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Showing posts from 2020

Obituaries: Who Tells Your Story?

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by Debbie Vallandingham, LMSW-ACSW

The popular musical Hamilton tells the tale of the dynamic life of Alexander Hamilton with a hip-hop beat. Fittingly, it ends with Hamilton’s widow, Eliza who provides the audience with the lasting context of their lives, ending with the well-known song, “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story.”

In the world today, while funerals are often a part of the telling of a person’s story, so is the old tradition of the obituary. Far from a new invention, people have been recording deaths since ancient times. In Rome, before the birth of Christ, daily records were collected in an ancient equivalent of a whiteboard called an “album.” This ancient version of Facebook provided the notice of births, marriages, and deaths.Fast forward to the 1600s and you will find a similar record of the life and death of aristocrats in the newsbooks of Great Britain, the precursors to modern newspapers. In the 1800s, the modern notion of obituaries made their way to the Unite…

Family Music-Based Activities: Apps and Websites for Music Learning and Games

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by Heather Dean, MT-BC
If you are wondering which apps or sites are appropriate for your child’s age range, Common Sense Media is a great site. I also use this myself with my own kids to check which movies are appropriate. (Nope, I am "no fun" say my teenage boys.)

Games: This is for iOS, but soon for android devices. A little intense, it may be better for the older kids.
This looks so fun for younger children — great exercise, plus working on attention and focus. https://www.gonoodle.com/
I like the idea of music-based games because I would rather our kids engage and focus on music rather than anything violent.
Music Learning: I used this site when I was a piano teacher. Kids loved it. There are free games, but you need the correct Adobe Flash plugin. 
http://www.musiclearningcommunity.com/
I LOVE YouTube for lessons (shhh…don’t tell music teachers). Of course, it is always better to have a personal teacher, but in the meanwhile these are great videos. BONUS — you can pause a…

Video Series: Tips and Activities When Children Are Grieving

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Episode 1 Tips for Talking to Children About the Coronavirus
Episode 2 Mason Jar Memories
Episode 3 Sara Reads a Story
Episode 4 Invisible String Activity
Episode 5 Stay-at-Home Activities & Resources

From the Bottom of Our Hearts

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The support of our community friends has meant so much to us during this challenging time. We've all been coping with changes and anxieties, but the acts of kindness we've been witness to are truly heartening.

We wanted to take this opportunity to say THANK YOU! Doubtless there will be some names omitted here — not for lack of appreciation, but rather due to the flurry of activity as we've all worked to adapt to the "new normal."  But to all who have shown your support for our mission and our team, please know you have truly helped lighten the burden during this difficult time.

To those who have shared kind words, good needs, generous gifts, and comforting prayers, please know how deeply grateful we are for you.


Donated Meals and Snacks for our Staff
The Busard FamilyCork and Gabel Restaurant - Matt McGrail & Lucas, Joe MifsudKimberly EadehFLAG (Front Line Appreciation Group)David & Kay GugalaSister Pat HergenroetherCathy Myszka Picnic Basket Marketplace -…

Family Music-Based Activities: Relaxation

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by Heather Dean, MT-BC

The World’s Most Relaxing Film:

You know what? I think it might be! At the end check your pulse and be mindful of your breathing. I did and it turned out my heart rate had synchronized with the beat of the music. This is called entrainment — it is a biological phenomenon when our heart rate synchronizes with music. It is a great way to unwind or even energize yourself when trying to get motivated with more up tempo music.


Soooo many beautiful sea creatures. There are many videos on YouTube like these.

Disclaimer:I am not endorsing any of these videos that make claims of guaranteed relaxation or binaural beats as the answer to relaxation — so much of this is subjective and not grounded in research. It entirely has to do with what you enjoy and find peaceful. 

Music Guided Relaxation:
These are short but sweet videos. I am in no way a meditation expert, but I do love these videos. I'm not endorsing any of these videos as a prescription, just thought they might be…

Family Music-Based Activities: How to Cultivate Routines Using Music

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by Heather Dean, MT-BC

I hear many people state feeling kind of fuzzy with time right now. It can be comforting to have routines when grieving or feeling overwhelmed in general.
Do whatever works for your family, or if cultivating a routine right now just isn’t a priority – skip this! Also, some families like lots of music in the home, others might find it distracting or irritating. So again, do whatever works for YOUR family.

Morning Music
Time to get up? Is it 11 a.m. already? How about a gentle song your family would enjoy, like the Beatles “Here Comes the Sun” or maybe a classical piece like Peer Gynt "Morning Mood."


Cleanup Time
Set a time before a predictable event like dinner, for five minutes of family pickup time, or the length of two songs.

Play Time
Set the bar for frivolity withfun activities for the familyto do together or separately, such as music practice or music game time.

Dinner Music
Choose special background music that is relaxing, preferably with no words so…

Family Music-Based Activities: Getting to Know You

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by Heather Dean, MT-BC

For all our families in bereavement and for my children in music therapy bereavement: I am thinking about you all during this time of isolation and I MISS YOU! I hope this series of ideas and activities will offer some comfort to your families. There are many options to choose from for music activities for relaxation, entertainment, family bonding, and education. Lots of online and technology resources, but also some that do not require a screen. Please enjoy and take care everyone!

Idea #1: Getting to Know You
Do a puzzle or take time to color together or whatever craft sounds simple and fun for you and your family. It could just be with one or two family members, or more; you choose.

As you engage with your activity, set up a speaker and take turns playing favorite songs. This is a great time to learn about each other’s interests and inner thoughts.

Great questions to ask after hearing your child’s song:

What do you like about that song?What do you think about t…

#GivingTuesdayNow - We Need Your Support During this Unprecedented Time

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Dear Friends,

Facing a worldwide pandemic has challenged us all. Personally, professionally, and as a society, we’ve seen our daily lives change, and we’ve had to make sacrifices for the good of our community and all those we care about.

Here at Angela Hospice, we’ve navigated this uncertain time by renewing our commitment to our mission: providing comprehensive, compassionate, and Christ-like care to adults and children in the communities we serve. We’ve had to make difficult decisions almost daily – restricting visitors to our Care Center, limiting face-to-face home care visits, canceling fundraisers and community events, and converting as much  of our operations as possible to phone or online environments. And while this has all felt overwhelming at times, what has made this experience a bit easier is remembering that we have a purpose.

No matter the circumstances that surround us, we each have the opportunity to stay true to our values, and to exercise the things we can control: …

Volunteer Appreciation Week

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National Volunteer Appreciation Week is a time for organizations that depend on volunteers to show their focused appreciation. At Angela Hospice this is a favored time for us where we shower our valued volunteers with praise and appreciation for all they do, which is a lot.

Last year alone, our more than 400 volunteers provided nearly 30,000 hours of service to Angela Hospice and drove in excess of 115 thousand miles. And while those numbers are impressive, what our volunteers do is extraordinary. They accompany the dying. It’s a work of the heart and at times it’s hard work. They hold hands and listen when words have lost meaning, but a smile has not. They sit in the pain of our family members who share their sadness about the impending loss. They take a patient outside of his darkened room to bask in the warm sunshine. They listen to stories and they seek to understand how to help make this journey a bit easier for those we serve.

Not all of our volunteers work directly with patient…

A Change of Perspective

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When Angela Hospice first opened its Care Center back in 1994, it was designed to be a home away from home, a place where patients and families could feel comfortable and cared for. Ever since then, it has been a point of pride for our organization, a rare resource for our community, where we have eagerly welcomed families and visitors.

But when COVID-19 struck Michigan, and we all learned how to adapt to life during a pandemic, we had to make difficult choices about how to best protect the vulnerable people in our care, their precious families, and our caring healthcare team.

As we began to practice social distancing and limit the number of visitors to the Care Center, how would our patients and their families be affected by these changes? Could we still provide the kind of experience our patients and families deserve?

Cathy Stewart can answer those questions. Her father was in Angela Hospice’s care a few years ago, and now her mom, Mary Bradley, is at the Care Center with congestive…

Free Film Screening: "Palliative"

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by Nadia Tremonti, MD, Physician Clinical Leader

I wanted to share with you all an exciting update about the documentary film "Palliative" that I have
been involved in for the last several years and features multiple patients cared for at Children’s Hospital of Michigan, Hutzel Women’s Hospital, and Angela Hospice.

Our film had been selected for the annual Detroit Free Press Film Festival, which was planned for April 22-26.  Regrettably, just prior to announcing the line up, the current pandemic hit and all things were put on hold.

At this time, the Freep festival has rescheduled all of its in-person events to December 2020.  However, they decided to move forward with a small selection of films for a virtual festival this week, and our film is being featured.

It will be airing virtually, along with another short documentary, at 1 p.m. EST from their website this Wednesday, April 22, 2020.  There will be a Q&A shown after the films that will feature myself, one of the p…

Grief Support Goes Virtual

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Angela Hospice’s free community grief support programs have always been a welcome resource for residents of southeast Michigan, but in a time when stay-at-home orders are in place, attending a support group, or meeting with a grief counselor face to face is not an option. So Angela Hospice has turned to technology to conduct grief support programs.
Someone who is grieving can often feel alone – and now that we are all experiencing forced isolation, Angela Hospice Bereavement Manager Debbie Vallandingham, LMSW-ACSW, explained that we are all grieving.

“Everyone, the whole collective consciousness…what everyone is feeling is grief,” Vallandingham said. “It’s the first time in our lives that our communities have been told that we can’t move around freely. That is disconcerting on its own. It’s a loss of our way of life.”
Whether someone is grieving the loss of a loved one, or a loss of their everyday normal, Vallandingham said grief can affect us in a variety of ways.
“Grief affects eve…

The Gift Of Understanding

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When Lori Olenski lost her son, it was unexpected. She knew he had cancer, and he was receiving hospice care in her home, but she thought — and she hoped — that he had more time.

"He was young and he was really a big, strong guy," she said. Just a week before her son Jesse died, he was up and walking around with a cane, Lori explained. "I guess he was fighting because he was young and strong. And then all of a sudden, everything just went downhill really fast."

Jesse tried to prepare Lori. He had been in the Angela Hospice Care Center for pain control for about two weeks. Then while he was back at home, on New Year's Eve, he told Lori, "Mom, I have to go back. I don't have that much longer to live."

When he was being readmitted to the Care Center, Lori remembered Jesse telling the nurse, "My mom's not going to take this well because she has a soft heart." Lori teared up a bit at this remembrance, but she also remembered something else …

Family Values

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Benefactor Spotlight: W. Michael George

Michael George was celebrated last fall at Angela Hospice's annual Light Up a Life Gala. As a benefactor and former board member, he has made significant contributions to Angela Hospice's programs. But it was his parents who first experienced Angela Hospice's mission.

"I have never forgotten the compassionate care my mother received as an ALS patient," Michael said. His mother, Jane, was cared for by Angela Hospice before her passing in May 1997. The experience had a lasting impact on Michael as well as his father, William "Bill" George. who in 1999 became an Angela Hospice volunteer.

"My father was so impressed with the level of care she received..." Michael said. "When I spoke with him he would always speak enthusiastically about his work there. Angela Hospice was very meaningful in his life and he approached it as a great place of compassion and sympathy at a very difficult time."

Bill Georg…

Faith To Get Through

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When Chris Morgan got to the Angela Hospice Care Center, he felt a sense of relief. But his journey to get there was not an easy one.

After suffering a heart attack, Chris had been hospitalized. "They tore me up and told me that I had a heart problem," Chris said. He was prescribed medication and sent on his way. But after a series of subsequent hospitalizations, Chris was frustrated and angry. Still, he didn't realize just how serious his illness was.
"Until that rude doctor blurted it out," he explained. "Because I was raising a function, I was cutting up...But he blurted it out, 'Well, you only have six months to a year to live.' Huh, wait? That's something hard to swallow."
Chris was overwhelmed. He felt caught off guard, and wished he could have known the truth about his condition earlier.
"I feel like they mishandled me," he said. "Because they were aware that my heart was going to get worse."
Suddenly, Chris was …

Mama Boss Tells It Like It Is

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Carmen Munoz Crites isn't afraid to go after what she wants.

As a girl, Carmen's mother said to her, "I don't know about you. I try so hard to make you into a lady." But Carmen replied, "Mom, give it up. It's never gonna happen. I'm sorry, I can't do it."

Carmen's mom understood this about her daughter. "I know, I know," she said, "If any
body tells you you can't, you're gonna say, 'Watch me while I do it.'" And that has pretty much been the story of her life.

Just out of high school, Carmen got a job as a bookkeeper in the machine shop.

"I lied through my teeth, 'Oh yeah, I know all about bookkeeping,'" she said. She immediately enrolled in business school, and would eventually convince her boss to let her take over for a retiring salesman.

"Oh, he thought that was funny," Carmen said, "because at the time General Motors and the auto industry had been very chauvinistic…

Songs of Encouragement

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What do music therapists do to help them get through difficult times? Create playlists of course!

This is a collaboration of favorite songs from music therapists across the country that have different genres and styles, but with one theme: Encouragement.

I hope you find a few you like yourselves, AND if you would like to add in the comments below some of your own favorite songs for comfort and motivation, please share!

Take care everyone, Heather Dean, MT-BC


Care Center COVID-19 Wing

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April 7, 2020
Dear Care Center Patients and Families,
Blessed Mary Angela, foundress of the Felician Sisters, established the order with a clear focus on providing care and support for those in the community who were the most vulnerable and marginalized, regardless of background or circumstances.

Her caring intent has been a cornerstone of the care Angela Hospice has provided since our own founding in Livonia in 1985. Since that date of inception, we have opened our hospice hearts and offered refuge under our wing to any in our community needing care and support at end of life.

In this spirit, the Angela Hospice Executive Team and Board of Directors Executive Committee have made the decision to provide our hospice care for those in need at this time, including people in our community that have been stricken with COVID-19. Indeed, we have already been providing care for individuals with COVID-19 where they are living in the community.

Due to the number of cases in metro Detroit and th…

"Closing the Distance" Video Series

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Episode 1 How COVID-19 is a Unique Cause of Grief
Episode 2 How to Manage the Grief that COVID-19 Brings
Episode 3 How COVID-19 Has Changed End-of-Life Traditions
Episode 4 Relaxing With Adult Coloring Books
Episode 5 Gratitude Journals
 See our video series Tips and Activities When Children Are Grieving

Detroit Catholic Central Moms Celebrate Hospice Workers During COVID-19

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A group of Detroit Catholic Central High School moms decided they wanted to do something special for our clinical staff, who have been working so hard in the midst of this stressful COVID-19 health crisis. The women coordinated with nurse Kelly Campbell, Home Care Clinical Supervisor for Angela Hospice, whose son recently graduated from Catholic Central.

On Wednesday, the group set up 40 handmade signs outside our Care Center facility and along the driveway, to encourage and cheer our healthcare workers. They also tied big white ribbons around the trees to show support for front-line medical staff.

Helen Balmforth, Angela Hospice Development and Special Events Manager, related that some staff members teared up when they saw what the Catholic Central moms had done. “I think, for some, it’s an emotional release to see that,” Helen explained. “I think it has a real impact on people.”

The group also brought two large cases of toilet paper. Each roll is individually wrapped so staff could …

How You Can Help Our Healthcare Workers

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If you've been wondering what you can do to help healthcare workers who are dedicated to serving the most vulnerable in our community, there are opportunities for you to help.

Angela Hospice is collecting personal protective equipment (PPE) and crucial supplies that will aid our team members during this health crisis.

You can help by donating unused/unopened supplies you might have at home. These items include:

Hand sanitizer99.9% isopropyl alcoholDisposable medical gownsFace shieldsN95 face masks – especially smallsSurgical face masksHandmade face masksIsolation gownsHandmade medical gowns – click for video tutorialPlastic ponchosPlastic transparency sheetsDisposable medical glovesElastomeric respirators (used by painters)Thermometers1/4" width or smaller elastic
A donation bin will be at the northwest covered entrance of our Care Center at 14100 Newburgh Road, Livonia, MI 48154.

Thank you for your willingness to help during this challenging time. When we all work together, …

Coronavirus Resources

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Amid the rise in cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. and Michigan, we have certain protocols and procedures put in place during this unprecedented heath crisis. To protect the health and safety of our patients, clients, staff, and caregivers, Angela Hospice has had to make the difficult decision to postpone the following programs until further notice:
In-Person Grief Support GroupsClick here to visit our Facebook page for our virtual grief support offeringsNobody Grieves Alone: A Virtual Support Group for COVID-19 LossBeginning the Journey Virtual Grief Support GroupLiving with Grief Virtual Support GroupLoss of a Spouse Virtual Support GroupArt TherapyMemorial ServicesVolunteer Services, with the exception of direct patient care supportSpecial Events, including Tai Chi and community eventsMass in the Angela Hospice Chapel We have also put in place a new Visitor Protocoleffective March 24, 2020, a new Home Care Visit Protocoleffective March 24, 2020 and a new Care Center COVID-19 Wing effect…