Volunteer Spotlight: Judy O'Meara

Name: Judy O’Meara

How long have you been a volunteer?
17 years.

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

What made you decide to become a volunteer?
In 1989 my brother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and he died that year. I knew he had hospice care and it was wonderful. I thought, “Well, when I retire, if I have some time, that’s what I’d like to do.” And I love it.

Why Angela Hospice?
I had heard very nice things about Angela Hospice. It’s in the area…at the time [I started volunteering] I was living in Livonia. It was a wonderful place.

Judy volunteers in the Care Center, where she
performs many different tasks.
What is your favorite part about volunteering?
Being with the patients. Absolutely.

What is one of your favorite stories or memories from volunteering?
I was a teacher for 30 years, and one of my students ended up here. That is one of my fondest, one of many fond memories I have, was administering to him.

I think just the overall…meeting with the patients and their families. I know that a lot of people think, “How can you go to this place?” But it’s a wonderful place to go to. It’s a peaceful place. It’s a loving place. I would say that I receive much more than I would ever give here.

The Season of Giving

For volunteer Sue Cousino, Christmas Eve isn’t a time to begin cooking for the next day’s festivities, it’s a day to volunteer at Angela Hospice’s Tree of Life, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Sue normally works around 10 shifts at the Tree
    of Life, this year she's working 12 shifts.
“I always work the 24th because lots of the ladies [volunteers] are cooking and no one wants me to cook,” Sue laughed. “I’d like people to live through the holidays so I don’t volunteer to cook, and no one would eat it anyhow if they knew I did.”

So Sue has spent every Christmas Eve for the past 15 years sitting at the Tree of Life table, helping others and not cooking.

What started as only working weekends has now turned into volunteering multiple times per week since she retired. She tends to work around 10 shifts per season. This year, she’s going above average and working 12.

“I love to do it,” she said.

While some things have changed over the years, Sue’s favorite part about the Tree of Life hasn’t.

“Getting to talk to the people, especially the kids,” she said. “They’re so cute.

“They don’t know what it’s all about but they want to remember Nana or somebody,” she continued. “Their parents will say, ‘Remember Nana? This is for her.’ They get all excited and say, ‘Can I write her a letter?’ Then they write a little note. It’s cute.”

Sue’s stories of working the Tree of Life range from cute to a little crazy, like the year one woman wanted to buy a fully-decorated tree. Many of her stories have one thing in common though: the gratitude people have for Angela Hospice.

“People will come to the Tree of Life and say, ‘You guys did such a good job of taking care of my husband, my wife, my this or that,’ and they are so sincere,” Sue said. “They just talk about the great care their loved one received, and they are so relived they did this.”

Sue can understand that feeling. Her dad was in Angela Hospice care in 1997 for a week before passing at 83.

“I can tell people I was able to have my dad at home and he was out of pain and was comfortable,” she said. “He knew what was going on and he wasn’t the least bit worried about dying.”

He had had cancer and then quite a few years later started complaining about back pain. After going to the emergency room twice with her dad the doctor noticed shadows on his x-rays. That second trip to the emergency room was where the idea of putting her dad in hospice was brought up. Sue called Angela Hospice and someone came out the next day.

“It’s the hardest, best thing you will ever do,” she said.

Putting her dad on hospice was hard, but choosing Angela Hospice was an easy decision. Having spent most of her life on the Felician grounds – Sue attended Ladywood High School and Madonna University, and worked at St. Mary’s while in college – she had passed Angela Hospice many times.

Sue and her family also went to the same church as Angela Hospice foundress, Sister Giovanni, and family. Their dads were friends and used to play cards together.

“I can’t get off the block,” she joked.

Even though letting go of a loved one can be extremely difficult Sue was glad that her dad was no longer in pain, and that she was able to spend time with him as his daughter, not his caregiver.

“I know with dad, and they tell you to tell them this, I said, ‘Dad, it’s OK. You can go and be with mom. She’s waiting for you. Then some of your other buddies are going to want to play golf and mom will be pissed but that’s OK.’”

“And he said, ‘Yeah, I know,’” she laughed.

While Angela Hospice was there for Sue and her family, Sue has been an advocate for Angela Hospice ever since. She volunteers her time not only at the Tree of Life but at the Care Center as well, where she works with patients. She gives financial contributions to Angela Hospice when she can. She also is constantly recommending Angela Hospice to others for their loved ones, and telling people they should become volunteers.

So why do all this for Angela Hospice? That’s simple.

“They took care of dad, so why not?” she said. “There’s no way I could ever repay them for all they did.”

Home for the Holidays

Being cared for in the comfort of home is one of the many benefits of home hospice care. But for those residing in the Angela Hospice Care Center, the Care Center can become a comfortable home away from home as well. Our volunteers seek to make the holidays memorable by creating special opportunities for patients and families to come together and experience holiday festivities – such as Thanksgiving supper at the Care Center.

Patient Jean Henegar was able to attend with six of her family members. While Jean is bed-bound, her nurses were able to wheel her bed right into the Day Room, and found her a spot where she could see the whole room – and all 91 of the other guests! Jean’s daughter, Patti Wert, saw how much it brightened her mother’s spirit.

Jean Henegar’s family was happy to be able to attend
Thanksgiving dinner with her at the Care Center.
“It meant so much to her,” Patti said. She said Jean’s appetite improved and she was happy to be able to spend the holiday with her family.

“She was just thrilled that we could spend that together as a family because we didn’t know how we were going to manage that,” Patti said. “It was as close as we could get to our norm. So that was nice.”

Patti said her mother was also tickled by the visit from the Montessori preschoolers, who came to sing Christmas carols for Angela Hospice’s patients and visitors.

“She was so cute,” Patti said, recalling her mother watching the tiny carolers. “She said, ‘This was better than any pain medication.’”

Whether it’s family suppers, visiting pets, tea parties, or simply the beautiful lights and colors of the holiday season, Angela Hospice hopes the Care Center can provide a sense of “home” for the holidays for hospice patients. We also hope the holidays can be a special time for everyone this year – including all of our amazing supporters who make this good work possible!

Grief and the Holidays

There is no way around it: grief is tough. And the holidays can complicate those feelings. Take a look at some of these ideas that might help you or someone you know who is grieving during the holidays.
  1. Talk to your family and friends. Let them know the holidays are going to be challenging, and you may need to make some changes in the way you celebrate this year. Try to spend time with the people who make you feel comfortable and supported, and don’t be afraid to tell them how you feel.
  2. Let go of obligations. Don’t take on too much. Allow yourself to say “no” when you need to so that you don’t wear yourself out. Remember, you can’t please everyone all the time, but that’s OK.
  3. Change your plans. It might be easier to face the holidays if you approach them in a new way this year. Try a change of scenery, eat out, or switch your traditional brunch to an evening meal. Switching up your routine could make the day easier.
  4. Keep it simple. Remember you don’t have to do it all. Consider visiting the bakery instead of doing your own baking. Cut back on decorations or gifts. Skip the Christmas cards this year. Accept help from those who care about you.
  5. Take care of yourself. Emotionally, physically, and psychologically, the holidays can take a lot out of you. Make sure you take time to rest.
  6. Start a new tradition. You can keep the memory of your loved one alive by doing something in their honor. Light a candle in their memory, say a prayer, put out their favorite ornament, or share a treasured story. Whether it’s something you do as a family, or something that triggers a personal reflection, take time to remember your loved one. 
For more about the grief support services Angela Hospice provides, or to schedule an appointment with a grief counselor, call (734) 464-7810 and ask to speak with our bereavement department. You can also visit us at AskForAngela.com.

Volunteer Spotlight: Kate Mudry

Name: Kate Mudry

How long have you been a volunteer?
One year.

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

What made you decide to become a volunteer?
My mother died about three years ago, and she had in-home hospice care in St. Louis. It made a huge impact on her life, and how she died with dignity in a way that she wanted to, on her own terms, and as comfortable as she possibly could.

I have daughters at Ladywood High School and so I drove by Angela Hospice all the time, and I was like, I need to touch base with them because I think there’s a purpose in that.

What is your favorite part about volunteering?
I would say the best part is knowing that you’re making a difference in calming someone or making them more comfortable. Or just showing you’re someone who cares. There’s a lot of caring people out there who aren’t afraid of death.

Kate volunteers in Wing B, where she helps with lunch.
What is one of your favorite stories or memories from volunteering?
There was a woman who had been here for quite some time and she had visitors on a fairly regular basis but not when I would come in during lunchtime. She was very, very agitated one day; I think her meds had changed, and I went and sat with her for I think two hours straight.

And we didn’t talk, we didn’t do anything. But the minute I was sitting in there with her she was less agitated and just relaxed. Sometimes people just need to know someone else is there and they’re not alone.