Hospice Austin’s Blog
I woke up one day and decided I wanted to do something that matters. I wanted to go back to school and find a career that would allow me to make a difference in the lives of others. I actually decided I was going to go to ACC and apply to Hospice Austin before I ever even applied to the program. Hard work pays off and I applied to Hospice Austin as soon as I had my certificate. I’ve had two family members pass in the hands of this organization and my heart is so full being able to now work for them and be on the other side.
I develop a special relationship with all my patients. I didn’t sign up for this for a paycheck – I do this because I feel like it’s what I’m called to do. If you can’t give love and comfort and care, you’re in the wrong job. I love my patients. I advocate for them and each day I try to do my best for them – putting a smile on their face, or wiping their tears, or just giving them a hug.
When my dad was sick in McAllen, we had help from an agency, but some of the CNAs were very rude to my father and tried to rush him. We know people lose the ability to do things when they are sick, so CNAs need to take the time to do things gently – transfer, help with the shower. People were so rude with my father. That’s what motivated me to become a CNA. One day I will be the same age, and I want to be treated well.
I’m hands on – we are there to give patients love and everything they need. I like that we can spend time with them. I’ve worked with patients on the home team and now here at Christopher House. I like both. Giving the patients a bath, applying lotion and oils – they love it – it’s so relaxing for them.
I was on the COVID-19 Response Team over 6 months. I wanted to be there to help them.
A lot of my patients are men who have been in the military and don’t feel they need assistance but they do. Some of them say, “I’m gonna die before I let someone assist me!” If I have a stubborn patient, we sit down and talk and get to know each other. Many times we have a lot in common and don’t realize it.
I’ve been a CNA for 30 years. I started shortly out of high school. My mom said, “Come work where I work.” She’s a CNA, her sisters are CNAs, my cousin is a CNA. It was just in our family – they are so loving and giving and compassionate.
I remember when we started Camp Brave Heart for grieving children over 20 years ago. We were certain that the need was there – most kids and teens knew no other child who had a loved one die and felt very isolated – but we weren’t sure how it would go. Would anyone attend? Would it be fun? Would it be healing?
Last year we had those same questions when we decided to hold the camp online over Zoom. A surprising number of kids attended. And yes, it was fun; yes, it was healing. The kids made connections, both with one another and with their own grief.
Since Hospice Austin volunteers haven’t been able to visit with patients in person for the past year, they’ve had to get creative. Some have kept connected to patients via phone calls or porch visits; others have organized food drives to stock our food pantry. They’ve donated supplies such as adult coloring books, chocolate, and other gifts for our customized gift baskets for patients. Our musicians have played concerts outside of patients’ rooms in the courtyard at Hospice Austin’s Christopher House.
Dying is hard, not just physically, but psychologically. It’s fraught with emotional landmines of worry for loved ones, traumas or regret over the past, and fear of the future. Hospice Austin social workers must delicately navigate these minefields in order to help patients achieve peace. It means building trust in often a short amount of time and entails helping patients and loved ones organize and process their feelings around mortality.
Certified Nurse Aide Blanche Pichon-Benford doesn’t consider herself brave. Neither does RN Valerie Sims, or Social Worker Rachel Poppers. Yet they were among the first to volunteer for Hospice Austin’s COVID-19 Response Team in March, back when little was known about the disease and fear was rampant. Since then, they’ve provided care for many patients and families with COVID. Blanche just got three new patients with the virus this week.