Angela Hospice Celebrates National Social Work Month

In honor of National Social Work Month we took a few minutes to talk with Angela Hospice’s Director of Social Work and Bereavement, Rebecca DeRaud, to learn why this team works so well together, what it’s been like to watch them grow, and more. Check it out!

Rebecca (top left) with the Angela Hospice
bereavement team.
How long have you worked here?
Sixteen years this June.

How many social workers were here when you started?
There were three. There’s one remaining from then, besides me, and now there are 20 of us all together.

What’s it been like to see that growth over the years?
It’s been a phenomenal experience. In many ways I feel like we’re all growing up together. We’ve all watched each other and we’ve all helped each other become better clinicians, further each other’s professional development, and definitely personal development too.

What makes an Angela Hospice social worker unique?
What I think makes them unique is that they have excellent clinical skills and the interpersonal ability to be compassionate, have empathy, and really try to just be present with each patient. They’re not judgmental and they treat every patient as if they are their only patient.

Since it is National Social Work month if they were in front of you right now what would you want to say to them?
I would want to thank them for allowing me to be a part of such a unique, diverse, and professional team. To thank them for everything I’ve learned from each and every one of them, for what we have accomplished as a team; and that I respect that we are all very different and yet we share our core values. Angela Hospice would not be what it is today if it weren’t for our social workers.

The Angela Hospice social work team.
Why do you think there’s such longevity with the social workers?
I think it is because for many of us, we look to each other for guidance and support. Even though our jobs on a day-to-day basis are so difficult having colleagues that you can de-brief with helps us not feel isolated or alone. They always have someone who will hear and help advise them. We all love what we’re doing and we don’t burn out because we’re constantly checking in with each other and de-briefing and helping our peers when we’re having rough times. That’s what I think makes our team flow so smoothly.

Why do you think this group works so well together?
I would say that the people are here not just because it’s a job but because it’s a mission and a part of who they are as people. I think that they’re here because they respect what we do. They believe in what we do and know that we’re a very unique environment. While there are a lot of different organizations out there we are our own entity that’s very special.

Anything else?
It’s not just our department that’s so cohesive, it’s really our organization. We’re grateful to our team members no matter what department they’re in, whether it’s something based here or out in the clinical area. I know on behalf of all the social workers we’re very grateful to be a part of this supreme organization. I really feel that way.

I’m grateful for the leadership structure because we’re really unique in that we have bereavement…I feel like the top has to value us in order to have that.

Show Your Heart for Angela Hospice Event at Orin Jewelers

Do you love to shop for jewelry and support Angela Hospice? Then you’re in luck! On Thursday, April 7, from 5-8 p.m., Orin Jewelers is hosting Show Your Heart for Angela Hospice at its Northville Showroom. A portion of each purchase made at the event will be donated to Angela Hospice.

Go ahead and get something sparkly for yourself or someone special to you! This would also be a perfect time to get something for Mother’s Day!

Anyone who attends the event can earn the chance to win this blue druzy necklace and earring set from French designer Frederic Duclos! Value: $500.

Volunteer Spotlight: Mary Zelenock

Name: Mary Zelenock

How long have you been a volunteer?
About a year-and-a-half.

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

Why did you decide to become a volunteer?
I’m a retired RN and I always worked in intensive care with very sick patients. I loved that job but I was frequently with patients when they were dying and their families were there.

I guess I was drawn to comforting people and doing whatever I could. I was never afraid of talking about passing away with the families or the patients. I think that kind of gave them some relief to be able to talk about it.

What is your favorite part about volunteering?
Being with the patients and their families. That truly is my favorite part. I enjoy the nurses and I admire Angela Hospice so much. I’ve never seen such a caring community. I like to be here in that atmosphere.

Mary volunteers in the Care Center.
What is one of your favorite stories or memories from volunteering?
I find that these patients love to talk about their past and they’re especially happy to talk about where they were born, where they grew up, and tell me stories about their childhood.

I can remember a patient that I had that was in his early 90s, who almost never spoke, just laid in bed with his eyes closed. I sat down and held his hand and I said, “This is Mary. How are you?” He just looked at me. Then I said, “I know your name” and I addressed him by that. Then he just opened up and started crying and talking to me a little bit at first. Then every time I would come in and see him he’d said, “Hello Mary!” or “Hail Mary.” That person was very dear to my heart, he was really sweet.

Volunteer Spotlight: Carmen Zatyko

Name: Carmen Zatyko

How long have you been a volunteer?
Two-and-a-half years.

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

Why did you decide to become a volunteer?
I always used to drive past this place when I was working and I thought, someday I want to stop there and see if I can become a volunteer. So when I changed jobs I thought, I can come in here and do this now. So I did. I called and here I am.

What is your favorite part about volunteering?
What I get from the patients. I just love working with them. They are just amazing.

Carmen volunteers on A-wing in the Care Center.
What is one of your favorite stories or memories from volunteering?
There are a lot of them. We have this patient now and when I feed him he says, “Carmen, I’ll love you forever and ever.” I said, “Really? That’s so sweet.” I would be feeding him and he would say, “I love you,” and I’d say, “I love you too.” I thought that was so adorable, for somebody being so sick telling you that.

Volunteer Spotlight: Ellen Wright

Name: Ellen Wright

How long have you been a volunteer?
Since 2006.

What areas do you work in/what sort of tasks do you do as a volunteer?
Plays keyboards and brings dessert (her famous Ellen Bars) to weekly High Tea.

Why did you decide to become a volunteer?
I had a friend at my parish who was a volunteer here. When I retired she said I should volunteer here because she said that I would never meet nicer people. I thought, ‘What the heck?’ So I did.

Ellen plays keyboards at our weekly teas.
What is your favorite part about volunteering?
The people that are here.

What is one of your favorite stories or memories from volunteering?
It’s just like the four of us [who do tea] are like a little family, and Syndie’s so great, and anybody I’ve met has just been really nice.

One time I had to accompany the choir at an event…so that made a nervous wreck out of me. But it was really nice.

As You Wish: Personalizing Advance Care Planning

Communication is a good thing. But what happens if you become unable to express your own wishes and beliefs? Making your end-of-life preferences known in advance can help ensure your wishes are heard even if your voice isn’t. And it’s simpler than you may think.

Join us for a free, four-part series. Through expert insight, you’ll learn what to consider, how to plan ahead and make your wishes known, and come away with a legal document you can share with your family and healthcare providers.

As You Wish: Personalizing Advance Care Planning
Wednesdays, May 4 through 25
7 to 8:30 p.m.
At St. Mary Mercy Livonia 
North Auditorium
36475 Five Mile Road, Livonia 48154

Register for this free series here.


Michelle Moccia, DNP, ANP-BC, CCRN, Program Director, Senior ER, St. Mary Mercy Livonia

Michelle Moccia is the program director of Michigan’s first Senior ER, which opened in July 2010 at St. Mary Mercy Livonia. Michelle has been a Registered Nurse (RN) since 1975 and a Critical Care Registered Nurse since 1983, shortly after earning the Nurse of the Year award at Annapolis Hospital in Wayne, Michigan. Michelle received her Doctor of Nursing Practice for Madonna University. She has devoted more than three decades of her life to emergency room nursing, nurse training and the partnering with EMS agencies, community groups and senior care centers to promote the wellness and special care needs of seniors.

Her passion for leadership and teaching others how to care for seniors and other emergency room patients has led to dozens of speaking engagements locally and nationally, as well as being published multiple times in national medical journals.

David Nantais, Director, Mission and Community Benefits, St. Mary Mercy Livonia

David Nantais is the Director of Mission and Community Benefits at St. Mary Mercy Livonia. He was most recently the director of mission integration at University of Detroit Mercy Jesuit High School and Academy. Just prior to that, he was the director of campus ministry and adjunct professor of philosophy and religious studies at UDM. In this role, he was responsible for supervision and support of campus ministers, strategic planning and long-range vision, budget management and financial transactions and liaison to promote collaborations with other departments. David also served as a clinical ethics committee member for Oakwood Hospital. Throughout his career, David contributed to several publications and presentations.

David earned a bachelor's degree in biochemistry from the University of Detroit. He earned a master's in biochemistry from Iowa State University, a master's in philosophy from Loyola University Chicago and a master's in theological studies from Boston College School of Theology and Ministry.

Mark Passow, RN, MSN, FNP-BC, Nurse Practitioner, Angela Hospice

Mark Passow, Mark Passow is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner.  He joined the Angela Hospice team in 2014, and began serving incurably ill patients in the Angela Hospice Care Center. Mark has also been with St. Mary Mercy Livonia since 2005, working in the Emergency Center, the Rapid Response team, and now in nursing administration.  He is also Assistant Professor of Nursing at the University of Detroit Mercy where he teaches Emergency Nursing, Medical Surgical Nursing, and graduate clinical courses. Mark received a graduate degree in nursing education from Michigan State University, and his post-masters certificate from the University of Detroit Mercy as a Family Nurse Practitioner. He is a pastor at Berean Baptist Church in Livonia and was a former chaplain at Balanced Care Hospice in Missouri.

Mark is as passionate about caring for the needs of dying patients and their families as he is about training up the next generation of nurses. 

Merilynne Rush, RN, BSN, Community Educator, Angela Hospice

Merilynne Rush, RN, BSN, has been working in family health care since 1980, first as a midwife and labor and delivery nurse, a home hospice nurse, and now as an end-of-life care specialist. She is a community educator for Angela Hospice and a Respecting Choices® Facilitator and Instructor. She offers presentations and workshops throughout Michigan. Merilynne holds a Graduate Certificate in Hospice and Palliative Studies from Madonna University.

For more information, call (734) 655-8950.

Wish Granted

Kate Uberti’s mom, Helen Oakes, was able to spend her final days where she wanted to be: in her own home

It was about ten minutes after the interview was scheduled to start when volunteer Kate Uberti showed up. She hadn’t hit traffic on the way or forgotten when it started, she just lost track of time talking with an Angela Hospice Care Center patient.

“She was on a roll,” Kate laughed. “She’s dying but she’s still there and still wanting to make the most of her afternoon. So she was talking to me and we were laughing.”

Helen celebrated her 90th birthday at Angela Hospice.
For Kate, those conversations with patients are about much more than conversing; they’re about really listening. She believes everyone’s got a story and she wants to hear it.

“I have learned things here that I’ve not been able to learn anywhere else in my life,” Kate said. “To me, that’s why this place is so special.”

Getting to volunteer in the wing where her mom, Helen, was a patient in 2012 is pretty special too.

When her mom hit her nineties she began having a lot of cardiac problems and had a few hospitalizations. One was worse than the others, leading to Helen being sent to the hospital’s intensive care unit and then the hospital’s hospice unit. After some time she had to vacate and find her own care due to insurance policies. Enter Angela Hospice, which Kate’s husband, an oncologist, was very familiar with.

“I remember them saying when she was admitted they were expecting her to live probably a maximum of two to three days,” Kate said. “We were ready for it at that point because she had been through so much.

“You hate the thought of the end but at the same time you know that’s where you’re heading so you just hope you can get there quickly,” she continued.

Kate and her siblings had set up a schedule so someone would be with Helen 24/7, and Kate had the day shift.

After entering the Care Center unconscious and uncommunicative, Helen started to respond to treatment about a month into her care. Kate said she would bring her mom a McDonald’s milkshake every day and watch as she started to get better and better.

During her six months in the Care Center, Kate was able to form a very different kind of relationship with her mom, one that she hadn’t had before.

Kate with her mom at a family wedding.
“We worked through a lot of bad stuff and a lot of good stuff, and then we really had a lot of fun too,” Kate said.

Helen responded so well to treatment that she was discharged to an assisted care facility for five months before moving back into her own home.

“We got an additional year of life with my mom in her own house,” Kate said. “She wanted to die at home, so she got her wish.”

Helen was also able to attend one more big family wedding.

“She had a very good life after living at Angela Hospice,” Kate said.

Helen’s time in the Care Center is when Kate started thinking about becoming a volunteer because she was so inspired by watching the people that worked there.

“I thought, there’s going to come a time and I’m going to come back and I will volunteer here,” Kate said.

Then two years after her mom’s death, she did. During her training she was introduced to Angela Hospice foundress Sister Mary Giovanni, who talked to the class about the Felician core values and gave them a card with those values on it. Kate’s card is one she looks at every day at home.

“To me, those things are so inspiring for you to think about when you’re here but also when you’re out in the world,” Kate said. “I think those core values are really something to take to heart…I am very, very grateful to the hospice program for letting me have that opportunity.”

Feeling the Care

Over the last 13 months Sarah Wiggins has learned a lot about hospice, but the most important thing wasn’t about procedures or medication; it was to be kind to herself.

“There’s this self-doubt that you have,” Sarah said. “Am I doing the right thing for my mom? And they [hospice] have the ability, because they are a step back and look at the bigger picture, and say, ‘Yes, you’re doing the right thing.’”

Nancy (right) and her grandchildren, Travis and Michelle.
Sarah went through this struggle twice in the last year; first with her dad in December 2014, and then with her mom the following December.

Her dad had gone into the hospital on a Monday because he was dizzy and disoriented. He was also extremely agitated and his health was declining. His conditioned worsened, and a few days later, doctors asked Sarah if she had thought about palliative care for him.

“I said, ‘I want him to go. I want him to be with God,’” she said. “He wasn’t himself because he was so agitated.”

Sarah looked at a few facilities before choosing Angela Hospice. When they were debating whether or not he should stay in the hospital she was told hospice could take care of him there, which they did. He passed away the following Sunday.

After her father’s passing Sarah moved her mom, Nancy, into assisted living. Flash forward about a year, and Sarah, an only child, was dealing with another parent’s decline.

Nancy had had a series of seizures at the beginning of December. This on top of her dementia made her mental capacity decline considerably before she started to come back from it Sarah said. She was admitted into Angela Hospice care soon after and then the rollercoaster ride really began for Sarah.

“It was kind of a ride with hospice,” Sarah said. “Should she be here? Should she be in rehab? It was no, hospice can take care of her and we can reevaluate as we go along. So that’s kind of what we did.

“I felt being with hospice was better for her because she’d have eyes on her so many more times,” she continued. “It was a no-brainer as far as the care she was going to get.”

Sarah said that her mother was a “hard duck” when it came to being made comfortable. There was one weekend the on-call nurse was called five times because Nancy would get started on one medicine that would normally take care of everything for everybody else but didn’t work for her. Then she would go on the next medicine that most people would use and that didn’t work either. Though this was one of the toughest weekends for both of them, Sarah was beyond grateful that everyone kept trying until her mother was no longer agitated.

And there was one person in particular who Sarah mentioned, Angela Hospice RN Raphaelle Pierce.

“She was like: ‘This is what we’re going to do. We’re going to make her comfortable, and I’m not going to leave until I make her comfortable, and until we know that everything’s OK,’” Sarah said. “I really appreciated the consistency with that.”

Sarah wasn’t only impressed with the high level of care her parents received from Angela Hospice but the care she and the rest of her family got as well.

“It’s been really intense but I really appreciated the way my family’s been cared for,” she said as tears began to fill her eyes. “All the way from my children…the way y’all check on us, see how everybody is doing, I just felt…I felt the care.”

“And it’s not superficial,” Sarah continued. “It’s not just, ‘Oh, I need to call everybody to check up.’ It’s not going down a punch list. No, it’s ‘I really care about the people that we serve.’ I felt that there was a lot of care from everybody.”

While Nancy spent most of her time in Angela Hospice care while living in an assisted living facility, her last days were spent at the Care Center. Sarah said when Nancy was moved to the Care Center she could finally take a breath. Sarah also no longer felt like she needed to be there 24/7 because she knew her mom was in really, really good hands.

Another thing Sarah liked about the Care Center: the quiet.

“I felt like when we walked in her room…it was just peaceful,” Sarah said.

Her father also got the same sort of peace during his time in Angela Hospice care. Seeing how calm and at peace her father was towards the end of his life played a part in why Sarah choose to use Angela Hospice again for her mom.

“I wouldn’t have gone with anybody else,” she said.