Caregivers Need to Focus on Themselves While Administering to Others

You matter, too.

That’s the message organizations like Emmanuel Hospice tries to convey to friends and family members caught up in a whirlwind of challenges that come with caring for a loved one who is sick or dying.

“Patients are our main focus,” says Ashley Huisman, a social worker for seven years who serves as bereavement manager at Emmanuel. “But at the same time, we’re there for family members as well, reminding them that as they work to care for someone, they need to acknowledge that they have rights and responsibilities, too. To eat well. Sleep enough. Take care of themselves.”

Huisman likens it to the instructions flight attendants provide passengers when they emphasize that if masks drop from the ceiling, it’s important for adults to put theirs on first, and then help any children in need.

“The same thing holds true of caregivers,” she says. “They need to be healthy first in order to administer to others.”

As part of a resource tool kit Emmanuel provides, Huisman hands out a “Caregiver Bill of Rights” to those who find themselves feeling “run down or run over” by the effects of stress that comes with aiding a loved one.

“It says I have the right to take care of myself, to be angry or depressed, to express virtually any emotion as part of the process,” she explains. “They need to remind themselves that it’s often natural to become sad or frustrated, and that those aren’t the only feelings that come into play.”

Huisman notes that it’s not uncommon for a caregiver to feel satisfied and accomplished in the morning, only to have things disintegrate later when a patient lashes out, creating a “caregiver roller-coaster” that amps up the stress level.

“It can go back and forth quickly,” says Huisman, “prompting some caregivers to move from confident to ‘I don’t know if I can do this for another minute.”

Huisman offers these tips to those serving as caregivers:

  • Keep a journal of what works, what doesn’t and ways that seem to decrease anxiety
  • Don’t go it alone; reach out to professionals for advice
  • Attend group sessions and workshops to lessen the load and discover coping strategies

She also recommends tapping into a free, secure website like, which offers advice on everything from advanced directives to funeral options to how to write your life story. It can serve as a fluid tool to help deal with day-to-day stressors.

Finally, Huisman encourages caregivers to understand the concept of “anticipatory grief,” which acknowledges the profound sadness that can surface well before someone passes.

“Grief doesn’t always happen after someone dies,” she says. “It can occur before as well, so we’re here to help caregivers anticipate what’s to come.”

Bottom line: Be good to yourself so you can be at your very best in the role as caregiver.

“You need to affirm your own self-worth and value,” says Huisman. “You’re a person, too, and you matter.”

Emmanuel Hospice Hosts Annual Celebration to Benefit Quality End-of-Life Care

Emmanuel Hospice invites the West Michigan community to its Annual Celebration on Wednesday, Oct. 16.

Held over lunch with a silent auction from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Thousand Oaks Golf Club, the celebration will benefit the organization’s top missions: to provide life-giving opportunities and ensure patients’ final days are lived fully, as well as supporting families of loved ones experiencing hospice care.

This year’s celebration will feature speaker Michelle Lasota, who starred in the “The Nurse with the Purple Hair,” directed by world-renowned filmmaker Sean Cunningham. The documentary features the level three hospice nurse’s work in end-of-life care, which Lasota will discuss at the luncheon.

“Our care begins with the question, ‘How do you want to live?’” said Sara Lowe, executive director of Emmanuel Hospice. “We encourage end-of-life care conversations at Emmanuel because we believe an individual’s last moments on earth are among the most important and deserve the same attention.”

“This annual event allows us to celebrate our work with the community of families, caregivers, volunteers and others who partner with us to ensure every last moment is cherished, valued and lived with integrity.”

Emmanuel Hospice’s care targets the mind, soul and body, enhancing the time a patient has left in this world. Its holistic care model ensures patients and families are comfortable, offering counseling and other complementary services, such as massage and music therapies, essential oils, acupuncture and acupressure. The end-of-life care provider has also recently invested in virtual reality technology, allowing patients to explore the world comfortably from wherever they are.

Lasota was working as a surgical nurse at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles when her father died unexpectedly in 2004. She switched to hospice nursing at that time, noting it was a “personal healing journey” for her, with “everything that I didn’t get to do for my dad I was now doing for all these people.”

She now works as a hospice nurse in Central Philadelphia, where she is a preceptor to nursing students. She has won numerous awards for the care she provides, including the UPHS Nursing Excellence Award.

Her story is told by Cunningham, the independent filmmaker best known for “Friday the 13th,” which spawned one of the most successful horror film franchises in cinema history. When the two met in Toronto, Cunningham was fascinated by her focus on “real death,” which led to the documentary. Learn more about the film here.

Since opening its doors, Emmanuel Hospice has grown to care for more than 110 families a day in West Michigan. Last year, the organization cared for more than 455 patients and an estimated 1,365 caregivers who supported them on their end-of-life journeys.

Tickets for the luncheon are $50 per person and $400 per table of eight. They can be purchased over the phone at 616.719.0919 or on the event webpage 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

Emmanuel Hospice to Host Interfaith Memorial Event

The annual community interfaith memorial on Wednesday, Sept.11 will offer a touching evening as families of all faiths served by many different hospice providers gather to celebrate the lives of loved ones who have died.

The fifth annual event will feature music, reflection, prayer and activities for all ages from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Dominican Center at Marywood, located at 2025 Fulton St. E.

“Life, death and hope transcend all traditions. Through the combined efforts of area hospice agencies, the annual community interfaith memorial offers a space that honors the shared experience of loss,” said Kyle Kooyers, associate director of the Kaufman Interfaith Institute. “In whatever season of life, or whatever place on the journey families may be inhabiting, we invite all to come and join us as we remember together.”

During an hour-long service, representatives from the secular, Buddhist, Hindu, Baha’i, Christian, Islamic and Jewish traditions will lead prayers, songs, reflections and readings. 

Following the service, various activities are planned from 7 to 8 p.m. for guests to take part in at their leisure, such as memorial fires, planting flowers, making and flying kites and walking a meditation trail. Guests are also encouraged to bring photos or a memorial item to be displayed at the remembrance table for the evening.

The celebration is collaboratively coordinated by Emmanuel Hospice, Faith Hospice, Grace Hospice, Heartland Hospice, Hospice of Michigan, Kindred Hospice and Spectrum Health Hospice with support from the Center for Inquiry, the Dominican Center at Marywood, Instruments of Hope, Kaufman Interfaith Institute, The West Michigan Baha’i Community, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services, Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids and the Islamic Center of West Michigan.

Emmanuel Hospice Reaccredited by CHAP

Community Health Accreditation Partner Logo

Emmanuel Hospice has been reaccredited by the Community Health Accreditation Program, Inc. for its industry best practices and commitment to quality patient care.

The CHAP accreditation renewal demonstrates that Emmanuel Hospice meets the health care industry’s highest nationally recognized regulations and standards. Emmanuel Hospice was awarded the renewal due to its focus on structure and function, quality of services and products, human and financial resources and long-term viability. The organization received a perfect survey with no areas of concern.

“Our goal at Emmanuel Hospice is to provide the best possible experience for patients and their families during what can be a very difficult time,” said Emmanuel Hospice Executive Director Sara Lowe. “Having the independent, third-party validation from CHAP confirms our commitment to the highest standards possible.

“We hope those we care for and their families can rest easy knowing we are being held to a high level of excellence as we offer a holistic, life-affirming experience through the end of life.”

Emmanuel Hospice first received CHAP accreditation in 2014 after its first year of operation. The new accreditation is valid through September 2022. CHAP certification also certifies Emmanuel Hospice as a Medicare provider.

“By achieving CHAP accreditation, Emmanuel Hospice has shown a commitment to excellence,” said CHAP President and CEO Karen Collishaw. “This is the second time Emmanuel Hospice has achieved CHAP accreditation, and we are excited to continue our partnership by offering support in its commitment to providing quality care and continuous improvement.”

CHAP is the oldest national, independent accrediting body for health care organizations that determines if hospice agencies meet the Medicare Conditions of Participation and CMS Quality Standards.

Since opening its doors, Emmanuel Hospice has grown to care for more than 100 families a day in a four-county area in West Michigan. Last year, the organization cared for more than 455 patients and an estimated 1,365 caregivers who supported them on their end-of-life journeys.

Emmanuel Hospice to Host New Office Open House

Bolstered by steady growth since its founding in 2012, Emmanuel Hospice will celebrate its move into a new and expanded office space with an open house on Thursday, July 18.

The open house will begin at 3 p.m. at 401 Hall St. SW, Suite 263 with a blessing of the office, followed by a ribbon-cutting ceremony with the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce. Guests will then have the opportunity to explore program stations featuring live music, massage therapy, virtual reality and pet visitors until 6 p.m.

“The growth of our organization has been beyond our expectations, and we are delighted to be in a new space that will allow us to better serve our patients, families, staff and volunteers,” said Sara Lowe, executive director of Emmanuel Hospice. “We hope our community and beyond will join us for this open house, which will allow us to showcase the portfolio of complementary programs we offer to serve our patients and their families with the highest level of care and compassion.”

The new office space is 5,400 square feet, which is an increase of 3,500 square feet from Emmanuel’s previous office space at St. Ann’s Home. The new office space, which is located just south of downtown Grand Rapids, includes a dedicated grief support room, collaborative workspaces, a large conference room, space for interdisciplinary team meetings and 13 private offices. The new space also offers convenient access to US 131 and I-196, as well as free and abundant parking.

The move comes two years after the faith-based nonprofit provider of hospice care expanded its former headquarters at St. Ann’s to accommodate new team members. Since inception, Emmanuel’s team has grown from one part-time employee to 48 employees and has expanded programs, such as its complementary therapy offerings.

“As we continue to refine our services in our new space, it’s important to us to honor St. Ann’s and the Carmelite Sisters for being the supportive roots from which we could grow,” Lowe said. “Our partnership will remain strong with St. Ann’s and our other partners, Clark, Porter Hills and Sunset, as we continue to expand.”

Since opening its doors, Emmanuel Hospice has grown to care for more than 100 families a day in the four-county area. Last year, the organization cared for more than 455 patients and an estimated 1,365 caregivers who supported them on their end-of-life journeys.

Additionally, Emmanuel Hospice has:

  • Provided grief counseling and support services to 3,025 family members and friends
  • Served 915 community members through grief support programs
  • Provided education on end-of-life issues to 3,165 area residents
  • Benefited from more than 40 volunteers who donated more than 9,100 hours of time to provide comfort, care and support to patients and families

Those interested in attending the open house are encouraged to RSVP by Wednesday, July 3, 2019 to Katie Joseph at

Emmanuel Hospice
401 Hall St SW #263
Grand Rapids, MI  49503

Thursday, July 18, 2019
3:00 – 6:00 pm