Education is Critical to Understanding Hospice Options

A wise philosopher once said, “Education is the ability to meet life’s situations.”

That’s especially applicable to understanding all the options offered by a hospice organization, according to Jennifer Radaz, education manager at Emmanuel Hospice.

“As we make contacts, we’re constantly assessing a person’s educational needs when it comes to hospice,” she says. “One of our main goals is to inform, and help patients and caregivers understand the scope of our services and how we operate.”

Radaz says that often means countering misconceptions about hospice care, including the mistaken notion that you must necessarily be within your last hours or days to receive services

“As a result, we see a lot of late referrals, where people have been ill for some time and were unaware they could have had all of our services a long time beforehand,” Radaz notes. “The longer hospice is able to develop a relationship with a patient and their family, the better we can care and prepare them both for what lies ahead.”

Radaz points to critically ill cardiac patients in particular, noting that heart disease is the number one killer of Americans, and yet those suffering from heart disease typically wait too long to summon hospice for assistance. They sometimes receive only a few days’ care when, in reality, they qualified for hospice and could have taken advantage of hospice services for weeks or even months prior to their deaths.

Another misconception that Emmanuel seeks to address is that a hospice takes over with a plan of their own.

“We do not come in with an agenda,” Radaz explains. “Rather, we’re there to work with family and other caregivers, eager to know what matters to them, and how we can best address their needs. We don’t offer a one-size-fits-all.”

Emmanuel also strives to educate people that their brand of hospice care is funded by Medicare and private donations to support programs, like complementary therapies. This enables Emmanuel to provide core nursing, pain management, grief support and related services, as well as complementary therapies that bring music, massage, art and much more to the bedside.

“We want to approach people on multiple levels for their pain and management,” Radaz says, “and part of that is providing those soothing human touches that aren’t addressed by conventional medicine.”

Educating the public doesn’t stop at patients and caregivers, she emphasizes. Emmanuel, for instance, is constantly seeking ways to make connections with communities of caregivers that includes doctors, nurses and social workers. In fact, much of what they offer in a formal setting will count toward continuing education hours for health professionals.

Additionally, Emmanuel often delivers presentations at businesses, organizations, colleges and universities and professional conferences to promote better understanding of hospice and its benefits. The nonprofit also reaches out to retirement communities and medical facilities, continually exploring new ways to share its mission, philosophy and array of services with those who need it most.

“We believe that information is key,” Radaz explains, “and that it’s wonderful to be informed. We’re happy to provide that information in whatever setting is comfortable for that person. And there’s never any obligation. Sometimes, people aren’t ready to sign on for hospice; they just want to understand their options going forward.

“We’re happy to simply establish a relationship. As changes occur, we can step in, but only when that door is open to us. In the meantime, we’re happy to have those conversations.”

On-Call Hospice Care Supports Patients in Their Hour of Need

When it comes to providing care for its patients, Emmanuel Hospice doesn’t differentiate weekdays from weekends or days from nights. It’s a commitment that runs 24/7/365.

“We do whatever it takes to answer every need, and it doesn’t depend on the hour of day,” says Joyce Robinson-Beck, an extended care nurse for Emmanuel Hospice.

In her role, Robinson-Beck serves as the point person for a larger team of caregivers, who are also available overnight and on weekends. This includes registered nurses, social workers, aides, spiritual caregivers and even a nurse who can handle emergency admissions after-hours.

“When it comes to providing holistic care and compassionate support, we don’t pay too much attention to clocks and calendars,” says Sara Lowe, executive director of Emmanuel Hospice. “We are always at the ready to provide answers and care for our patients in their hour of need – whenever that may be.”

When someone calls the nonprofit provider of hospice care on an evening or weekend, they’ll speak to a registered nurse trained in triage, which is the ability to assign a degree of urgency to an illness or injury. That nurse then communicates with other Emmanuel Hospice personnel, who then process the information and act accordingly.

Sometimes, the situation can be handled by a phone or video call. If a personal visit is warranted, Robinson-Beck says there’s never any hesitation, even if it means repeated visits during the same night.

“Just the other weekend, we had a lady who had fallen to the floor and her husband couldn’t lift her,” Robinson-Beck says. “I went there in an instant and helped get her up. It was two in the morning, but that’s not a factor. You just go.”

She and other members of the extended care team might personally visit up to two dozen or more patients on any given weekend, tending to everything from a need for supplies to altering medications to coaching family members willing to help as caregivers.

“Extended care that provides services at night and on weekends is, to me, the root of what our team depends on,” Robinson-Beck says. “Everybody expects people in place from 9 to 5, but we are always trying to go the extra mile in those so-called off hours as well. It’s our goal to fulfill every need, no matter the time.

“And if you need us there in person, we’re on the way.”

Obituaries Play Key Role in Memorializing Life

Man standing by desk smiling next to vase of flowers- obituary for Eleveld

Obituaries Create Meaning in the Pandemic

How can obituaries bring meaning to loss? The ongoing pandemic has robbed too many of us of life’s bittersweet moments – including the ability to get together for everything from birthday parties to weddings to funerals.

But it hasn’t stopped anyone from commemorating loved ones in a final tribute rendered by their obituary – a way to honor and remember someone and the gifts they brought to this world.

“An obituary can share in anecdotal form the highlights of that person’s life – even against the backdrop of a pandemic that has otherwise created roadblocks,” says Ashley Huisman, bereavement coordinator at Emmanuel Hospice. “Even if we can’t always gather in typical fashion for a final service, the obituary endures as a timeless way of encapsulating the life of someone and who and what they stood for.”

Huisman points to the unusual “nobituary” penned by Emmanuel Hospice patient Bob Eleveld as an example of how significant an obituary can be. Eleveld wrote his own death notice in March 2017, well before the pandemic surfaced.

Most obituaries follow a pattern, says Huisman, beginning with a name, date of death, the cause perhaps, and then followed by a recitation of names, places and events.

A Eulogy for Friends

What Eleveld’s “nobituary” did was thank the living for being his friend, and then invite those who knew him to a party at which he’d intended to be present. Though too weak to attend, Eleveld stayed home while scores showed up and toasted his life and times at a Grand Rapids golf club. Eleveld died the next day, but not before writing in a public way his desire to “share a moment with all of the people who have touched my life in so many ways and to let you know how much you have meant to me.”

Eleveld’s surviving partner of 24 years, Michele McIsaac, still gets chills to recall how her Bob insisted on turning the tables: “I want a party, and I don’t want you to cry,” she says he told her. “I know you will, but I really want this to be a celebration.”

Looking back, McIsaac observes that “it was actually very little about him and his accomplishments as a lawyer and such, and more about him honoring those he’d known and loved.”

Huisman says even if you or your loved one don’t aspire to write a nobituary like Eleveld did, there’s nothing wrong with going off-formula and creating something unique that helps tell the story. Share, for instance, how the person loved dogs, or baked a mean cherry pie or lived for Christmas because it was a way to share her knitting.

“At Emmanuel, we want to celebrate how you live and lived,” Huisman says. “Creating a lasting memory in an obituary is a beautiful way to extend that value. And like everything else at Emmanuel, we’re certainly willing to help people through the process.”

It’s the Season of Giving. Jeff Battershall, son of Phil Battershall, shares his thoughts on his family’s experience with Emmanuel Hospice.

It’s the Season of Giving

Jeff Battershall, son of Phil Battershall, shares his thoughts on his family’s experience with Emmanuel Hospice.

“Even though you might be expecting that call, you’re never really ready to hear: ‘It’s time. You should come to be with your father.’

Emmanuel Hospice was waiting when I arrived, ready to support me and my mother, Shirley, as we prepared to say goodbye to my father, and her husband, Philip, after a 10-year battle with Alzheimer’s.

You’re still not ready to let go, but the team at Emmanuel understands what’s about to happen – and the emotions people are going through. They understand what the family needs, and they provide that so effectively and with so much kindness. Emmanuel has an ability to fill a role no one else can fill at that time to help people through that final stage. It’s really their magical value.

My dad was born and grew up in Metro Detroit before enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps and serving during the Korean War, where he earned the rank of sergeant. He worked his way through Michigan State University, graduating with a degree in economics and starting his career with Dun & Bradstreet. A year later, he married my mother, an elementary school teacher. The year I was born, my parents moved to Grand Rapids so my dad could join the team at Old Kent Bank, where he led commercial loan operations before retiring after a 30-year career in banking.

But retirement didn’t end his commitment to our community nor to his church. He served on so many boards, giving his time and talents to benefit others. About a decade ago, we noticed that some things had become a little more difficult for him in these volunteer roles. After a lifetime of being perfectly organized, dad would misplace a bill or have difficulty balancing a financial statement. We were already spotting some of the cognitive effects of the disease by the time the Alzheimer’s diagnosis was made.

For the next seven years, my dad was able to share a home in Cook Valley with my mom. As his disease progressed, he moved to the Green House® on the Cook campus, just around the corner from their longtime home. My mom and I appreciated the philosophy of the Green House, which was centered on independence, encouraging my dad to set a schedule that was right for him. She visited daily, and he received exceptional care.

In 2020, my dad’s physician, Dr. Tuyen Nguyen contacted me and suggested dad would benefit from hospice. We were very accepting of Emmanuel Hospice being brought in and the protocols they had to help families and make patients feel comfortable – but with the understanding that we weren’t going to do things now with the aim of artificially extending his time.

Emmanuel was really amazing with what they did to help my dad, both from a personal side and a medical side. On the personal side, he had a team of people who visited him often. Those assigned to him became his friends. He so benefited from the complementary services, especially Music Therapy and Pet Visitors. My mom remembers when Miranda brought her harp and sang to my dad – he loved music and would often sit with his eyes closed and listen, keeping the beat with his foot. He found it soothing – and that was a comfort to my mom, particularly when she had to leave him at night.

We always had dogs when I was growing up, and my dad dearly loved dogs. When COVID protections prevented us from bringing our dog to dad, Emmanuel Hospice Pet Visitors stepped in. My dad really enjoyed those visits, holding the leash and petting the dog. Other Emmanuel team members would read to him, do puzzles with him, help with the basics like showering or get his favorite ice creams, butter pecan and chocolate.

On the medical side, Emmanuel helped significantly in his final stages, working in concert with his caregivers. The hospice team and the nurses were proactively involved in monitoring him and coordinating medications and care with the Green House and Dr. Nguyen. My mom and I could tell this was essential – and it made a difference with my dad’s condition and comfort.

Ours is a small family – it’s just me, my mom, my wife and our daughter. Hospice adds an extra layer of care when it’s needed most. The Emmanuel team are experts in helping someone pass with as much peace and dignity as possible. The process of death is not intuitive or easy for others. People may feel resistance, anguish or fear. Emmanuel is able to help the person who is dying and their family to move forward.

My dad was 91 when he passed away in September. He and my mother had just celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary. We are both glad we involved Emmanuel early in his care. My mother called it a gift, commenting how wonderful it was that these services were being offered for our benefit by incredibly warm, kind and wonderful people. That gift continues after his passing through follow-up calls and bereavement services, which my mother finds to be helpful and comforting.

While you may not be ready to make that call, consider how much help and comfort Emmanuel Hospice can provide to a loved one who is in the last chapter of life. Knowing you are giving that person the best help you can is a source of peace to the family.”

With gratitude,

Jeff Battershall, son of Phil Battershall

We can’t do it without you.
Your gift ensures that families in West Michigan receive quality care without the worry of expense. With your help, more stories, laughter and comfort are possible.

The care that Emmanuel Hospice provides goes beyond what Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance companies pay. Your generosity ensures that families throughout West Michigan will receive quality care without the worry of expense. It means that more stories will be told, more laughter will be shared and more comfort will be provided to families in our community.

Emmanuel Hospice to Offer Free ‘Handling the Holidays’ Grief Support Groups

Emmanuel Hospice will host free grief support sessions to help community members cope with grief and loss during the holiday season.

The events are open to anyone in the community regardless of whether they have a prior connection with the nonprofit organization or hospice care. They are designed to help those who have experienced the death of a loved one continue their grief journey with support during the holidays, a time when so many are celebrating.

“Navigating grief can be challenging at any time, but the added stress of the holidays and the ongoing pandemic can be especially tough to manage,” said Merrin Bethel, bereavement coordinator for Emmanuel Hospice. “These free sessions will help individuals who are struggling connect with an understanding community and learn how to manage expectations this season.”

The upcoming “Handling the Holidays” sessions will be held in person on:
Monday, Nov. 22 from 11 a.m.-noon
Tuesday, Dec. 7 from 10:30 a.m.-noon
Tuesday, Dec. 14 from 6-7:30 p.m.

On Tuesday, Jan. 11, the organization will host a session on planning for the New Year amid loss and grief from 10:30 a.m.-noon.

All the events will take place in the first-floor conference room of the 401 Hall St. SW office building. The entrance is through the southwest corner of the building.

Attendees are asked to wear a face covering and practice physical distancing. Those who are interested in attending are encouraged to RSVP to or 616.719.0919.

In addition to leading support groups, Emmanuel Hospice provides support through counseling, education and referrals to community resources to help individuals cope with all stages of grief. The nonprofit makes personal calls, coordinates workshops and shares inspirational materials that give comfort and encouragement. More information is available at

About Emmanuel Hospice
Emmanuel Hospice is a faith-based nonprofit provider of compassionate, person-centered hospice care to patients and families in West Michigan. Serving the community since 2013, the organization is a collaborative effort of St. Ann’s, Clark, Porter Hills and Sunset designed to complete the continuum by providing end-of-life care to those inside – and outside – the walls of these organizations. For more information, visit