I am a Nurse, a Hospice Nurse

I am a Nurse, a Hospice Nurse

I started working as a nurse and directly into hospice when I was 58 years old. Although I had been in the medical field in other roles and had lost friends and relatives of my own, I didn’t really understand the scope of care in death and dying until I came to work for Transitions. My mother died in hospice half-way through nursing school and I thought she had very good care; in fact, the nurses were a big reason I wanted to work with hospice patients. Now, after being a hospice nurse myself for five years and caring for many patients and families through this difficult but often beautiful time, I know that it could have been better back to my mother’s time. I also know that my initial reasons for working in hospice are still my reasons for staying. I’ve been with only one company as a nurse because Transitions takes good care of our patients like we would our own families. As hospice nurses, we offer comfort care instead of invasive measures, a shoulder to cry on instead of a never-ending parade of experts, education instead of a lecture. As a Transitions Hospice nurse, I have the time to get to know my patients as well as their families and to do the little things that make their life more enjoyable and their loved one’s death less traumatic. I remember joining hands with an Italian family and singing a round of “That’s Amore” as their mother passed peacefully and her son saying, “We couldn’t have planned a better end for her.” I loved obtaining an order...
Why I Became a Nurse

Why I Became a Nurse

In honor of National Nurses Week, Melissa Weber, RN, BSN, Director of Clinical Operations for Transitions Hospice, explains her journey to nursing and what makes hospice nurses so unique. At Transitions, we couldn’t do what we do or be who we are without the tireless dedication of our hospice nurses. This week and every week, we salute and honor our amazing nursing team. Happy Nurses Week! From as early as I can remember, I always wanted to be a nurse. I was drawn toward helping care for people ever since I was a young child. I became a volunteer at a hospital when I was in high school and had the opportunity to transport people in and out of the hospital. That opportunity gave me the chance to meet all kinds of people with diverse reasons as to why they were there. I also learned about the vast array of emotions that occur when someone is going home. After that, I became certified as a nursing assistant. I did my training in a state run nursing home.  For those who have never been in a state run nursing home, consider yourself lucky!  It made me sad to see so many people in a place like that, receiving such poor care. After I completed my courses, I was scared to take a nursing assistant job. I was scared that all places would be like the state run home and I wouldn’t be able to do enough to help people the way I wanted to. So, I took a job as waitress for a little while but always found my mind...
National Volunteer Week 2017

National Volunteer Week 2017

Anyone who sacrifices their time to support an organization or cause should be commended. Volunteers are so selfless! But being a hospice volunteer? That takes volunteering and compassion to a whole new level. To be a hospice volunteer means visiting hospice patients who are going through the end of life phase. Patients are not all the same and needs to be addressed uniquely –some are warm, happy, and very welcoming to visits, while some cannot offer more than silence and stares. Our volunteers, however, continue to go and stay true to the team’s mission of focusing on living and not dying, despite the challenges that come with it. They also know that often times, the families of our patients may need their support as much or even more than the patient themselves. Through time, our volunteers have shared different stories as they spent countless hours visiting patients. We have volunteers who travel and drive for almost an hour just to visit their patient. Other times, patients were asleep or non-verbal and just held their hands. Some volunteers felt unwelcome as they were rejected on their first few visits but still, they came back with renewed hope for a better interaction every time. There were happy days too, their “accomplished” moments! Instances such as their patient telling them “I love you”, or the simple act of their patient remembering their name, squeezing their hand, or giving them a big smile! It’s often the simple things. At the end of the day, volunteers often share that they are the ones who are touched more than them doing anything special for our dear hospice...
National Healthcare Decisions Day 2017

National Healthcare Decisions Day 2017

National Healthcare Decisions Day is now on its tenth year! NHDD’s initiative aims to impart the importance of having one’s advance healthcare directives known. Letting your loved ones know what matters most to you, ahead of time, can be one of the best gifts you can ever give. If you have never talked to your family about your health care wishes or haven’t completed any advance directives, we encourage you to open the discussion this week! If you already have, help others start the conversation! This year’s week-long event runs from April 16 to 22 and we hope that you will be able to find time and open this important conversation with those who matter most to you. Start the talk over coffee or while sharing a meal; it doesn’t need to be in the hospital or the Intensive Care Unit. Everyone’s choices matter!...
Benefits of Art Therapy

Benefits of Art Therapy

Why is Art Therapy so beneficial? Art stimulates the brain and can trigger long term memories. Studies have shown that participating in art therapy can have a dramatic effect on many individuals, whether they suffer from dementia, are undergoing medical treatment, or are just experiencing high levels of stress. Art allows for self-expression, boosts mood, and has been known to increase one’s sense of well being. Patients participating in a study reported decreased doctor visits, decreased falls, and decreased need for pain medication. How can art benefit hospice patients? Participating in an art program can help manage behaviors, reduce stress, and increase socialization. Art allows patients to enjoy the experience and have a sense of accomplishment when completing a project. Besides, isn’t art...
The Future of Hospice and Palliative Care is Upon Us!

The Future of Hospice and Palliative Care is Upon Us!

Last month, I had the unique opportunity to attend both the Social Work Hospice and Palliative Care Network (SWHPN) and the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine’s (AAHPM) annual conferences in Scottsdale and Phoenix. It was a weeklong opportunity to meet and learn from the top leaders and educators in the field from across the country and around the world. I was also privileged to be a SWHPN conference presenter again this year. The landscape of healthcare is changing across the country and hospice/palliative care is no exception. In fact, the services provided by hospice and palliative care providers are being recognized and valued now more than ever for a variety of reasons, including an aging population, increased visibility, as well as ongoing national health care system changes.  Andrew MacPherson, health care lobbyist and end of life expert from Healthsperian, LLC in Washington DC, reported that despite ongoing political challenges in Washington, there is much opportunity ahead for hospice and palliative care service providers. The key to future success is innovative thinking and comprehensive community service provision. Dr. Diane Meier, Director at the Center to Advance Palliative Care and Professor of Palliative Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in NYC, discussed the emergent role of the palliative care team within the larger health care system. While hospice services are becoming better recognized in many settings, palliative care continues to be a health care service that is less familiar to the general public. However, tremendous growth is expected in the field of palliative medicine over the next several years as the population’s desire to remain at home grows and management...
Getting to Know Jim

Getting to Know Jim

When faced with adversity, would you give up or grow? Jim Palazzo took his past experiences, both positive and negative, and used them as motivation to provide others with the care that they deserve. Although he has many inspirations for his work, there are two specific moments in his life that have worked as a catalyst for the ancillary companies that he has created and nurtured today. These experiences, along with the tremendous support and hard work from his family, encouraged Jim to be who he is today. As we look back at these moments, they provide valuable insight into the past, present, and future that is Transitions. Growing up in a big Italian family, Jim was able to realize the value in family support. When his father, Richard “Dick” Palazzo, became terminally ill with Advanced Pulmonary Fibrosis, it was time for the family to decide on what hospice company would be best to take care of him. After making this decision, they were all hopeful that the company could meet their father’s needs and make sure that he was comfortable in his end of life journey. It wasn’t long until Jim and his family realized that their expectations for hospice would not be met. When it came time to go to sleep at night, Dick would have anxiety attacks in fear of going to sleep and not waking up. MaryAnn, Dick’s wife, would call the hospice agency and ask for help in these times of need. The company would triage the call, and tell MaryAnn what medications to give to help her husband with his anxiety. She was...
Pet Volunteer was Cupid for Valentines

Pet Volunteer was Cupid for Valentines

Paige, a pet volunteer, decided it would be fun to take balloons to all her Transitions Hospice patients last February 14 for Valentine’s Day! But then, she realized that since it was a day especially dedicated to spreading love, she does not want other patients to feel left out. Paige did the sweet, incredible, and selfless next ­-she broke open her piggy bank and got balloons for all the Bickford House residents and staff! She took 50 balloons with her, some of which tied to her own harness, and walked the halls delivering them to all her friends. She really enjoyed watching each person choose a color they wanted. The smiles that afternoon were contagious as everyone felt the love!  It was a great day for Paige but surely, to all the residents and staff too! Indeed a successful day of hearts and...
Welcoming the New Year

Welcoming the New Year

Dear Transitions, “Each of you should use whatever gifts you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.  1 Peter 4:10” As we move into a new year, I believe this verse characterizes what 2016 has been for us.  As a company, we are committed to serving others. By sharing our unique talents, we enrich the lives of families and patients when they are at the most vulnerable and stressful time of their lives.  The wonderful thing about Hospice is that it takes all of us to circle around each patient to fulfill our commandments and God’s will.  Each and every person matters.  No one person is any more important than another.  We are only as good as the sum of our souls.  We served 694 patients and their families through end of life last year alone.  We gave each of them the very best humanity has to offer.  We did this, not because we had to, but because it was the right thing to do.  It is my belief that our mission, Transitions mission, is God’s resolve.  I often talk about being pushed to do this work my entire life.  I am beginning to understand why I ended up caring for the dying.  It has become obvious that the majority of Hospice companies have lost their way.  The industry has turned its back on the pure and selfless beginnings of Hospice.  It really has fallen to us and a few others to create a new brand of hospice that exemplifies the spirit of the concept and give families and patients what...
The Essence of Christmas

The Essence of Christmas

Last night, I recalled one of my favorite Christmas memories. I remember when my four sons were elementary school age. We lived in Edwardsville, IL. I was a Pastor of a very small church. The church didn’t have a lot of financial resources but the people were caring and had big thoughtful hearts always ready to share. I didn’t receive a large salary so we had to tell our kids to pick one present they really wanted. My wife, Debby, and I sat our kids down to explain the best we could, about not having enough money for a lot of presents. Our emphasis to our kids during that Christmas season was about relationships. Relationship with God and each other was the most important thing not only at Christmas time but throughout the whole year. I remember reading them the Christmas story out of the Bible. They had a lot of questions, some easier to answer than other and we tried answering them at the best of our ability. I learned an important life lesson that Christmas morning from my kids & beautiful wife. Life is about faith in God and family. It wasn’t about me failing as a Dad to provide a ton of gifts nor going on a Christmas trip to Maui. It was all about the Christmas story, (the person of Jesus, Mary & Joseph). I learned to get my focus off of my fears, worries, and materialism What’s really important about Christmas? The birth and life of Christ. I know this Christmas, it’s all about me remembering the greatest gift of all -when God gave...
Bags Packed with Love

Bags Packed with Love

A few days before Thanksgiving, Carrie Serres visited Transitions Hospice headquarters in Huntley, IL with a big sack in her hands. She brought in drawstring bags in different colors with the word “Remember” embroidered on each. Her explanation on what the bags are for warmed our hearts right away. “I came up with these Bags to help people who sit at their loved one’s bedside as they transition and pass.”  Carrie was in this position 6 years ago when she sat at her dad’s side for several days, sad, weak, and quite disoriented with the situation. “I want to help others as they experience one of the most difficult days and perhaps nearly forget to care for themselves,” she shared. Carrie is an only child and her father battled Alzheimer’s Disease for over 8 years. She witnessed his discomfort and difficulty as the disease progressed. His sickness took a turn for the worse in January 2010. “I remember his rapid decline from Tuesday to Saturday when he passed. I had some family join me that week, but I never left my dad’s side.” In May of 2016, an uncle of hers passed away, also from Alzheimer’s. Carrie then recalled the difficulty in sitting bedside, watching a loved one decline and pass. She then came up with the idea of making small useful kits for vigil sitters who are going through the same difficult situation, enduring empty days and cold nights. By August of the same year, she started asking for help from others, mostly individuals, to fund the Vigil Bags. Each bag is packed with a notepad, pen, toothbrush,...
Coping During the Holidays

Coping During the Holidays

Merry making, family gatherings, rekindling friendships that withstood time; everyone and everything seems to be festive. ‘Tis the season to be jolly as they say, but what if the year has been rough and the holidays won’t be the same without your loved one’s laugh, smile, and complete presence in this joyous season? Below are some tips to help you cope with the Holidays: 1)  Plan Ahead The holidays may bring a variety of emotions and feelings and at times our emotions may catch us off guard. Be kind to yourself and allow yourself to grieve. Plan ahead for holiday events/activities: Which events will I participate in? What holiday traditions will I continue? What holiday traditions will I change? (who will host the meal, who will bake the famous dessert, who will sit at the head of the table, etc.) It is okay to change traditions or pass a tradition to another family member or to the next generation. Think these things through ahead of time and talk to a trusted friend or family member about them. It takes energy, effort, support and a desire to start a new normal but that is exactly what is needed. You don’t have to change everything, just some things. Let your imagination be your friend as your traditions become your own. 2)  Commemorate Your Loved One Do something special to remember your loved one at holiday/family gatherings Light a candle Give a toast Have each person share a memory of your loved one Place a photo album on the coffee table Arrange a corner/area of a room with pictures and special items that...
I’m in My Twenties and I Work for Hospice

I’m in My Twenties and I Work for Hospice

If I was asked what the biggest lesson that I have learned in my 23 years is, I would say the most important thing to remember is that you can’t always follow a plan. A plan should be a rough sketch but should never be a strict outline. When I was in college, my biggest dream was to become a sports journalist for the Chicago Blackhawks. At present, the little girl in me would have said that I failed to make my dreams a reality but the adult in me thinks I’ve accomplished way more than I could have hoped for. Hospice and Palliative Care are both such rewarding experiences to be a part of and I wouldn’t change anything about the plans I had in the past which got me to where I am now. Often times I get asked why I am working in an end-of-life career at such a young age. With my background in journalism and telecommunications, this obviously wasn’t part of my “plan”. Back in February when I started working for the company, this question was a little more difficult to answer but now that I have some experience working for Transitions Hospice and Palliative Care, I can say that it was worth my journey, very worth my trip. A lot of people don’t know that my biggest fear up until recently was death. I was terrified of the unknown and leaving this world behind, especially my friends and family. Transitions has taught me that death is not a fearful experience; it’s a beautiful one. You hear stories about people passing away in a...
Life’s Little Tokens

Life’s Little Tokens

Life showers us with different tokens, big and small —from family, friends, good health, and career, to the chance to share a warm hug with your grandchildren or an act of kindness from a stranger in the grocery. Each day is a surprise and it is within our reach to look closer and recognize our own blessings as well as be a blessing to others. Last Monday, November 21, Transitions Hospice social worker Alexandria Vernasco, LCSW, was invited to be a guest lecturer at the Lewis University in Romeoville, IL. Allie spoke to 50 students currently enrolled in the Bachelor of Social Work Program at the university. She had the opportunity to make a positive impact and educate the students about the role of a hospice and palliative care social worker within the interdisciplinary team. She also talked about the differences between hospice and palliative care and shared some personal insights on the meaningful work experience caring for hospice patients brings her. The students were excited to hear about hospice as a career choice in social work and were inspired by Allie’s sharing. “I was thrilled to be able to include Transitions values and the importance of recognizing the uniqueness of each individual patient. I encouraged the students to remember that hospice focuses on living for today.  As hospice workers, we honor the present and focus on making every day the best day possible,” she eagerly shared. Allie took the opportunity to pass out POLST forms (Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment) to all the students and discussed the impact and importance of advance directives, regardless of age or health status. Despite end of life wishes being a sensitive topic which is hard...
National Hospice & Palliative Care Month

National Hospice & Palliative Care Month

National Hospice & Palliative Care Month is celebrated this month of November and this year’s theme is Knowing Your Options. Transitions Hospice joins organizations across the country in promoting hospice and palliative care awareness and the vital role it provides for people with life-limiting illnesses and their loved ones. “Every year, nearly 1.6 million people living with a life-limiting illness receive care from hospice and palliative care providers in this country,” said J. Donald Schumacher, president and CEO of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. “These highly-trained professionals ensure that patients and families find dignity, respect, and love during life’s most difficult journey.” Hospice is not a place. Hospice and palliative care programs provide pain management, symptom control, psychosocial support, and spiritual care to patients and their families when a cure is not possible. At Transitions, we are dedicated in providing the highest quality of individualized care for each of our patients. We are committed to empowering our patients as well as their families by providing the tools and support necessary to embrace life. We provide medical care together with spiritual and emotional support. As Jim Palazzo, Transitions Hospice & Palliative Care CEO explained, “We do not focus on the fact that someone is dying but focus on the fact they’re going to live until they die.” Learn your options ahead of time, even before being caught in a medical crisis. Visit http://moments.nhpco.org/decision-tree/what-are-my-options/begin and see what options might be right for you. For more information regarding hospice care, call us at 847-515-1505 or visit...
Remembering Harry Crabb, a U.S. Veteran

Remembering Harry Crabb, a U.S. Veteran

Harry Crabb, also known as Dirty Harry for his line “Make my day!” lived a full life that many would have dreamt of. Born in Green Bay Wisconsin on February 17, 1922 he grew up with his brother and two sisters. Crabb was in the United Sates Army Air Corps during World War II and was a Crew Chief on C47 transport aircraft. He was a Sergeant and served from 1942 to 1946. Crabb worked as a street car and bus driver after World War II and ran his own dry cleaning business with his brother Don in downtown Waukegan, IL for a number of years. He worked as a newspaper advertising salesman for the majority of his life. A man rich in wisdom and humor, he enjoyed life and its surprises one day at a time. He was a lover of music, enjoyed dancing his entire life, and was a star baseball player in high school and college. Crabb also played for a U.S. Army Air Corps unit team while he was stationed in California. He loved flying and flew his last flight at the age of 93 on September 6, 2015. He got into a vintage biplane for the final time and had the ride of his life with his son Tim who is also a Veteran, joining him, both of them flying side by side up in the Wild Blue Yonder on a bright sunny day.  Right after this flight, Crabb exclaimed, “Flying in formation with my son Tim is one of the highlight of my life!”     With old age, his health started to...
No One Should Be Left Behind

No One Should Be Left Behind

When President John F. Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” my heart was instantly pierced. These words stayed with me throughout my final year in high school and when I graduated in 1962, my mind was made up. I joined the United States Air Force at seventeen years old. The Civil Rights Movement was at its peak that time and the impact on the Air Force was the same as everywhere else in this country. The Black and Latino Airmen had their jobs in the mess hall and in supplies. Women were in the WAFS, the Women’s Air Force. My best friend in basic training was a black man who loved jazz as much as I did. We were not allowed to celebrate together on our first pass, though, as we were based in Texas. I came from an Italian descent but it never dawned to me that I joined the military to protect only Italian-Americans. I thought we were all in this together. When the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, everyone started coming together without a struggle and I was so proud to be a part of it! I was trained as an aircraft mechanic and was assigned to an Air Defense Command Unit. As I saw it, my job was to keep our pilots in the air. I took my duty very seriously and at the age of nineteen, I was an expert Crew Chief! When the war in Vietnam escalated in 1964, my job was to provide OJT (on-the-job training) to new recruits...
Where It All Began

Where It All Began

Preface: I promised to share bits and pieces about my life to help you get to know me better and hopefully make it easier for you to understand my level of commitment to the people we serve. I have learned from a very young age that I’ve been blessed with the qualities of compassion and caring. I always say, “My path was chosen for me, I didn’t choose my path.” Maybe after a few short stories about my life, you will agree with me.   Who Am I… In 1977, I was like any other 8-year old boy growing up in the suburbs of Chicago. My brothers, sister, and I all loved sports. I had great friends and had no responsibility. I came from a large family and for most of my childhood, my parents struggled to pay the bills and keep us participating in all sorts of activities. One of those activities was our Church Youth Group. As a good Italian Catholic family, being involved in the church was important to my mom and dad. Part of our Youth Group Service was to play bingo in the local nursing homes. In the late fall of 1977, Michael and I joined my brother Robby and sister Deanne on a trip to a large nursing home in our town. Like all church trips, we were squeezed onto a bus and forced to sing bible hymns for the duration of the ride. It felt like a seven hour trip but in reality, it was just a twenty-five minute drive. I keep wondering how they fit so many songs into those twenty-five minutes. I...
Alzheimer’s Disease: What You Need to Know

Alzheimer’s Disease: What You Need to Know

September is World Alzheimer’s Month, an initiative of Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI). ADI is a collaborative organization of over 80 Alzheimer’s Associations across the globe.  World Alzheimer’s Month is an international campaign to raise awareness, challenge stigma, and encourage people to gain a better understanding of this disease and its effect on global health. It was launched in September 2012 and is celebrated on September 21 of each year. Transitions Hospice is a committed advocate to this cause and joins in the opportunity to raise awareness within our communities and to reflect upon the impact that this disease has on patients, families, and their loved ones. As a hospice service provider, we work closely with those most affected on a daily basis. Through ongoing patient care and family support, we are acutely aware of the many challenges that people face in these situations. Families often need assistance in finding the care and resources they need to improve quality of life for their loved ones. This includes medical support, education, support groups, social services, spiritual guidance, and a multitude of other valuable resources that are available throughout most local communities. Let’s take a deeper look: What is Dementia?  What is Alzheimer’s Disease? Dementia is a collective name for progressive degenerative brain disorders that affect memory, thinking, behavior, and emotion. Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common type of dementia, affecting up to 90% of those living with it. It is an irreversible, progressive, degenerative disease of the brain that damages and eventually destroys brain cells. It leads to loss of memory and impaired judgment, language, orientation, and executive functioning. Over time, the...
The Power of Presence

The Power of Presence

As the news around us are filled with death and pain, I reflect on the life we are given and what we must do with it. As a hospice chaplain, I am told almost daily by friends, family, and even strangers about how difficult my job must be and how they would not want to do it. My response usually shocks them. I tell them that my job fills me with joy! Not the kind of joy we think of when we win the lottery, but true joy – joy that comes from helping make the end of someone’s life meaningful and honorable. I believe that everyone’s lives matter until the end and as God’s children, it is our responsibility to make life the best it can be, for however long that is. I think one of the best ways to honor life is not by looking back on what has happened nor looking at the future and what is yet to come, but focusing on the present. If God has taught me anything while spending time with those who are at the end of life, it is that it is okay just to be there. I think we try to fill space with noise; be it the endless news on TV or radio, cell phones that are with us 24/7, or having to speak the right words in the moment. It is difficult to not want to fill that time with something. It may be our humanness or culture that pushes us to fill that time with other things and not be present in those moments but I have...
Alaska

Alaska

“Lila held out through the night. She was an amazing woman. Little but mighty! If we were picking sides, I would choose her to be on my own team. I had brought my diffuser with essential oil the day before and had that going. Her breathing became even more labored so I sang to her. She stopped breathing three times before her last breath. It was a peaceful struggle between her body and spirit. I opened the window and let her spirit fly out. She was going in the direction of Alaska –that place she dreamed of visiting. I had this same feeling of awe during my grandchildren’s home birth. It was an honor to be there.” Those were Rillia Johnson’s words as she spoke about her last visit to a patient she developed a friendship with, Lila. Johnson, 63, is a volunteer for Transitions Hospice. “Looking back, I was afraid of death,” Johnson said. It was not until 15 years ago when her husband’s grandmother was admitted under hospice care that her views changed.  “A lady from the hospice came to talk to the family and told us about the program. Her words were very inspiring that I was able to open up to the idea that it could be a beautiful experience for Grandma and the family.” Her own experience of seeing some people being unable to visit their dying loved ones due to the fragileness of seeing them decline made her vow to herself. “I’ll spend time with people who do not have their loved ones with them. I want to sit with people who are alone at...
Kids Learned About Hospice

Kids Learned About Hospice

Sara Dado, Transitions Hospice VP of Compliance and Ancillary Services, gave a career talk at Algonquin Middle School and introduced kids to hospice. She discussed what hospice is and the career opportunities available in the industry. Hospice is an unfamiliar word to kids. They asked – Is it sad? Do you cry all the time? Is it scary? Can you still have fun? After the talk, their learning and reactions were priceless!...
“How can you be around dying people all the time?”

“How can you be around dying people all the time?”

“How can you be around dying people all the time?” Almost every day, I get asked this question. I am a Hospice Chaplain and I reply, “Working with hospice patients and families is an act of obedience to God. Walking in the call from God is my honor! If God didn’t call you to be a hospice nurse, CNA, social worker, or a chaplain, please don’t do it. When God calls someone, He also equips them. God prepares a life over a period of time so that a person can be prepared with passion, gifts, and desires to serve others.” It is a privilege and honor to be with a patient and their family at the end of life. It is at this moment that some patients want to know about heaven and what an opportunity to share the love of Christ and the scriptures about eternal life! It’s amazing to hold a patient’s hand when they take their last breathe on Earth because their next breathe is in heaven. It’s an honor to cry, to laugh, to embrace, and to listen to the memories of family members sharing about their loved one. This is God’s calling for me. God has prepared me for such a time as this. God has mandated me; God has filled me with His love & compassion for the sick & dying. These people have one foot planted in this world & one foot planted in heaven. The writer of the Book of Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a season for everything. My season is to pray, to love, to serve, and to...
When Less is More

When Less is More

It was my first time to volunteer for Transitions Hospice. Admittedly, I was a bit nervous and had put a great deal of thought into this appointment in the days leading up to it. I kept on hoping that I would say the right things in the right way. When it was time for my actual visit, I walked up to Anne and introduced myself. I was greeted with a warm and heartfelt smile which immediately put my nervousness at ease. Unfortunately, this also provided me with the false confidence that this meeting would go exactly as I envisioned it. As I shook her hand, I proudly directed my eyes towards my Chicago Cubs lanyard hoping that it might become a conversation starter for us. It was something that I had purchased after learning that she was a Cubs fan. However, she didn’t even seem to notice it. She simply returned her gaze to the wall in the same fashion I found her in. After several moments of silence, I was determined to get our interaction back under my control. I regained Anne’s attention and began asking her what she usually liked to do with her time. She thought about my question. Seemingly eager to return to her daydream state, she dismissively said, “Not much.” She promptly returned her attention to the wall. Similar exchanges with the same results took place before I truly listened to her. Anne, without saying much through words, was speaking volumes to me through her behavior. This behavior told me that I was not in control of anything nor was it my job to...
The Heart of a Hospice Nurse

The Heart of a Hospice Nurse

In honor of National Nurses Week, we would like to dedicate this article to the amazing nurses who are the heart of Transitions Hospice. Without the tremendous dedication, compassion, and skill of our nurses, we would not exist. Hospice nursing is in a class all its own. Not only are our nurses using their expertise to help treat symptoms and manage their patient’s pain, they have a greater goal of helping patients LIVE the best life they can with the time they have left. Our nurses work with the physician and family to make a plan of care based on the patient’s and family’s wishes, and continuously review the plan to make sure it is on track with patient wishes. Our patients experience the warm, kind, gentle care of our nurses everyday. Unlike other areas of nursing, hospice nurses specialize in end of life care. This takes a special person with a very special talent and personality. How often we hear, “Hospice? I could never do that!” But when talking with our nurses, we often hear, “I love hospice; I cannot imagine doing anything else!” THAT is what sets our hospice nurses apart.  Thank you for all you do, every day!   Written by Krista Voltolina, RN Krista is a registered nurse and has worked as a health educator for over 20 years. Her passion is speaking on issues related to hospice, gerontology and community health. She is s member of HPNA, the Hospice and Palliative Nurses...
Why It Matters – The Power of Advanced Care Planning

Why It Matters – The Power of Advanced Care Planning

April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day. This national collaborative initiative exists as an effort to bring to light an issue that affects all Americans, no matter age or stage of life. The chosen theme this year is “It Always Seems Too Early, Until It’s Too Late.” As a society, we tend to push off these difficult conversations with a rationale of “I’ll think about that later” or “If I talk about, it might actually happen.” But the truth is we need to talk about these issues now while we can, before we are faced with a health-related crisis. There is no place where this is more apparent than in hospice care. I have met so many families over the years that agonize over making end of life decisions on behalf of a loved one because they have never had any conversations about their wishes. Now they are faced with a crisis situation and decisions need to be made, often with little or no advance notice. It is in these moments that people literally have to make life and death decisions that they are unprepared to make. I have seen families struggle with the aftermath of regret and complicated grief over decisions that were made in times of crisis. The good news is that much of this anguish is avoidable. Death is not avoidable. Suffering is not avoidable. Grief is not avoidable. But clarity and confidence in decision making is made easier when conversations have been had ahead of time and a plan is in place that honors the wishes of a terminally ill person. But what exactly does that...
Advance Care Planning, Your Decisions Matter

Advance Care Planning, Your Decisions Matter

In honor of National Healthcare Decisions Day, Sara Dado, LCSW – VP of Compliance and Ancillary Services, presented a program entitled  Advance Care Planning, Your Decisions Matter at the Transitions Hospice Quarterly All Staff Meeting last Friday, April 8. In her presentation, Sara discussed the importance of initiating end of life conversations with loved ones as well as completing a written advance care plan. Several types of advanced directives were identified and all staff were encouraged to not only complete their own advance care plans, but to use this week to talk to others about the importance of these conversations as well. Here is a clip from her presentation:...
National Volunteer Week

National Volunteer Week

Today is the day! From today, April 10th, to the 16th, we are celebrating National Volunteer Week! We turn the spotlight to caring & giving volunteers who are heroes in their own light. Being a volunteer not only enriches patients lives or those who receive help, it also delivers heartwarming results to volunteers themselves. As they say, you gain when you give. Watch this video and learn more on how you, too, can be a volunteer today!...
Gaining in Giving

Gaining in Giving

What does a volunteer gain from giving? It is often said that it is more blessed to give than to receive. People who truly give of themselves understand this to be true although we live in a culture where often times, it is the exception to the rule. Most people tune out when they hear the word giving. They feel that somebody wants something from them and that they are obliged to give. Many times, people think giving is in relation to finances. If you would ask me what my most prized possession is, you might be surprised to hear that my response would not be my family, or my house and property, nor my possessions! It would actually be my time. Time is something that once given, can never be taken back. It isn’t like earning interest in an investment account, or is it? You see, I work with volunteers on a regular basis and they are selfless with their time. They sit with hospice patients knowing they will not be compensated for their time or travel expense; they do it because they want to. Imagine this —volunteering because you understand the reward is nothing external but a sense of purpose, compassion, and the overall recognition of doing good for a complete stranger and their family. I know there are several worthy organizations that rely heavily upon volunteers and I applaud anyone willing to give of themselves to a need or cause. I can’t honestly think of a more worthy cause (although I admit I am a bit biased) than hospice. Several years ago, I heard of an...
Community Service Just in Time!

Community Service Just in Time!

Making a compassionate difference never gets old and in this particular instance, a blessing just in time. Harvest Christian Academy, an institution offering quality education from preschool through twelfth grade, is a ministry of Harvest Bible Chapel. The academy located in Elgin, IL envisions its students to be impactful individuals for Christ in all parts of society. Last Wednesday, March 16, Transitions Hospice donated 4 wheelchairs to the said academy. Shortly after, a heart-warming email was sent back by the nurse. It read: “Yes, we got the wheelchairs this morning!!! It was an incredible, God timed moment! We saw the wheelchairs around 8:15 and then about 20 minutes later I had a pregnant staff worker in the parking garage that blacked out!! I used a wheelchair already!! Thank you so much…you don’t know what an incredible blessing this is for both our school and church. I will give 2 to the church side and then 2 for HCA side. Your thoughtful and generous heart is MUCH appreciated and has blessed one HBC person already.” How wonderful is it to see the impactful difference extending a helping hand can do? Indeed, making a difference in the community transforms life into full...
To be a Social Worker…

To be a Social Worker…

    March is Social Work Month! Social workers bridge gaps, facilitate interactions, and help people communicate and cope. In celebration, we turn the spotlight to our dedicated social workers and listen on what they have to say about their role. A big toast goes along with our warm appreciation to all social workers who make a difference!     I became a social worker because I knew I wanted to help people after I ran a charity marathon for the AIDS Foundation. I heard personal stories from people impacted by AIDS and wanted to do something more meaningful with my life. My most memorable experiences are working with patients and families: shedding light on a complicated situation through education and advocacy, and seeing their relief.  —Alexandria Vernasco   For me, becoming a hospice social worker is not just a job but also a calling in life. This is who I have been striving to be my entire life. I have a unique, wonderful, and privileged role in the lives of patients and families I have the honor to serve. When people ask me why I want to work with the dying, I answer: “For me it’s a ministry. I feel passionate about the dignity and worth of each person and the importance of the human relationship. I believe that through working in hospice, I have the opportunity to make the ending of life as beautiful as the beginning.” That is why I do what I do.  —Jan Warner   I decided to become a social worker because I enjoy working with others. I chose a profession where I can help a...
My Hospice Experience Then & Now

My Hospice Experience Then & Now

My experience is that most people have a story to tell as to why they decided to pursue a career in hospice. My story is generally different than most —I decided to join hospice after my own horrible encounter with one. Back in May 2003, my husband started experiencing lack of energy. We then went to his physician and had him checked. To our shock, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and was said to have only 3 to 6 months left to live. He was just 55 and had been healthy all his life without any serious illnesses.  In fact, he had never been hospitalized. The prognosis was a tremendous blow to the family.  At that time, I had no medical training or experience. We decided to try chemotherapy as long as he will still have a good quality of life. After a number of sessions, he was lucky to have had only minor side effects from the chemotherapy. Unfortunately, though, it was not enough to stop the cancer from spreading. When I realized that I could no longer handle all his needs by myself, I contacted a hospice. This turned out to be the beginning of more problems. My husband was on oral pain medication (pills) and there came a time when he could no longer keep them down. I reached out to the hospice and was told via phone that he was still benefitting. I then spoke with my next door neighbor and she suggested Fentanyl patches. When I talked with the hospice, they were not happy that I was getting advice from the neighborhood and...
In Memory of Dr. Paul Kinsinger, M.D.

In Memory of Dr. Paul Kinsinger, M.D.

After a courageous year of battling brain cancer, our friend and medical director, Dr. Paul Aaron Kinsinger, 58, died on Saturday, February 20, 2016 at 3:30 a.m. His family was by his side including his brother, Transitions Hospice Medical Director, Dr. Lee Kinsinger.   He was born December 12, 1957 to parents Lawrence and Kathryn Kinsinger and was married to Amy Ackerman in October 1997. He had two children, daughter Allison Carole and son Adam Owen. Kinsinger was dedicated both to his family and his Christian faith. He was a part of the First United Methodist Church in Peoria and was a member of Crossroads Church in Washington from 2009, both churches being in IL. Dr. Kinsinger was an Illinois-native graduating from Washington High School in 1976 and later from the University of Illinois College of Medicine in 1986. He faithfully attended to the needs of his patients in Washington. He opened Illini Family Medicine in 1991 in partnership with his brother, Dr. Lee Kinsinger. The clinic is located at 201 N Cummings Lane. A physician devoted to his medical profession, he moreover shared his genuine compassion to his patients. “Dr. Paul”, as his patients fondly addressed him, likewise willingly shared his light to his patients through providing guidance rooted in faith. Kinsinger was also a creative thinker and an “idea guy”, as he identified himself. He came up with the now commercially sold Piggy Paste. His expertise was channeled to deliver results in every situation. He once said, “You will never regret what you try, only the ideas you keep in your desk that never see the light of day.”...
But You’re Just a Social Worker? 5 Lessons I’ve Learned About Interdisciplinary Leadership

But You’re Just a Social Worker? 5 Lessons I’ve Learned About Interdisciplinary Leadership

Written by Sara Dado, LCSW-VP of Compliance and Ancillary Services Sara has been a practicing LCSW in the field of health care for over 18 years, with experience in policy development, elder law, home health, skilled nursing and hospice. She is a tireless advocate for quality end of life care through community outreach and education. She has also been a speaker at both national and state wide conferences on the topic of improving the conversation regarding hospice care and is an expert in advanced care planning.   My task is to write about leadership and how to utilize social work skills in a nontraditional setting. Most of my 20 year career has been spent in “non-traditional” social work roles. In fact, with the exception of my first job, I’ve never had a social work supervisor. So my perspective may be slightly skewed however my skills and training remain the same. What I have found over the years is that my social work training always shines though in whatever professional role I have. I reflected on my experience and identified 5 lessons that I hope would encourage any social worker moving into a leadership position. Don’t be afraid to leave your comfort zone I have seen this many times and been guilty of it myself.  Social workers tend to get pigeon holed into certain responsibilities because that is where we are comfortable.  Neale Donald Walsch said “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” Real leadership also begins there. I am not saying it’s easy- it’s really hard and uncomfortable and many times I have been resistant. But there is...
The Least Expected Miracle

The Least Expected Miracle

Ricardo Atanacio, 75, was on his way to his doctor’s appointment at OSF Center for Health in Rock Cut, Illinois with his wife on Friday, January 29. While getting off from the vehicle’s passenger side, Ricardo lost his balance and fell on the ground. “Nurses from the facility ran out and helped. We called 911. Everything happened so fast, I didn’t know what to do,” narrates his wife. Ricardo was unconscious for 3 minutes. He was brought to OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center and a CAT scan was done. Results showed multiple cranial bleeding and the level of severity was high. He was placed on a ventilator and doctors said that a surgery is no longer advisable due to his current state. Ricardo’s family was also suggested to take the necessary steps and bid their goodbyes. As per the evaluation of a number of doctors, he would not last longer than the upcoming weekend. On February 1st, three days after the incident, Ricardo was scheduled to be transferred to hospice care.  On the same morning, the unexpected happened. Ricardo opened his eyes and started communicating. “His consciousness came back,” his son, Richard said. “We were already expecting the worst but just like a light switch, he’s back.”  The same afternoon, Ricardo was removed from the ventilator and was brought to East Bank Center in Loves Park, Illinois and hospice care was issued. Assessments towards his condition implied that his prognosis would not last but only for a few days. Day by day though, his condition started getting better. He began eating and talking again. “He’s suddenly so vocal, often saying...
Northeast Region Staff Radio Interview

Northeast Region Staff Radio Interview

Recently two of our key employees in the Northeast region, Suzi Papin, Regional Hospice Coordinator and Melissa Popp, Regional Nurse Coordinator, were interviewed on Silver Solutions, a weekly live radio show sponsored by Fox Valley Right at Home. Transitions Hospice Interview Silver Solutions Weekly Radio Programs...

Transitions Hospice Awarded CHAP Accreditation

Huntley, IL — Community Health Accreditation Partner, Inc., (CHAP) announced today that Transitions Hospice has been awarded CHAP Accreditation under the CHAP Hospice Standards of Excellence. By achieving CHAP Accreditation, Transitions Hospice has also been deemed to meet the Medicare Conditions of Participation and is certified as a Medicare provider. CHAP Accreditation demonstrates that Transitions Hospice meets the industry’s highest nationally recognized standards. The rigorous evaluation by CHAP focuses on structure and function, quality of services and products, human and financial resources and long term viability. Simply stated, adherence to CHAP’s standards leads to better quality care. “By achieving CHAP Accreditation, Transitions Hospice has shown a commitment to excellence,” said Karen Collishaw, CHAP President & CEO. “We are excited to begin our partnership with Transitions Hospice by offering support in its commitment to providing quality care and continuous improvement.” Transitions Hospice provides comprehensive and high quality end of life care and hospice services to patients and their families in 33 counties across Illinois. Transitions Hospice was founded in 2007. Over the past 10 years, Transitions Hospice has continued to grow under the simple mission of taking care of people at home. Transitions Hospice has 3 commandments- Commit to Hospice, Each Patient is Unique, and Always Do the Right Thing. These simple yet important philosophies have driven the growth and mission of the company. “We are proud to have achieved CHAP Accreditation at Transitions Hospice. Our mission of quality and service aligns perfectly with the Hospice Standards of Excellence under CHAP,” said James Palazzo, founder and CEO of Transitions Hospice CHAP is an independent, not-for-profit, accrediting body for community-based health...

East Bank Center, Transitions’ Sister Company, Celebrates its 12th Year

East Bank Center, a post acute care and rehabilitation center in Loves Park, IL, is celebrating its 12th year! East Bank Center is Transitions Hospice’s sister company and is the Palazzos’ first healthcare establishment. It is a CMS (Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services) 5-star rated facility for eight consecutive years and is awarded as one of the best nursing homes by the US News from 2013 to 2016....

CEU: Alzheimer’s Disease Today

Join us as we and Bickford of Oswego host a 2-credit CEU event on Alzheimer’s Disease Today! Wednesday, May 31st, at the Bickford of Oswego, 3712 Grove Road, Oswego, IL. Registration begins at 5:30 pm. RSVP...