Volunteer of the Quarter - Staci Cummings - Heart 'n Home Hospice & Palliative Care, LLC
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Volunteer of the Quarter – Staci Cummings

Congratulations Staci Cummings, La Pine Heart ‘n Home Volunteer! We are so grateful for her service and huge heart for those around her!

Imagine this: you’ve been a Hospice Volunteer for a while. You’ve dropped off flowers from time to time, made some projects with the Youth Volunteers, and perhaps you’ve been in charge of birthday cards for patients. But then, a close friend comes on hospice services.

If you’re Staci Cummings, your volunteer style changes dramatically.

It began when a man named Doug put his wife Nancy (names changed for privacy) on hospice services after a long battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. Doug tried everything he could, and even took his wife all the way to Australia for experimental treatment. Eventually it became clear that Nancy’s disease was so advanced that it was time to simply make her comfortable and allow her to live out her days in Doug’s care with the support of Heart ‘n Home.

Staci was Nancy’s friend for a long time and she watched Nancy’s journey. She then referred Doug to our local Heart ‘n Home office. Staci lovingly volunteered for Nancy, only reporting a few hours here and there as a Volunteer and supporting Doug and Nancy as a family friend throughout the week.

One solemn day, Doug called Staci in a panic. He was in severe pain and needed to be rushed to the emergency room. Staci stayed with Nancy all day while Doug was at the hospital, where he eventually was diagnosed with end-stage liver cancer. Doug came on our services immediately so we could administer comfort measures. We helped to place Nancy in an adult foster home so Doug could trust she was taken care of. Staci took him to his paracentesis appointments, which were about 80 miles round trip. She did so with love and care and tenderness only a family member could, with the skill and expertise of a highly trained Heart ‘n Home Volunteer.

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Staci Cummings, La Pine Volunteer

Earlier I said that Staci would be most likely found making Valentine’s Day cards for patients or coordinating the Youth Volunteer projects. Staci ended up being at bedside as often as she could and we had planned to schedule an 11th Hour Training just for her. “I couldn’t do this for anyone else, but I have to be there for him,” she said.  She was able to be with him when he passed away.

We are thankful for Staci. La Pine is a better place with Staci in it, and our community benefits from her passion for hospice and caring for her friends and neighbors. I wish I didn’t know what it looked like when patients do not have someone in their corner- unfortunately this happens too often. Doug was not one of those people. Doug had a champion rooting for him until the end.

Joelle Brown
La Pine Volunteer Coordinator
Heart ‘n Home Hospice & Palliative Care, LLC

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Caregiver’s Bill of Rights

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CAREGIVER’S BILL OF RIGHTS

I have the right to take care of myself.
This is not an act of selfishness.
It will enable me to take better care of my loved one.

 I have the right to seek help from others
even though my loved one may object. I know the
limits of my own endurance and strength.

I have the right to maintain parts of my own life
that do not include the person I care for,
just as I would if he/she were healthy.
I know that I do everything that I reasonably
can do for this person. I have the right
to do some things just for myself.

I have the right to get angry, be depressed, and
express difficult feelings once in a while.

I have the right to reject any attempt by my
loved one to make me do things out of guilt or anger
(it doesn’t matter if he knows he is doing it or not).

I have the right to get consideration, affection,
forgiveness, and acceptance
for what I do for
my loved one, as I offer these in return.

I have the right to take pride in what I’m doing.

 I have the right to applaud the courage it takes
to meet the needs of my loved one.

 I have the right to protect my individuality.
I also have the right to a life that will sustain me in times when my loved one no longer needs my full-time help.

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Top Fears of Caregivers – Getting Sick

“’Tis healthy to be sick sometimes.” Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862).

We may not like it but getting sick is a part of life and Thoreau may have been onto something. After all, being sick usually means we can stay home from work or school, lie in bed or on the sofa in our pajamas, and maybe even get taken care of for a couple of days. But for professional caregivers and individuals caring for a loved one in the home, coming down with cold or flu can be a huge inconvenience and stressor – and you don’t want to spread illness to anyone, especially your patient. Newborns, the disabled and elderly, and those with chronic diseases are most at risk for contracting illness.

At Heart ‘n Home, we encourage good health and well-being for our patients and their families, employees, and Volunteers through proper diet, regular exercise (if able), staying hydrated, “me time,” and getting plenty of sleep.

Taking some precautions during cold and flu season is important, especially for caregivers so as not to spread germs to already vulnerable patients. Here are some ways to protect yourself and those around at home and work:

  • Stay away if you have symptoms! Don’t go to work, school, or to see your patient. Instead, see your doctor.
  • Wash your hands frequently, scrubbing for at least 15-20 seconds (sing “Happy Birthday” to yourself to be sure you’re taking enough time).
  • Carry hand sanitizer at all times and use it frequently.
  • When in public places, avoid touching door handles, stair and escalator rails, countertops, magazines, even pens. Best is to have a paper towel in your hand but if that’s not practical, wash your hands after contact.
  • Planning a trip? Remember that the close quarters of an airplane, train, or bus can harbor germs. Build up your immune system ahead of time with an over-the-counter supplement or preventative vitamin.
  • Feel a sneeze or cough coming on? Grab a tissue! According to ABC News Chief Health and Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser, the safest way to sneeze is into a tissue because 100% of the germs expelled during a sneeze (which can travel up to 10 or more feet away) are trapped in the tissue. No tissues handy? The next best thing is to sneeze or cough into the interior of your elbow. Watch

Finally, take a few extra precautions. Wear gloves when handling contaminated waste (diapers, dressings, sanitary products) or even ordinary household trash. When doing laundry, wear gloves if linens are soiled. Hold linens away from your body, don’t shake, and wash separately from household laundry. Change bathroom towels and washcloths daily. Store food properly and dispose of anything questionable or past the expiration date. Don’t let anyone with a weakened immune system handle or change fish tank water, bird droppings, or cat litter. Wear a mask or gloves if changing these things for a patient. Whenever possible, let fresh air circulate throughout the home. It may be “healthy to be sick sometimes,” but it sure is more fun to be healthy!

Tips for avoiding the flu.

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