Home is Where the Heart is – and How That Heart is Cared for

Two sobering facts to consider: One, that heart-related disease is the leading cause of death among U.S. adults. And two, that hospice care is vastly underutilized by that very population.

“There’s a big gap,” says Melissa Page, director of clinical services at Emmanuel Hospice. That’s why she and her colleagues have been aggressively advocating for more education and awareness revolving around Emmanuel’s Heart & Soul Advanced Cardiac Program.

It’s a toolkit of sorts, linked in with a program developed by the National Partnership for Healthcare and Hospice Innovation in collaboration with the American Heart Association. The goal is to ensure patients with heart disease and their loved ones are well informed so symptoms can be managed safely at home, reducing trips to the ER or hospital.

A mainstay of the collaboration is a 32-page Advanced Cardiac Care Guide, which includes valuable information on everything from recognizing symptoms to dietary recommendations. Many patients living with end-stage heart disease are burdened by visits to the doctor’s office, emergency room and hospital due to breathing difficulties, edema, fatigue and other worsening symptoms.

Such exacerbations can often be prevented or managed by hospice and palliative care, says Julie Chambers, a nurse case manager for Emmanuel.

“With hospice care, it’s more about providing comfort,” Chambers says. “And that can mean fewer visits to offices and more time with family enjoying a higher quality of life while still collaborating with a cardiac team to treat anything from breathing issues to swollen limbs to fluctuations in weight and appetite.”

“We’re seeking ways to include people already involved with the patient’s care, while also folding in all the services our organization provides,” Page adds.

To that end, Chambers and Page and other team members at Emmanuel Hospice are constantly looking for ways to help make cardiologists and other professionals aware of the benefits hospice can provide.

“When hospice care is part of the formula, we see lower anxiety levels, less fear of the unknown and fewer feelings of helplessness,” Chambers says. “It’s all part of putting the patient at ease, a different culture of care.”

Support might include regular visits from Emmanuel Hospice experts, and can extend beyond traditional care to complementary therapies and services involving everything from massage to music to essential oils.

Chambers and Page emphasize that people affected by cardiac disease either personally or through a loved one can reach out with questions at any time, even if they’re not experiencing end-stage symptoms.

“Death doesn’t need to be imminent,” Page says. “It’s OK to simply call and say, ‘I’d like to know more about this.’”

“It’s also important for people to know that they’re not ‘giving up’ when they reach out to us,” adds Chambers. “We’re fighting against that stigma, that ‘If I’m going on hospice, I’m giving up.’ No. You’re choosing what you want, and we’re here to honor that choice.”

For more information about Heart & Soul, visit EmmanuelHospice.org/cardiac-care.



Teleios Announces Addition of Emmanuel Hospice to Network

Hendersonville, NC   January 11, 2024:  Teleios Collaborative Network (TCN) announced the addition of Emmanuel Hospice to its clinically integrated network, expanding the nonprofit’s resources, tools and expertise in order to grow its presence and services in West Michigan.

Emmanuel Hospice is an interfaith provider of compassionate, person-centered hospice care to patients and their loved ones in West Michigan. Serving the community since 2013, the nonprofit draws on a team approach that focuses holistically on mind, body and spirit, working to enhance each patient’s life with a combination of expert medical care, spiritual counseling and complementary therapies and services – because hospice is more about living than dying.

From its base in Grand Rapids, Emmanuel Hospice serves nearly 700 patients each year in eight counties, including all of Kent and Ottawa counties and portions of Allegan, Barry, Newaygo, Ionia, Montcalm and Muskegon. Joining TCN will enable the nonprofit provider to enhance its holistic end-of-life services and support more individuals facing serious, life-limiting illnesses within the communities it serves.

“We are thrilled to join the Teleios Collaborative,” said Sara Lowe, Emmanuel Hospice executive director. “This is an opportunity to expand the resources, tools and expertise of our already talented team at Emmanuel Hospice, which will allow us to remain true to our mission, grow our presence and provide leading-edge quality services and supports to West Michigan.

“As a member of the network, we will have access to best practices, quality benchmarking and subject matter experts that will help us continuously improve and grow in a sustainable fashion, while remaining centered on care that reflects the communities we serve.”

“This is a great way to start 2024 by adding a high-quality hospice to our TCN Network,” said Chris Comeaux, Teleios Collaborative Network President/CEO. “There are so many challenges headed our way in hospice, and our TCN Network believes that we are better together than we are individually. We look forward to working with the Emmanuel Hospice team to ensure Care As It Should Be, TCN’s mission, is improving daily because this is what the future should be about in healthcare for the communities where our members serve. We look forward to doing that together.”

Teleios Collaborative Network is a nonprofit organization that has created a clinically integrated network that shares expert leadership, industry best practices and resources with its member organizations. The goal of TCN’s collaboration is to harness the best of each hospice and enable the network to care for the patients and families in each community served. There are over 3,500 hospice patients and over 4,300 palliative patients in its network. TCN was founded in 2017 by Four Seasons and Carolina Caring and co-founded by AMOREM and Mountain Valley organizations. TCN is currently comprised of 14 member organizations across 10 states.

More information about TCN can be found at teleioscn.org. To learn more about Emmanuel Hospice, visit EmmanuelHospice.org.

In Hospice Care, Essential Oils can Soothe, Invigorate

How to help combat tension? Maybe lavender.

Wish you could feel a bit more energized? Try lemon.

As for improving congestion and mental focus? Peppermint, perhaps.

In hospice care, these and other essential oils are finding their way into the mainstream as ways to minimize adverse reactions and maximize therapeutic benefits, often in conjunction with other methods of treatment.

At Emmanuel Hospice, essential oils have been part of the care team’s toolkit for upwards of five years now, relying on 100% natural extracts from plants which support the holistic wellbeing of mind, body and spirit.

“We currently utilize four essential oils,” explains Jenny Kellogg, Emmanuel’s support programs manager. “There’s lavender, a light and floral scent, which can ease feelings of tension, and sometimes reduce a person’s anxiety and even help calm them and promote restful sleep.

“Then there’s lemon, a bright and citrusy scent, which can be used for odor control and for uplifting moods, sort of like the opposite of lavender.

“The third is frankincense, an earthy scent with a Biblical tie-in, which can help with emotional balance and spiritual awareness. A patient might be struggling with their diagnosis, and frankincense can offer some respite from those feelings.

“The fourth is peppermint, a cool and refreshing scent, which can help with multiple things. It can clear congestion, improve mental focus and help with nausea and headaches.”

Kellogg stresses that Emmanuel only uses essential oils procured from a reputable supplier, rather than diluted oils you might purchase in some retail stores. In any case, Emmanuel limits their use to only a few drops at a time that are diffused into the air, sprayed onto linens or applied sparingly to a piece of felt that can be pinned to clothing.

The reaction patients have to the oils can vary.

“Like with most things, reactions are different,” Kellogg says. “All oils are unique in their scent and utilization. It offers a person-centered approach to symptom management based on each patient’s preferences and needs.

“A lot of times, people will gravitate toward lavender oil because it helps them sleep, or puts them at ease. And others like lemon oil because it can improve energy and promote an invigorating environment.”

Since essential oils are so potent, they’re used with extreme care. Emmanuel uses protocols about how much to use in a diffuser or the correct amount to spray into the air or introduce to clothing or bedding. It takes 60 pounds of lavender to produce just one ounce of its essential oil. For the same amount of essential lemon oil, 90 lemons are required.

Though there are studies demonstrating health benefits from essential oils, Kellogg says “some patients connect with and believe in oils more than others.”

“This is just another way we offer patient’s choice in their plan of care and ways to improve their quality of life,” she adds.

Overall, they serve as a valid alternative to some medications, and represent “an important tool for us, especially for patients who hesitate to add more medications to their list.”

Essential oils are one of many complementary therapies and services Emmanuel Hospice offers that can be used alongside pharmaceutical approaches or as an alternative to enhance each patient’s life. Others include massage therapy, music therapy, pet visitors and virtual reality, to name a few.

“It’s all about how best to treat the patient and the patient’s family,” Kellogg says. “If essential oils can help, we’ll make them part of the journey.”

For more information about holistic end-of-life care, visit EmmanuelHospice.org or call 616.719.0919.

Even on Holidays, Hospice Heeds no Clock or Calendar

In the words of Joyce Robinson-Beck, “We never close.”

But she’s not employed at an all-night diner or 24-hour convenience store.

Robinson-Beck is a long-time registered nurse for Emmanuel Hospice, where the critical mission of providing personalized care and comfort doesn’t bow to the clock or calendar.

“No matter the hour of the day, no matter what time of year, people have needs, and it’s our privilege to serve them,” she says. “And that goes for holidays – Christmas and New Year’s included.”

Waiting to start hospice care until after the holidays is a common inclination, but hospice services can provide the necessary care and comfort to support both patients and their loved ones during what is already an overwhelming time of year. Having this support can enable families to focus more on cherishing their time together.

“Holidays are stressful enough,” Robinson-Beck says. “There are so many expectations already in place, and when you are in need of healthcare, that just intensifies the situation. So we make it our responsibility to be there, and in what can be the toughest of times.”

According to Robinson-Beck, Emmanuel strives to return a call for service within five minutes. The care team then does everything possible to respond to the need within an hour – which is a pretty tall order for a hospice organization whose service area translates to a 50-mile radius.

Just last winter during the holidays, Robinson-Beck recalls a situation where a patient’s daughter called late at night and needed to admit her mother for hospice care.

Despite a blizzard raging, “We were able to bring her meds, equipment and pretty much everything she needed to receive care in that daughter’s home rather than enter a hospital.”

Robinson-Beck says many calls received during the holidays – and after traditional daytime business hours in general – are from older caregivers who are unable to return a patient to their bed following a fall.

“That happens more than people realize,” she says. “These days, people are living longer, and it’s not unusual for a caregiver to be in their 70s or 80s or even 90s, and unable to lift that loved one.”

The reaction Emmanuel receives from its patients and caregivers?

“They’re incredibly grateful,” Robinson-Beck says. “They may be initially hesitant to call us during a holiday, for example, because they don’t want to be a bother. But when they realize this is something we do and want to do, they’re amazed, and it humbles us.”

For Robinson-Beck and many of her colleagues, stepping up at all hours of the day and times of the year isn’t just an obligation or duty.

“It fulfills the needs we have as caregivers ourselves,” she explains. “The way I see it, God gives us all gifts, and it’s on us to uphold that responsibility.”

Her job was made more complicated this past year due to the passing of a brother-in-law this past fall, an uncle seven months ago and her mother five months ago.

“I’ve been really sad since my mother passed away. But I know I have a job to do. And I can hear my mother’s voice whispering  ‘Go back to work, Joyce. You’re needed’.”

That work, says Robinson-Beck, “fills my cup, and there’s no bigger calling.”

Anyone can connect a loved one with Emmanuel Hospice. You don’t need a physician referral to begin the process. Visit EmmanuelHospice.org or call 616.719.0919 to learn more.

Shared Bond Among Veterans Supports Hospice Care Journey

At Emmanuel Hospice, you might say Veterans Day is every day when it comes to providing patient care to those who have served in our country’s military.

Just ask Jim Parent, a mostly retired machine repairman, who never thought that his own service in the U.S. Marines more than a half century ago would set the stage for how he gives back to fellow veterans receiving end-of-life care.

“It was a couple of years ago when I turned to my wife, Mary, and said, ‘You know, I’m thinking of retiring, and she said, ‘Well, you might want to look into volunteering,’” Parent said.

So, he did. In exploring his options, Parent learned of something sponsored by Emmanuel Hospice dubbed its “veteran-to-veteran” program. Open to veterans and active-duty service members in West Michigan, the volunteer program offers an opportunity to provide companionship and support to veterans facing a life-limiting illness.

The first patient he saw was so disconnected from friends, family and community that, had it not been for Parent’s efforts, his funeral would have been attended by no one.

“He was in his late 50s, and even though we were fellow Marines, he didn’t want to talk about much at first,” Parent recalled. “He had children earlier in life, but I never saw any family or friends with him during my visits to his facility.”

Parent, whose own service was in Vietnam in 1969, was able to gain the vet’s trust in part by showing him magic tricks he learned via YouTube. Along the way, Parent had assured the veteran that when he passed, he would not be alone.

When he died on a cool day the next spring, Parent and four team members from Emmanuel attended his funeral at Fort Custer in Battle Creek.

“We were able to keep that promise, providing him a military funeral with a 21-gun salute,” he said. “I guess you could say Emmanuel was his family.”

Parent has since spent time with a half-dozen other veterans, whose stories are the stuff of legends, including one World War II vet who turns 102 soon and, at 100, was still piloting around his 400-plus horsepower Chevrolet Camaro.

Another WWII vet – also still living, at age 97 – grew up dirt-poor in a West Virginia coal-mining town and quit school at 14 because he was tired of being teased about his shoes, which were fashioned from cardboard and tape. He worked the mines until he was 17, then joined the U.S. Navy.

Parent says he receives more out of his volunteering than he gives.

“I get so much from their stories, and it makes me a better person, more aware of the different paths they walk, that we all walk,” he said. “I guess I’m cultivating a little empathy, too. And it’s a great learning experience.”

For his service, Emmanuel Hospice awarded him the Sister Gabriela Caring Spirit Award to honor him as the 2022 volunteer of the year.

Parent was humbled to receive the honor. The award recognizes a volunteer who carries with them the mission and vision of Emmanuel Hospice and who goes above and beyond with their compassion for patients and their families. It is named after Sister M. Gabriela Hilke, the founding visionary behind the creation of Emmanuel Hospice and the award’s first recipient.

“Jim embodies what we look for in all our team members and volunteers – the ability and willingness to go that extra mile for all the people we serve,” said Sara Lowe, Emmanuel Hospice executive director. “He’s an excellent example of all that we try to be, and to bring to our people.”

Emmanuel Hospice is seeking more volunteers for its veteran-to-veteran volunteer program, which is offered year-round for patients. Those who are interested may visit EmmanuelHospice.org/volunteer to learn more and register.