Employee Spotlight: Paula Schrock-Bending

Name: Paula Schrock-Bending, Care Center Nurse

How long have you worked here?
I answered an ad in the paper in 1994 for a CNA. I had done patient care my whole life but I wanted to do something alongside going to nursing school. So I came over and trained with staff and went through all the shifts. As a nurse when I graduated in 1997, there wasn’t a position for a RN, so I waited patiently and then I came on board in 2000 as a RN. So 16 years.

What made you decide to work here?
I answered the ad primarily because a Felician Sister, who was my lab partner in a chemistry course at Madonna, said, “Paula you need to go into that hospice field. Sister Giovanni has just opened up a Care Center and you need to go.” I said, “No, I don’t know if I want to do that,” because death and dying to me was very scary. I wanted to work with the geriatric clientele but I didn’t want to do it at the end stage. But then I decided, OK, why not?

I was pleasantly surprised working for Angela Hospice…My youngest patient was eight weeks old and my oldest patient was 105, so we went through the life span of taking care of patients. Then the diagnoses weren’t generic, they were all over the map. It’s been a wonder.

As the years have gone by, oh my gosh, this company…it’s all of us who have kept this company going and our beliefs and the compassion and empathy that we do for these patients, and it’s us that have turned this company into what it has produced. That’s why I’m still here, because we do great work.

Paula with a patient, Rita, in the old Care Center.
What’s a typical day like for you?
Every day is very unique. It’s just not the same. I mean there might be a same face but it might be a different quirk or a different expression. We are presented with so many different things on a daily basis and that’s why I like it. It’s unpredictable and it’s challenging and it’s wonderful, and I love the excitement about that. I love coming in and working with my co-workers. We’ve got a great team and we respect each other.

What is your favorite part about working at Angela Hospice?
My co-workers, and then knowing that I can provide high standards of nursing with my patients and know that I’m doing everything in my power to make patients and families have the care that they deserve. I love the challenges of everything that we get in there. It’s not boring, and that’s what I love. I’m so blessed that I found that ad in the paper. I love what I do.

Also, being a preceptor – I love to teach about hospice and how we work at Angela Hospice. I’ve been doing this for probably eight or nine years, teaching students from Schoolcraft, Eastern, Madonna, U of M Flint, Henry Ford.

What is one of your favorite memories from your time at Angela Hospice?
That’s hard to pick. There’s one ALS patient in particular and I still remember his words. He had been here three-and-a-half years and he was a friend of mine before he came here. He could only move his head back and forth, and he could swallow, maybe move his finger a little. Every wrinkle under his skin bothered him. The more the disease progressed it was more bothersome so he would go, “Just one more, just one more thing.” I never, ever said anything about it and he said, “You never say anything about my ‘one more thing.’” I said, “Why would I?” Then we had a little conversation about that. My point to bring up was he looked at me with those eyes, and I’ll never forget this, and he said, “Paula, thank God for your health.” And I said, “Every day.” You know, you take for granted some of the things that you have, but at this point, some of the patients and families that we take care of, there’s no material things left and it’s just surviving another second, minute, day. For him to say that, it has stuck with me the rest of my life.

Paula (left) received her 15-year service award last year.
There was another patient who we would know was in pain because she would start repeating her words. She had her pain medication and I went in there and I thought, let’s sing a song. The first song that popped into my brain was “You Are My Sunshine.” So I started singing softly to her and the repeating started slowing down. Then she stopped and she started singing the song with me. For about 15 minutes we were in there singing softly and I was rubbing her hand until she went to sleep. Those are other moments I take from this position. It’s just the gentleness that you learn to do here. It’s those kinds of “bonus moments” I call them, because you don’t always get those, and you don’t always expect thank-yous, but we do get those. What I expect is for my patients to be pain-free, have symptom management, and the family is happy. What I don’t expect but I get are these little gestures – like if a patient is unresponsive and they raise their hand and they touch me, or smile, or just their eyes looking at you – you don’t need words. That’s what is wonderful about this position. That you get so much back.

Volunteer Spotlight: Cheri Gelnak

Name: Cheri Gelnak

How long have you been a volunteer?
Three years.

What areas do you work in/what sort of tasks do you do as a volunteer?
Patient care in the Care Center and is a Flower Bud.

What made you decide to become a volunteer?
My husband died in 2004 and he was with Angela Hospice. That prompted me to want to be able to pay it forward and help others.

Why Angela Hospice?
It’s a first-class operation, best in class.

What is your favorite part about volunteering?
Being able to comfort other people in the little tasks that you do.

     Cheri volunteers in the Care Center and is a Flower Bud.
What is one of your favorite stories or memories from volunteering?
Just everything. With the flowers people are always like, “Oh, are those beautiful!” Being able to sit with somebody in the evening in the Care Center and making them not feel alone. Providing them with some support.

Employee Spotlight: Bonnie Morris

Name: Bonnie Morris, RN Case Manager

How long have you worked here?
18 years.

What made you decide to work here?
I liked home care but when [Angela Hospice] came and took care of my family I saw a new aspect of nursing that I thought might be very interesting. So I tried it and it was a good fit, and it has been for 18 years.

How had you heard of Angela Hospice?
Through them coming to take care of my dad.

What’s a typical day like for you?
I get up and do a little charting, manage my cases, make phone calls. Then I go out and do my visits. Then I come home and chart whatever I need to finish up, make phone calls to make patients’ day go better. That’s pretty much it.

Bonnie is constantly on the move to see patients.
What is your favorite part about working at Angela Hospice?
Working with the patients. I thought about going into management but I enjoy the patients just that much that I wanted to stay doing that.

What is one of your favorite memories from your time at Angela Hospice?
When you see the twinkle in the patient’s eye when you’ve just gotten them out of pain, and they look up at you and that gratitude you feel. It’s like you’ve done it and you helped them and that’s what it was all about.

Volunteer Spotlight: Seeing the Good

For volunteer Barbara Wolk picking an area to volunteer in at Angela Hospice was an easy and quick decision.

“As soon as we got to the Bereavement Department class during training, I knew that’s what I wanted to do,” she said.

Barbara, or Babs as she’s more commonly known around the halls of Angela Hospice, has been volunteering in bereavement for the last seven years, where she assists with grief support groups, helps with memorial services for Angela Hospice patients, and visits patient families at funeral homes.

So what made her know instantly this was the area for her? Her mom.

“I remember when we lost my brother 40 years ago and my mom should have…she needed help and there was nothing to help her,” Babs said. “If there was anything out there she didn’t want it.

“She needed someone like Angela Hospice that would show her that her grief was normal,” she continued.

Now Babs gets to help people going through something similar by working at the support groups, which is one of her favorite areas to volunteer in because of how special they are. Babs said she can see the good that they do for people. The funeral home visits have a similar effect on Babs, who said she constantly gets a heartwarming reception when she goes. At those funeral visits she gets to be an advocate for Angela Hospice, something she does in her day-to-day life as well.

“The common thing is ‘Ah, hospice,’” she said with a big sigh for emphasis. “I try to explain to them that it isn’t just about someone dying. That’s what a lot of people think hospice is.”

Babs, who recently received recognition for volunteering 500 hours, tries to encourage people to volunteer at Angela Hospice, like she was by a friend.

Her mom also played a part in why she decided to start volunteering.

Babs (third from right) often works the mailings.
While her mom was seriously ill in a Florida hospital’s urgent care, a volunteer came in and
encouraged her mom to have some apple juice. Babs saw her mom get a huge smile on her face. That’s when she knew she wanted to become a volunteer. That one small moment made all the difference, something Babs hopes she can do for others.

“I get self-satisfaction knowing that I’ve helped people, even if it’s just a little bit,” Babs said. “Even if it’s just a hug.”

Babs also helps out in the Development Department, where she works at the mailings and annual special events.

“I think we solve the world’s problems [at the mailings],” she laughed. “When we get together, the comradery of the people, they all care. They really do.”

Some of Babs’ favorite moments volunteering have come from working in Development. One was at the Walk of Remembrance where she encouraged a walker to participate in the craft and honor his grandma, who had helped raise him. He had planned to only stay for a minute but ended up being there for almost 15 minutes. He thanked Babs when he left for making him do it.

Another moment was at the Tree of Life, where she comforted a woman whose mom had just died. She saw a pair of pajamas that she knew her mom would’ve liked and talked with Babs about her mom.

“I get a lot of self-satisfaction from knowing that I’m volunteering for an organization that helps so many people,” Babs said. “I wouldn’t still be here if I didn’t see the value and appreciate what Angela Hospice does.”

Employee Spotlight: Julie Schaffer

Name: Julie Schaffer, Spiritual Care Coordinator

How long have you worked here?
Eight-and-a-half years working and did her internship here prior to that.

What made you decide to work here?
When I was in grad school and looking for a place to do an internship, three different complete strangers in the same week all talked to me about Angela Hospice. So I thought, I’ve gotta go there and see it. I called the spiritual care supervisor at the time and came in and met with her. It went really well and she said we’d love to have you do your internship here; so that’s how I ended up here for that.

Then I worked for another hospice that closed and merged with Angela Hospice. We had the opportunity to interview for jobs here and there was a job in the Spiritual Care Department available then, so that’s how I came back.

What’s a typical day like for you?
As far as patient care, there’s never anything typical; it’s always different. (laughs) But in the morning I always go on the computer and see what new patients have been admitted that would like spiritual care. Then I reach out to the patients or their families and do an initial assessment; talk to them; find out if they would like it; and if they would, what would probably be the best fit for them. Then I make assignments based on their needs and desires, and assign them either to Kathy, to myself, to one of our volunteers, or to somebody in the community if that’s what they would like (their own parish, their own church). Then I get that going and do all the computer work for that. I go out and do visits, and see patients. Then I usually spend the afternoon documenting that. Also, I manage the spiritual care volunteers so there’s time that I spend talking with them about their visits, supervising them, documenting their visits, that sort of thing.

What is your favorite part about working at Angela Hospice?
It would definitely be the times that I feel like I could make a difference or perhaps I did make a difference for patients and help them reach their goals.

Julie in front of her favorite fountain on the grounds.
What is one of your favorite memories from your time at Angela Hospice?
It probably has to do with just that, with helping the patients reach their goal. One example that came to mind when I thought about that question…it was really significant, at least for me. There was a patient and she was mentally very alert but could not communicate verbally at all, and was having trouble expressing herself because of that, and was very restless. So her daughter thought maybe the restlessness was from spiritual distress. So she asked if I would just come by and visit and see what we might be able to do.

I was at the visit and it didn’t feel to me like it was real substantive because she couldn’t communicate at all, so I offered some prayer and just spent some time with her. But then before I left…this is important, she was wearing a large cross necklace. It was maybe three or four inches big and very wide. Before I left I just said to her, “You know death is the next great adventure.” Then I thought, “Why in the world did I say that?” I’ve never said those words before, they mean nothing to me, I didn’t expect to say it. And all of a sudden she went from being kind of agitated and restless to getting this huge smile on her face, and she grabbed the cross necklace. She just smiled and had this huge sigh. Then she was very peaceful and she closed her eyes and I could kind of just tell the visit was done.

I went back out in the kitchen and I told her daughter exactly what had happened and her daughter said, “Oh my gosh, I know exactly what happened.” She said that her dad, who had died several years ago, always used to say to her, “Don’t be afraid to die because death is the next great adventure.” And she said the reason she grabbed the cross was because his ashes were in that cross. It was so affirming to me because what I always do before a visit is I say a prayer and do a little meditation to try to just allow whatever words would be comforting to that person to flow through me. It was so affirming because to me that’s exactly what happened. Words just came to me that I never would have spoken otherwise and it gave her the peace that she needed. She was just very peaceful after that and not afraid of dying. When things like that happen, those are my best memories. I kind of always leave those visits going, “This is why I do this work.”