Emmanuel Hospice Awarded Photojournalism Grant Through Funraise

Emmanuel Hospice has been awarded a photojournalism grant valued at $35,000 by digital fundraising platform Funraise to capture patient stories and the unparalleled compassion of employees.

Emmanuel Hospice applied and received the grant near the end of 2018, chosen from several hundred applications due to its extraordinary care and devotion to their patients and outlook on the end-of-life journey.

Emmanuel’s application read in part: “Caring for the dying is not a glamorous job. In fact, it can be messy, emotionally draining, and exhausting. But it can also be joyful. It can be funny. And it can certainly be rewarding. That’s what we would love to have captured through professional images. To share the full experience of the dying with our community, and beyond. To show people that this work, while it is difficult, is also deeply profound.”

The grant will engage California photographer and videographer Alexander Pavone for one week, including his travel and lodging. Pavone will spend the week at Emmanuel Hospice in the late summer, documenting patient stories and employees’ dedication to upholding patient dignity in end-of-life care to be used for Emmanuel’s website, social media and promotional materials.

“We are really looking forward to seeing Alex’s work and how he sees our work through the lens,” said Katie Joseph, director of development at Emmanuel Hospice. “Our goal is to offer a glimpse into the reality of dying, which we believe is foundational in helping our society embrace death and live well.”

As noted in its mission statement, Emmanuel Hospice strives to provide exemplary spiritual and physical care and creating a peaceful experience for the dying. Pavone’s videos will not only provide those researching end-of-life care for their loved ones’ peace of mind, but also demonstrate the deep faith, passion and dedication at the root of all care services at Emmanuel.

Known for working with nonprofits, Funraise chose to allot a portion of its own marketing budget into several grants for capacity building, staff training and more.

Upcoming Event Dates and Sponsorships for Emmanuel Hospice

MAY (National Nursing Month)
  • 8/16 – Railside Golf Outing benefitting Alzheimer’s
  • 9/11 – Interfaith Memorial Service

Having “The Conversation” Puts You In The Driver’s Seat

National Healthcare Decisions Day, April 16, 2019

Have you had the conversation yet? According to a national survey, 92 percent of people feel it’s important to do so. And yet, only 32 percent of folks actually have had it. What conversation? Theone that focuses on decisions affecting your end-of-life healthcare.

Yes, that one.

“Once you have that conversation, it takes the burden off your family at a time when they already may be experiencing a tough time because of your medical condition,” notes Rob Huff, an attorney with the Grand Rapids-based law firm Varnum LLP. “In the process, you end up making important choices ahead of time, while also honoring a trusted person as your patient advocate.”

Huff has been practicing law only a few years, but it doesn’t take long to become savvy about the benefits of advance care planning. “There’s not a single drawback to having that conversation,” he points out. “The only drawback is in not having it.”

Planning one’s final wishes is so important that April 16 is known as “National Healthcare Decisions Day,” which exists to inspire, educate and empower the public about the importance of advance care planning. (Visit NHDD.org for more.)

“We’ve found that as people enter into hospice care, having those important end-of-life issues already in place allows family members the opportunity to worry about one less thing,” says Sara Lowe, executive director of Emmanuel Hospice.

Advance care measures – also known as a “living will” – provide direction to healthcare professionals when you’re no longer able to convey them yourself as the result of a coma, dementia, Alzheimer’s or other conditions. Having a plan in place – and designating an advocate ahead of time – ensures you get the care you want.

But as Huff emphasizes and Lowe agrees, it must begin with a conversation. According to the same survey cited above – conducted in 2018 by The Conversation Project – 21 percent of people say they shy away from talking about advance directives because they don’t want to upset loved ones.

And yet, 53 percent of respondents say they’d be relieved if loved ones started the conversation.

Residents of Michigan are especially fortunate to have in place a statewide registry where they can enter their medical wishes so that any of more than 4,100 hospitals and healthcare organizations can call up the information when end-of-life decisions are imminent.  That organization – Great Lakes Health Connect (gl-hc.org) – works in concert with Making Choices Michigan, a long-time advocate for people seeking information about advance directives.

Katie Joseph, director of development for Emmanuel Hospice, says starting the conversation doesn’t demand a formal sit-down event.

“Some circumstances naturally open the door to a dialogue, such as a death in the family, a new diagnosis, a move, a divorce, job change or hospitalization.” Joseph says. “It’s much easier to make a plan in the midst of calm, not a storm.”

Huff and others who counsel people on advance planning understand their reluctance to make the first move: “It can be unpleasant for folks to think about their mortality,” Huff says. “It’s potentially a difficult conversation to have.

“The problem is that if you don’t, you will almost certainly create a much more difficult situation for your family and your loved ones at the time of trauma.

“If you end up having nothing in place, you may end up in court while mom is on life support. And that can be a distressing situation for everyone.”

If you’d like more information about creating an advance directive, you’re welcome to give us a call at 616.719.0919. 











Malea Nicolet Joins Emmanuel Hospice to Support Growing Portfolio of Complementary Services

Grand Rapids, Michigan, April 1, 2019 – Malea Nicolet has joined Emmanuel Hospice as a complementary services coordinator/massage therapist.

In her new role, Nicolet provides massage therapy to a diverse population of hospice patients for pain and symptom management, relaxation and improved quality of life. She also coordinates referrals for complementary services, such as essential oils and music therapy, both in-house and with community contractors.

Additionally, as part of the interdisciplinary group to coordinate a holistic plan of care meeting the needs of the patients, Nicolet assists in the education of other team members on complementary therapy resources.

“With the increase in popularity of complementary therapy offerings over the last year, it became evident we needed to expand our team to help manage our continued growth,” said Sara Lowe, executive director of Emmanuel Hospice. “With her experience as a massage therapist and rich background in the nonprofit sector, higher education and marketing, we are excited to welcome Malea.”

Nicolet brings seven years of experience in health and wellness care to the role as a licensed massage therapist, in addition to more than eight years in education and advising and more than 10 years in marketing and event management. Some of Nicolet’s previous experience includes serving as director of marketing and membership for C3Exchange – Inclusive Spiritual Community, associate director of admissions for Grand Rapids Community College and admissions counselor at Grand Valley State University.

Nicolet earned her therapeutic massage certificate through Baker College of Muskegon in December 2013. She has a bachelor’s in English/secondary education from GVSU.

Complementary services include music therapy, massage therapy, companionship and journaling sessions, as well as acupuncture and acupressure. Emmanuel also offers a pet visitors program, where trained volunteers with certified therapy dogs brighten patients’ spirits. Additionally, essential oils are an option for spiritual caregivers and social workers to use with patients to help manage anxiety, sadness and pain. These programs are available for patients receiving hospice care at a facility or in their home.

“I became drawn to hospice care during my massage education,” Nicolet said. “In my final term at Baker College, I was selected to be the student therapist for a man with end-stage brain cancer. We worked together for about six weeks, and it was truly transformational.

“I am honored to be a part of Emmanuel’s team and committed to creating an excellent experience for all our clients, families and caregivers.”

Massage therapy was the first complementary service Emmanuel offered since it began serving patients in 2013. Demand has grown steadily. Today, every three out of four patients access one or more complementary services offered through Emmanuel Hospice.

Since its founding in 2012, Emmanuel Hospice has grown to care for more than 95 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.

Interested in joining our growing team? Visit our Careers page to view available opportunities: https://emmanuelhospice.org/careers


There’s room for embracing humor and joy to the end of life

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Press on March 31, 2019

By Tom Rademacher

Is there room for laughter and humor as part of the care offered by hospice?

In many cases, yes, said Sister Maria Faustina, a spiritual caregiver for Emmanuel Hospice in Grand Rapids.

“Humor and joy should be considered a part of everyone’s life, even if you’re in hospice,” she said. “And because none of us know how much time we have, we should consider seeking joy and laughter whenever we can.

“It doesn’t usually happen early in the hospice process. It sometimes doesn’t happen at all. But when it does, embracing that joy can give patients some respite and help them to cope.”

The effects of humor are well known, beginning with research from more than a half-century ago, when scientists and others experimented with its psychological and physiological effects on the human body.

In an anecdotal study from the 1960s, journalist Norman Cousins treated a rheumatic disorder by viewing episodes of “Laurel & Hardy,” “Candid Camera” and the Marx Brothers. The result was an ability to sleep for long periods without pain. Subsequent studies in clinical settings determined that humor sparked positive effects on the central nervous system, improved one’s mood, propped up the immune system and moderated stress hormones.

That’s not to say caregivers like Faustina, a native of Malaysia, come bearing slapstick comedy for their patients. But they’re gently seeking opportunities to smile, laugh and find humor in moments both past and present.

“I have one gentleman who is often very quiet,” she said. “So, I sometimes cut out one of the comics, and show it to him, and he’ll start to laugh. It’s how we connect. When he starts to laugh and happens to be in the dining area, it sometimes causes others to laugh, as well.”

Indeed, humans have connected over whimsy since the dawn of time.

“I like to see people smiling when they can,” she said. “I want to share the joy I have with people, to create a joyful environment whenever possible. In that joyfulness, we’re celebrating the presence of Jesus.”

Cultivating such sessions doesn’t always come early or easily.

“It depends on the situation,” Faustina said. “It’s usually after I’ve come to know them, when trust and confidence can surface. So it can take time.”

Employing humor in health care settings isn’t part of a traditional curriculum for caregivers, but organizations such as the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor — founded in 1978 by a nurse in Illinois — are helping humor fit in as a valid tool. The AATH is a clearinghouse for information on humor as a therapeutic tool, and sponsors publications, seminars and an annual conference. Its members abide by the philosophy of acknowledging how laughter and humor are essential parts of emotional health and wellbeing.

For caregivers such as Faustina, joy and humor often emanate from sitting beside patients and reviewing their life stories.

“Everyone has a past, and in those pasts are joyful moments,” she said. “I recently sat with a woman who was looking back on how she had met her husband. It was a very happy moment, and it brought her joy. It made her smile. And in her eyes, I could see it as though it was happening all over again.”