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.”

Volunteer Spotlight: Paul Esser

Name: Paul Esser

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

What areas do you work in/what sort of tasks do you do as a volunteer?
Bereavement, spiritual care, mailings, and events. Hopes to get more involved with the We Honor Veterans program and direct patient care.

What made you decide to become a volunteer?
Well, for one thing, I’m retired. I truly appreciate the work of hospice; I’m all for what they do here, you know, helping people to pass with as much comfort as possible, helping the families. That’s something our society doesn’t do very well, so it’s nice to have a place like a hospice here.

Why Angela Hospice?
I’ve heard so much about it. I guess you could say my father was among the first people when they were starting hospice. They were still over in the hospital area and he was sort of being treated as an outpatient. That was the first year they were trying to get it started. So he died in my sister’s home but he would get his medicine from [Angela Hospice]. And they did send somebody to visit with him. So that was my first experience with Angela Hospice.

So I thought, you know, volunteering, this would be a place I would certainly like to put my effort [towards].

One of the areas Paul (right) volunteers in is at our
annual events, like Arbor Day.
What is your favorite part about volunteering?
Well, it’s probably two things. One is I believe in my soul, my spirit, that I can be a helpful presence, either listening or if I’m asked something, I think I can give hopefully wise answers…So there’s that spiritual connection.

The other part of that is more selfish. It gives me a real sense of satisfaction to do something to me that’s so meaningful. Being present for people, the family members that are going through this…I know first-hand what that’s like. I’ve lost both my children, and of course a lot of other family and friends. I have first-hand experience with what that’s like and I think I can be at least empathetic, but also just being present to people at a time of spiritual crossroads. People are going through such a profound, painful experience and just the idea of being able to be some sort of help, some sort of comfort at that point, is very, I guess, satisfying to me.

What is one of your favorite stories or memories from volunteering?
My favorite moments are when I’m with other volunteers hearing some of their stories – not always specific things about Angela Hospice, but just listening and recognizing that I’m among people who are caring and giving and really do, not just talk about it, but really do something for other people. It’s just pleasant to be amongst such people.

Meadowbrook Country Club members celebrate centennial by donating to Angela Hospice

Angela Hospice is honored to be selected as one of four charities to benefit from Meadowbrook Country Club’s centennial celebration. As part of their 100th anniversary, Meadowbrook has embarked on a member campaign to raise $100,000 to support local charities. In addition to Angela Hospice, CATCH, Bridgepointe, and Main Street League will benefit from members’ generosity.

For decades, through the connection and kindness of its members, Meadowbrook Golf and Country Club has been a blessing and influence in the care of Angela Hospice’s patients and families. Club members have served as personal caregivers, active volunteers, pace-setting donors, and outspoken advocates for our charitable programs.

The Meadowbrook centennial charity effort will continue that tradition of partnership toward the common good, supporting specialized elements of care for military veterans, for terminally ill children and their families, as well as unequalled free-of-charge bereavement and counseling programs for any and all in the community struggling though the anguish of loss.

Angela Hospice is grateful beyond words for the partnership and friendship of the members of Meadowbrook Golf and Country Club. If you or someone you know is a member at Meadowbrook, please encourage them to participate in the centennial charity campaign with a donation to Angela Hospice. A donation booth is set up inside Meadowbrook’s clubhouse, and 100-percent of donations designated to Angela Hospice will be directed to our charitable work.

For more on the Meadowbrook centennial, visit their website here. To contribute to the campaign online, click here to donate. Thank you for your support!

An Amazing Final Goodbye

On a muggy day in June, where you could almost grab the humidity by the handful, Cathy Wood did something she thought would end in tears: talk about her dad’s passing.

“I was really close to my dad so I’m still struggling with this,” Cathy said as she got out notes about her experience with Angela Hospice. She didn’t want to miss a detail.

If she was so nervous, why do the interview?

“I feel like this is the last thing I can do for my dad…to say how good you guys were to him,” she said.

Cathy, holding the letter her dad received from his
We Honor Veterans ceremony.
Cathy’s journey with Angela Hospice started last Christmas when her mom told her that her dad, Pete, was really sick and she wanted to take him to the hospital. Cathy wanted to wait until Monday so they could call his doctor, which they did. Pete’s physician told them there wasn’t anything further he could do for Pete and that they needed to be looking at hospice. Pete had been a cancer patient for over 20 years. First, he had prostate cancer, then he lost a kidney to cancer, and in the end he had lung cancer. He also had Alzheimer’s.

About an hour after hanging up with his doctor they received a call from Angela Hospice. Soon after that someone came to her mom’s house to explain what hospice was and what it had to offer.

“At first my mom was not really for it because she had a lot of faith in my dad’s doctor,” said Cathy, who had no prior hospice experience. “Finally, I said, ‘You know, Ma, we’ve been blessed. He hasn’t been really sick. The last treatments that he had they told us that he was going to lose his appetite. That this was going to happen, that was going to happen. None of those things happened.’

“I said, ‘Let’s do this and see what happens,’” Cathy continued. “So we did.”

Pete’s house quickly turned into his home care center, where he would be for about three months before passing in March. Pete’s nurse, Bonnie, who Cathy spoke volumes about, would come out to the house once a week, as did an aide that came out twice a week. No matter when they came though, Cathy’s family knew someone was always just a phone call away, like when her mom discovered a “cancer outburst” on Pete’s back. She quickly called Angela Hospice and Bonnie showed up right away. Cathy’s mom also had a really hard time filling the syringes so Bonnie would help her.

“She prepared us for everything,” Cathy said about Bonnie, even when Pete was going to die.

After seeing a decline in his health Bonnie told Cathy that it looked like he had about three weeks left. This came as a shock to Cathy and her family because he still seemed fine. He was eating, he still knew everybody, and he was still walking and playing on the floor with his grandkids.

But Bonnie was right. Pete died right around the time she had told Cathy he would.

“My mom said the night before he died he was talking to every one of his kids and grandkids and singing,” she said. “There were no signs that he was on his way out.”

Some photos from Pete's We Honor Veterans Ceremony.
The next morning though her mom heard him trying to get out of his bed, which he eventually did. Cathy said that he went out into the hallway and then laid down softly. Her mom then called hospice, Bonnie showed up, and he was pronounced dead. Bonnie and Cathy’s brother-in-law moved Pete back into his bed so he looked like he was sleeping. Cathy said that since Pete was made so comfortable it made it a little easier for her to say good-bye because she didn’t see him suffer.

“We all got to say our final goodbyes,” Cathy said. “It was just amazing.”

Another amazing experience for Cathy and her family was during Pete’s We Honor Veterans ceremony, which almost didn’t happen.

The day that his ceremony was originally scheduled for Pete wasn’t feeling well so Cathy called Angela Hospice volunteer John Stern – who spearheaded the program at Angela Hospice with his wife, Lucy – to reschedule. John told her many people say they’re going to call back but they either don’t or it’s too late when they finally do. Luckily, Cathy did call back in time and they were able to perform the ceremony for Pete’s family, including his sister and her husband – who retired from the military – and Cathy was so glad they did. They also had a veteran’s service for him at his funeral.

“It was awesome,” she said. “I think any veteran deserves to be recognized.”

Another person who deserves to be recognized: her mom, who took care of Pete along with help from Cathy and her sisters. Her mom’s determination to take care of Pete as long as she could also played a part in why they chose to use home care instead of using some form of assisted living.

“At 80 years old, trying to care for somebody like that could be challenging,” Cathy said. “In fact, I tell her all the time that she did an immaculate job.”

It seems like they all did, including Cathy, who didn’t need those notes after all.

Volunteer Spotlight: Jeanie Pritt

Name: Jeanie Pritt

How long have you been a volunteer?
Since 2014.

What areas do you work in/what sort of tasks do you do as a volunteer?
Mainly mailings and helped with a marketing project last year.

What made you decide to become a volunteer?
I really believe in volunteerism. I worked full-time until I was 68 and during that time I would also volunteer, especially when my children were smaller. I think that’s kind of the backbone of America.

Why Angela Hospice?
The reason that I chose Angela Hospice was because when it was built in 1993 I lived across the street in the subdivision. When I would be on my way to teach I would think, “Ok, when I’m old and gray I can volunteer over there and read to patients.” I had thought of myself as being involved with the patients; but here, 40 years later, I’ve been involved with a lot of patients and people in the family who have passed away, so I knew that what I would be better suited for was the administrative part.
The person who influenced me to come over here was Bob Alexander [Angela Hospice Director of Development]. He came to our Stephen’s Ministries in Northville and gave a presentation about Angela Hospice, and it just clicked with me: Ok, that’s a good place to volunteer. My heart would be with that and I’d continue my walk with Jesus, and it just seemed like a good fit, and it is. It really is. I really appreciate working in this environment. It’s so positive.

When I did the branding/marketing interviews with the 14 leadership members I saw that all the staff, everybody, is just so heart-filled and trying to do God’s work in whatever way they can. It’s really a great place to be. I hope to continue here and I hope to do more writing and interviewing and things of that nature.

Jeanie (far right) often works the mailings for our events.
What is your favorite part about volunteering?
Giving to people, and it’s just…you know I talk to people about volunteering in hospice, my senior friends, and they all go, “Like that’s the place you go to die.” I say, “Hey, it’s a wonderful place.” The nurses and doctors are wonderful too. It’s a God-given gift to Livonia. It’s nothing to be afraid of or that kind of thing.

What is one of your favorite stories or memories from volunteering?
It comes right to my head but the one-on-one interviews that I conducted with the leadership team. There are two people in particular that just amazed me. They were just so wonderful and they were so communicative and wanting to share. 

Employee Spotlight: Dr. James Boal

Name: Dr. James Boal, Medical Director

How long have you worked here?
16 years and six days.

What made you decide to work here?
When I was in medical school and residency I had an interest in hospice, which I had developed by spending time with Dr. John Finn in hospice care at Hospice of Michigan. I came to Angela Hospice as part of a rotation for one of my senior year residencies and he mentioned that they paid a substantial amount for doctors on an hourly basis, so I did moonlighting here my senior year.

This was 2000 and that year the entire medical community underwent a financial change where hospitals stopped employing doctors. So lots of opportunities had disappeared and dried up. Sister Giovanni was very generous and turned my moonlighting position into a full-time job. And I never left.

How had you heard of Angela Hospice?
I had actually worked with Hospice of Michigan a lot and for this particular rotation I was required to go to a hospice and I thought I would try a different one. So this was just the next one I saw on the list.

Dr. Boal received his 15-years of service pin last year.
Pictured with Angela Hospice Director of Social Work
and Bereavement Services Rebecca DeRaud, and
President/CEO Margot Parr.
What’s a typical day like for you?
For me – when I’m not doing administrative tasks – I spend the middle of my day over at St. Mary Mercy Livonia Hospital doing palliative care, servicing hospice patients there and also palliative care patients. That’s my main clinical job, but I’m also in charge of all the other physicians and nurse practitioners here so there’s a lot of management as well. Also, I sort through more difficult patient situations that come up in our home care and Care Center.

What is your favorite part about working at Angela Hospice?
The opportunity I have to help people at the end of their life.

What is one of your favorite memories from your time at Angela Hospice?
I can’t think of one. There are just a string of patients…we’ve taken care of over 33,000 patients since we got our new computer system…but there are certain patients that certainly have stronger memories and attachments, usually people I had the chance to spend a little bit more time with and work with on a long-term basis. So I can’t think of one but just lots of different patient interactions. It’s a people job. You get to work with good people.

Volunteer Spotlight: The Music of Dreams

Very few musicians would be happy to look out into the audience and see someone falling asleep. For Angela Hospice volunteer Kay Rowe someone falling asleep while she plays her dulcimer means she’s doing her job right.

“I’ve seen a lot of people when I start out that are fidgeting,” Kay said. “Then you start to play for them and they just kind of relax. Sometimes people say they don’t think they can stay awake and I’ll tell them that isn’t required.”

Kay has been playing the dulcimer, which is a string and percussion instrument, for the last ten years. With the hammer she uses the dulcimer sounds almost like a harp, helping comfort patients and their families with its soothing sound. Kay said a lot of dulcimer music is played fast and for dance, but Kay’s isn’t. Hers is played primarily to help relax those she’s playing for. It’s meant to be therapeutic.

Kay plays the dulcimer once a week in the Care Center.
She brings her very unique skills to the Care Center every Thursday, and usually plays for a few hours, going from room to room to see if anyone wants her to play. She can play all kinds of music, but hymns are her specialty.

Her song selection is just as unique as the patient she’s playing for. Each session is adapted according to how they are reacting. Sometimes if a person seems agitated she’ll start with slightly faster music to match their heartrate and then gradually slow it down.

If a patient looks like they are drifting off, she starts playing super soft, something a CD can’t do unless someone is in the room watching the patient with their hand on the knob. Plus, her playing means another person in the room, providing the kind of comfort a CD often can’t.

“Here, I just play, and it’s the music that does the healing,” she said. “I’m just grateful to have a gift that I can give.”

Kay’s gift has been filling the Care Center halls for the last two-and-a-half years, after Kay heard about Angela Hospice from a friend who used to work here. She signed up for the volunteer training and hasn’t looked back. Kay is one of only a handful of volunteers that provide music to patients and their families, and the only one that plays the dulcimer.

“I love hospice,” she said. “It’s so gratifying and rewarding.”

Kay, who is almost done working on her certification in therapeutic music, said the music isn’t just healing for patients and their loved ones, but for her too. Sometimes when she’s playing at church or a big concert, she said she often gets nervous. But in the Care Center she’s never had that issue. It de-stresses her as much as it does the patients. The music, and seeing people’s reaction and appreciation for it, is the best part about playing here for her.

“I always tell people that their smile is my payment,” she said.

(And their snores.)