was one of courageously defended our nation. 67 veterans traveling That’s why at Compassus we are to Washington, D.C., particularly committed to honoring with the Honor Flight their service and the meaning of that Network. service to their lives.

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