Reasons I love Memorial’s Hospice Team

For weeks now, I have been trying to articulate the value of using hospice services.  It’s hard to be succinct about every aspect in which hospice affects a dying patient and their family or support team.  We have been through an exhausting ordeal with Mom’s illness in the last 3 months.  Everyone seems to think calling hospice means imminent death. Well, that’s not how I think about hospice!  The ironic thing is that we didn’t have much hope for Mom until we called hospice in. Amazing things happened, and her quality of life was increased immeasurably!  If you are unsure about when to call hospice, then you probably need them now.  Call!  Once you learn about all they have to offer, you’ll be glad you called.  I promise you.

15 Reasons I love Memorial’s Hospice Team

Hospice brought a social worker; a tactical leader to a stressful situation.

  1. Hospice team knew how to order needed medical equipment.
  2. Hospice team addressed the concerns of the whole family.
  3. Hospice team affirmed our efforts to provide care ourselves.
  4. Hospice acknowledged our love of dogs and didn’t mind them in the house.
  5. Hospice did not preach or criticize any of us.
  6. Hospice spoke about the death process in a matter-of-fact way and did not avoid it.
  7. Hospice was available and responsive at all hours.
  8. Hospice did not judge us for our questions . . . ever.
  9. Hospice drew us out with gentle questions, helping us identify our fears and work through them.
  10. Hospice reassured us.
  11. Hospice laughed with us as a family.
  12. Hospice encouraged Mom to live her best life as long as she could.
  13. Hospice grieved with us when Mom died.
  14. Hospice normalized for us the natural process of dying; a gift which has already enriched our lives beyond measure.

What is hospice?

Hospice is a program of care and support for patients and families who are faced with a terminal illness. Hospice helps terminally ill people live their best lives, as comfortably as possible. The focus is on comfort, not on curing an illness.

Where is hospice?
Hospice is not a place or a location; it’s a healthcare option. The best “place” for hospice is the place that the patient calls “home.” Care can be delivered in private residences, nursing homes, assisted living and retirement communities and in hospitals.

Who should I call about hospice services?
Memorial Hospice
Phone: 509-574-6744 or visit for more information.

Cottage As A Family Member

Last week, my mother-in-law entered the Cottage as a patient.  Her family care team includes ten of us, just counting her kids and their spouses.  We “took turns” watching over Mom and trying to keep her comfortable.  Still, we were exhausted, and we are all relieved for this wonderful hospice resource.  So is she; no mother wants her children to go through extended caretaking for her!

We hoped we would never need Cottage in the Meadow for Mom, but are we glad we have this option!   Each morning, we go in early and open the blinds to let in the sunshine.  We open a window and let in the soothing sound of running water from her very own waterfall, right beside her own patio.  She has access to a spa bathtub, which has restored her spirits tenfold.

I have been involved with the Cottage in the Meadow project since 2008, in every phase from planning to conducting tours of the building.    I can honestly say that entering the Cottage as a family member is very different from entering as a staff member.    It feels like I can just check my cares at the door and focus on visiting with Mom and our family.  No huge decisions to make and convey to the rest of the family, and I don’t have to be fully “on guard”.  The  best part is I can feel the care and concern from each staff and volunteer, not just for Mom, but for each of us in the family.

I have always been proud of Cottage in the Meadow.  Now I’m also just plain grateful.

Our hospice team is well trained and ready to serve in a variety of ways.

“I will be forever grateful for the skillful way our hospice team drew us together to help bring closure and peace between us and our father during his last illness.  What a gift of unity we were given, just by being gently prompted to resolve our issues and express our love.  Thank you for taking such good care of Dad, and for caring for our whole family as he was dying.”

Hospice nurses, social workers, and volunteers are mission-driven to provide peace and comfort in whatever form is needed.  Not just medical comfort.  Spiritual and emotional healing are abundant gifts in a hospice setting.

When patients choose hospice care, they choose compassionate, palliative medical care for themselves. They also choose sensitive, empathetic emotional and spiritual support for their loved ones.  Hospice is about the whole family experience.  Many misunderstandings and resentments have been mended at a hospice patient’s bedside.  Sometimes it’s just the nature of the end of life experience; people realize that in the big picture of life, they just don’t want to continue to carry the burden of a disagreement.  Sometimes they just want to be free to rely upon one another again as a family unit.

Thankfully, these relationship mending moments aren’t necessary in every family.  But when dying patients say their goodbyes, the sight of their family uniting together is often enough to feel satisfied that their work here on earth is done.  Many patients feel free to let go and pass peacefully, once they are assured that “everything will be all right” with the family.  Our hospice team is well trained and ready to serve in a variety of ways.

Would you like to help stock our cupboard?

Sometimes a family member is unable or reluctant to leave Cottage in the Meadow to go out for a meal break.  Perhaps their loved one is restless or in need of company; perhaps death is imminent and the family member doesn’t want to miss a moment of opportunity to comfort their patient.

There is a small family kitchen and a lovely dining room at the Cottage.  The kitchen has a microwave oven, a refrigerator, basic vending machines, a coffee pot, dishwasher, and a sink.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to stock the cupboard in that little kitchen with non-perishable quick meals and snacks to help tide people over until they can get away?  This small kindness would make a great difference to a weary loved one; bolster their courage and give them a chance to take a quick break without leaving.

Here are some suggested items to help stock the family kitchen hospitality cupboard:

Prepackaged Single serving microwaveable non perishables , such as soups, instant noodles or mac and cheese, shelf-stable meals, crackers, cookies, chips, small bottles of fruit juice, tea, coffee, paper plates, cups and napkins.

If you can help, please drop off your donation of items directly at the Cottage, 1208 S 48th Avenue or The Memorial Foundation—2701 Tieton Drive, Yakima.  You can also make a monetary gift through our secure online giving page at

Thank you.  Your contribution will mean the world to a harried family.

Looking for the Helpers!

A comment on the senseless Boston tragedy.  Watching the news, horrified.  One leader after another, telling the cameras what their department is doing about it.  Positive responses, to be sure.  The most encouraging voice yesterday, though, was from Mr. Rogers who said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

He is so right!  Thankfully, the news people turned quickly to pointing out the good people who scrambled to help others yesterday.  If we open our eyes, we see it everywhere, really. That’s how we roll; at least in Yakima!

As Tom Peters said, “Celebrate what you want to see more of”.

Tell us your story!

As a volunteer at the CITM, I am the first contact to greet family and friends of our patients. Recently a couple came to pick up the belongings of their brother who had passed away. This was their last stop before returning home in another state.

As they were thanking us for the compassionate care given to their brother, I noticed tears forming in the woman’s eyes. I opened my arms and said “May I give you a hug?” As I held her for a few moments I thought “what a gift: to be able to extend comfort to a grieving family member.”

We both wiped our eyes, smiled, and then they were gone. But the warmth of that brief contact returns whenever I enter the Cottage.

Millie Haupt, CITM Volunteer

Doug Rich, quietly strumming his guitar in a corner…

When family members walk the Cottage hallways, they sometimes stop and bask in the healing music of Doug Rich, quietly strumming his guitar in a corner. He just shows up and starts playing, sometimes for hours. Cottage staff, volunteers, and family members have all told us Doug’s calming, soulful tunes sweetly fill in the aching spot in their hearts with hope and peace. What a gift he brings. Thank you, Doug!

Doug Rich 02

A thank you to our Community

A feeling of peace and calm: my words to describe the atmosphere at Cottage in the Meadow. From the interior with soft colors and areas for rest and reflection to benches and flowing water to enjoy outside, the environment is one of healing. A healing place to reminisce and celebrate lives well lived. Thank you to the community for providing a place for hospice to assure that the end of life is one of comfort and peace.

Gail Weaver
Member, Hospice Steering Committee

David Eichwald – On Being a Social Worker for Hospice

We social workers are often misunderstood. I’ve worked for CPS, several group care facilities in my early years. Most recently I worked at Farm Workers Medical and Mental Health in their Specialized Foster Care Program.
I did my second practicum at YVMHs Home Care and Hospice in 1999 and 2000. I was hired as a hospice MSW in February of 2000. I was hired as CITM MSW a few months ago.

The social worker is an integral member of the CITM hospice team. As trained professionals, our first responsibility is to evaluate the needs of the patient and their family upon entering the hospice program. We look at several levels of family dynamics; the individual, the family, the family in the community and sometimes the family and how they relate to the current political scene.

We represent the individual/family’s wishes at every hospice team meeting. We meet weekly with our medical director, Dr Waber, pharmacist, RNs, chaplains and fellow social workers. All social workers at YVMH’s hospice program have their MSW.

Social Workers complete the admission paperwork. During this time we are assessing patients and their families. Usually we determine a starting point at this time. If one is able to see that each patient and family member is at some point in the process of acceptance, then we are better able to provide the support that they need.

It is not our job as hospice social workers to impose any particular agenda.

We are there to support the patient and their family’s wishes, and address their concerns be it financial, emotional or ethical. This is often difficult to do since we work within a medical model that tends to present as being a sage/serf relationship.

One of the many roles of the social worker is to assist other hospice team members to understand what is going on with our patients and their families.

It is a goal of ours to be aware of any social, cultural or religious beliefs that might impact the process of acceptance

We recognize that family members bring their own understanding to this process. In a culture that tends to deny death we are able guide patients and their families down a path that we are very familiar with. We are always open to learning and experiencing new ways at looking at death.

Hospice Social Workers strive to make the environment of our patients and their family as safe as possible. The process of decline towards death can be a very emotionally vulnerable time. We have the privilege and honor of being accepted into our families’ reality.

Feelings of love and feelings related to death often feel similar. When it comes to death our hearts ache with love and pain at the same time.

Who takes care of you?

When we are confronted with life altering circumstances, such as the loss of a loved one, stress is an inevitable and natural response. It is, in many ways, part of how we cope – how we heal; however, it must be properly acknowledged so that it is managed in a way that permits us to continue living a healthy and productive life.

Oftentimes, it is easier to see signs of stress in others than in ourselves. Loss brings about stress in the form of grief, which can present itself in many ways. It is critical that we know how to acknowledge the symptoms associated with the stress of grieving so that we can begin exploring ways of caring for ourselves that will help to guide us through the grieving process towards making a successful recovery.

Below are some of the most common symptoms, as well as some self care tips:

Physical symptoms include: changes in appetite or weight, sleep disturbances, lower immune response, exhaustion, muscle / joint pain, breathing difficulties, chest pain, clumsiness, or self-destructive behavior.

Mental symptoms include: forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating, increased errors and accidents, self doubt, disproportionate worry and fear.

Emotional symptoms include: short patience, mood swings, desire to withdraw, excess crying, numbness, anxiety, argumentative, hopelessness.

A few self-care ideas include: exercising, spending time in nature, meditating, pursuing new experiences, writing in a journal, letting yourself cry, calling an old friend to reconnect, taking a vacation without destination obligations, clarifying your own needs and beginning to make requests, holding hands with someone close to you, getting a massage – the options here are endless.

Grief is a natural response to loss; it does not have to be a way of life. The decision is yours and it is one that needs to be made on an ongoing basis. What will you commit to do in the next 24 hours that says, “I am responsibly attending to my own needs today.” Breath it in – enjoy!