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.”

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 ehbreavement@emmanuelhospice.org 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 EmmanuelHospice.org/grief-support.

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 EmmanuelHospice.org.

Volunteers: The Backbone of Emmanuel Hospice

The United States reportedly relies on more than 60 million volunteers.

Emmanuel Hospice is proud to count some four dozen of them among its ranks, men and women characterized as a “huge blessing” by Jackie Chandler, who serves as volunteer coordinator for the nonprofit provider of hospice care.

“Our ranks include volunteers who see patients face-to-face, as well as office volunteers, folks who make bereavement calls to families who have lost a loved one, and volunteers who check in to make sure homes and independent living facilities have the supplies they need,” she says. “To say we’re grateful for their selfless service would be a huge understatement.”

Chandler is especially thankful for Emmanuel volunteers during the ongoing pandemic, which has completely shut down other volunteer programs at some hospices nationally.

“We’re working extra hard to stay connected and keep our people engaged,” she says.

Those who work in close proximity to patients, she stresses, undergo rigorous training that includes understanding how to use personal protection equipment and abide by protocols that safeguard human health.

Kathy Kregel is among the active volunteers at Emmanuel Hospice these days, a Wisconsin native and married mother of three who moved to Michigan in 1983. She worked for a grocery chain and at other jobs before retiring in 2018 and deciding to pitch in at Emmanuel.

“Growing up, I had a really good friend who had Down Syndrome,” Kregel explains. “That gave me a heart for just being a friend to those in need.”

Kregel’s motivation to assist others also stems from enduring the deaths of both parents and a sister-in-law over the last dozen years. And in her own words, “When I volunteer, I’m reflecting Jesus’ love and Jesus’ smile.”

Chandler remembers first meeting with Kregel, showing her a list of patients seeking someone to visit them. Kregel’s first question was, “Who’s been waiting the longest?” Chandler answered that it was someone who lived an hour away. “I’ll take him,” Kregel said.

According to Chandler, most of Emmanuel’s volunteers serve in companion roles to patients and families. Close behind are those involved in providing pet visits. On the rise are veterans stepping up to volunteer to support other veterans who are hospice patients.

Chandler is both awed and humbled by the West Michigan culture that seems to be especially benevolent.

“There are a lot of faith roots here,” she notes. “It’s a deep sense of community, almost as though we feel a responsibility to participate and give back. People who live in this region are unique that way.”

Kregel acknowledges she gets more in return than what she gets when she volunteers, and that she does it in part to honor the legacy of her own late parents.

“Being part of Emmanuel Hospice is an opportunity to honor people who have gone before you,” she explains. “And Emmanuel has been just amazing to volunteer for. I love who they are, and everything they stand for.”

Executive Director Sara Lowe Joins Michigan HomeCare & Hospice Association Board of Directors

Sara Lowe, executive director of Emmanuel Hospice, has been elected to the Michigan HomeCare & Hospice Association Board of Directors for a two-year term.

MHHA is a state trade association representing more than 300 members from the home care and hospice industry and is the primary provider of home health education in Michigan. Its 16-member board provides oversight of all MHHA activities, including legislative and regulatory advocacy, and the continued advancement of home care best practices.

“I’m honored by the opportunity to represent Emmanuel Hospice through this role on the board of the Michigan HomeCare & Hospice Association,” Lowe said. “MHHA’s commitment to the continued advancement of health care in our state is right in line with Emmanuel’s efforts to expand the boundaries of care for our patients and their loved ones.

“I look forward to contributing to the ongoing efforts of MHHA to positively impact the home health care and hospice industry.”

MHHA was established in 1981 and serves as the “unified voice, principal resource and advocate for the success of its member organizations as best practice providers of home health, hospice, private duty, home medical equipment and pharmacy-infusion services for the residents of Michigan.”

The association supports and promotes cost-saving projects and industry research. It also facilitates “understanding, cooperation and communication among home health care providers” and serves as a liaison with other organizations at local, state and national levels.

More information about the trade association is available at MHHA.org.

Emmanuel Hospice’s Virtual Annual Celebration to Benefit Quality End-of-Life Care, Provide Support for Families

Emmanuel Hospice invites the West Michigan community to join its virtual annual celebration from Sept. 22–Oct. 1.

Presented by CareLinc Medical Equipment, the online signature event will offer supporters, wherever they are, an opportunity to engage with the organization’s mission as frequently as they wish at emmanuelhospice.org/annualcelebration.

The event page will feature inspirational stories from those the nonprofit has served, a silent auction and opportunities to invest in the future of Emmanuel Hospice.

This is the second year Emmanuel has hosted its signature event virtually due to COVID-19. The nonprofit hopes to build on the success of last year’s online event, which raised more than $55,000.

“Our team is known for meeting each person exactly where they are, and for meeting each challenge with creativity and compassion,” said Sara Lowe, executive director of Emmanuel Hospice. “In that same spirit, we’re keeping with last year’s successful virtual experience model to safely celebrate our work with the community.

“We invite all families, caregivers, volunteers and community members to join us to expand the boundaries of care, ensuring every last moment is cherished and lived with integrity.”

This year’s event goal is to raise $75,000 to support Emmanuel Hospice complementary therapies and services, including funding for a new complementary service, the Art Legacy program.

Art Legacy is designed to engage patients by encouraging self-expression while assisting in symptom management, supporting memories and providing connection between the patient, loved ones and Emmanuel care team. Art Legacy allows the patient the ability to control and create, which can also offer caregivers new insight into a patient’s life or their thoughts and feelings during their hospice journey.

Funds will also be used to support new programs that rely on technology, which has long been a part of Emmanuel’s holistic approach to serving its patients and families – and made more critical by the pandemic.

In 2020, Emmanuel launched a new telehealth program to continue serving patients and facilitate family interaction amid visitor restrictions in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Emmanuel’s nurses, social workers, spiritual caregivers, music therapists and other team members are able to provide virtual care at the bedside through the use of iPads and specially designed transport carts.

Technology has also been integrated with many of Emmanuel’s complementary therapies and services to provide support and overcome barriers. For example, the use of virtual reality headsets and videos through the Flight To Remember Foundation allow patients to tour a meaningful location they’re unable to visit physically. The virtual annual celebration will highlight these offerings, new programs and other unique aspects about the nonprofit organization.

Andy Holtgreive, a consultant of ARIA Show Technology, one of the annual celebration’s sponsors, said Emmanuel Hospice’s early adoption of technology is a reflection of the organization’s commitment to continual improvement.

“Emmanuel Hospice is a tremendously progressive organization in everything they do from the care they provide to the way they engage the community,” Holtgreive said. “With the end user in mind, Emmanuel Hospice creates the highest level of virtual value and meaning for their community of supporters with a clear intention and purpose to their mission.”

With more than 90 team members and growing, the hospice care provider is now serving more than 175 patients daily in Kent and the surrounding counties. The organization also provides grief counseling and support services annually to more than 2,000 family members and community members.

Emmanuel Hospice has twice been named one of West Michigan’s Best and Brightest Companies to Work For by the National Association for Business Resources for its commitment to excellence in human resource practices and employee enrichment. In 2020, the nonprofit provider of hospice care also received recognition on the national level.


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 www.emmanuelhospice.org.