Hospice – confronting the concept of it can be daunting. For a lot of people, once they hear “hospice,” they immediately jump to the idea of death. However, Alana Knoppow from Arbor Hospice mentions that, though the idea of hospice and death being synonymous is common, something Arbor Hospice hears often is that relatives and friends often wish they had enrolled their loved one in hospice sooner, to make the last phase of their life as comfortable and content as possible.
Alana Knoppow has been with Arbor Hospice for almost nine years, caring for those as they enter and leave the last phase of life. Arbor Hospice is a non-profit organization that specializes in care for people at that point, by providing comfort and enhancing their quality of life in any way possible. They provide aids and volunteers to patients both in their residences, in patients’ homes, and in other care facilities.
Hospice is described by Alana as palliative, meaning “comfort care,” which is exactly what those in hospice aim to do. Those who work in hospice specialize in symptom management, which can fall under spiritual, physical, or emotional pain. Something that Arbor Hospice recognizes in their practice is that as long as a patient is living, they are in fact alive. With that, Arbor Hospice strives to make patients’ quality of life as valuable as possible, even in its final stages.
Arbor Hospice provides a unique approach to hospice care. Rather than simply sitting at someone’s bedside, Arbor Hospice enlists volunteers such as massage therapists and musicians to gift patients with their talents. Veterans can visit fellow veterans. Whatever special care a patient wants or needs in their time with Arbor Hospice, it can be achieved. Arbor Hospice also brings in licensed cosmetologists to provide haircuts and paint nails, so that patients feel their best, even when their best may seem unattainable. Something that makes Arbor Hospice unique is that they provide pediatric hospice, which Alana expressed can be hard to find, but at the same time, so necessary to young patients and their families.
When asked of a time that stood out to Alana in her nine years with Arbor Hospice, she reflected on one specific patient that had a projected 48 hours to live. It was Christmas Eve, and this patient had no family or friends at their side. A vigil visit was requested, which is when a volunteer offers a quiet and supportive presence to a patient. The request was put out to all volunteers, with the hopes that maybe one or two would make time around their holiday celebrations to be with this patient. The response was overwhelming, and Alana was able to provide volunteers back-to-back until the end of life, which was about 72 hours later. As Alana recalled this memory, she referred to it as “The Christmas Miracle Vigil.”
Hospice care not only greatly affects the patients, but the loved ones of those in hospice care. Arbor Hospice offers incredible resources to those who may be struggling with having a friend or relative in hospice or are grieving. Arbor Hospice offers grief support, which is open to the community at no cost. They also provide a variety of educational offerings and are very involved in the community. You may have even seen them at Paws in the Park downtown.
Speaking of paws, volunteers and aids can even visit with a pet. Alana has visited with a few of her own furry friends. Her first therapy dog, a black pug named Sammi, had one eye and was blind. Even though Sammi was blind, he always knew to put his paw into others’ hands for comfort. Her current black pug, Albert, is described as very playful and energetic, but always provides a calming presence alongside hospice patients. Alana expanded on this by saying that dogs have a special way of sensing who in the room needs them most.
Being an employee or volunteer in hospice can be quite heavy and weigh on anyone emotionally. Alana mentioned that there are a few ways to keep morale high among staff and clients. She continued that everyone at Arbor Hospice has a team to lean on. At Arbor Hospice, they hold weekly team meetings, in which each person has the opportunity to talk and reflect on their experiences. Though dedicating their lives to helping patients pass and comforting loved ones would ordinarily be something that would weigh heavily on a team’s morale, Alana explained that it is meaningful and an honor to be included in that critical point in a loved one’s life. Arbor Hospice often receives calls of gratitude and reflection for the wonderful things their team has done to provide patients with the utmost quality of care.
Alana explained that the people behind hospice care are truly one of a kind. There is a type of person who wants to get involved in hospice, and it’s evident that they are selfless and strong.
Arbor Hospice is always looking for volunteers to spend time with patients. They can do so on a weekly or monthly basis; Arbor Hospice just asks that volunteers make a one-year commitment. All volunteers are screened and trained, and a staff member will go with any new volunteers for their first visit or two. Arbor Hospice is eager to welcome any and all potential volunteers who hope to get involved in hospice care, they just ask that, if you are grieving, wait 12 months to process your own loss before stepping into someone else’s.
Anyone hoping to get involved can reach Alana Knoppow at email@example.com and 248-303-6818. If you aren’t available to volunteer yourself, Alana shared that even something as small as liking and engaging with Arbor Hospice on social media and sharing what their organization does can be huge for their organization.