Hospice home caregivers pass national standards testHospice home caregivers pass national standards test
Four home health caregivers for Hospice of the Foothills have taken their mission to a higher level by passing a national certification test.
“It validates the level of care we offer,” said Vicki Wojciechowski, 60, who recently completed the test with three of her colleagues from the Nevada County hospice in Grass Valley, Holly Ryan, 53, Victor Veenhoff, 44, and George Oakley, 68.
While many home health aides do hospice activities across the country, few complete the Hospice and Palliative Care Nursing Association’s test, according to Eliza Renwick, the Home Health Aide Coordinator for the local hospice that lets people die with dignity.
“They have to have 1,000 hours of actual patient care and then extensively study to pass the test,” Renwick said. “It puts them at a higher level professionally,” than those who have not passed it.
“There was a lot of reading to do and we come across so many situations that there’s never enough information,” about making a patient’s final days better, Veenhoff said.
All four had different professions before coming on board with hospice as caregivers. Wojciechowski was a pre-school day care director, Veenhoff was a scuba diving instructor and landscaper, Oakley was an engineer and Ryan was an advertising executive.
“We all switched gears,” Wojciechowski said.
Ryan found the profession when her life partner was dying and received hospice care.
“I saw the difference that personal care can make in folks quality of life,” Ryan said. “So I wanted to pursue this.
“Why would I want to go back to advertising? This is much more meaningful.”
Wojciechowski found the profession when Hospice of the Foothills was called to make her father-in-law’s death more dignified.
Ever since then, “I’ve been dedicated to the quality of life for seniors,” Wojciechowski said. “I’m dedicated to comfort and dignity for patients and I want to participate in creating that.”
According to Veenhoff, “I was tired of doing things for money and personal gain. I wanted to do something more spiritual for the world and it was a pretty scary move.”
For Oakley, “I was going from manufacturing to a service-oriented field and it was challenging because we affect every aspect of (the patient’s) life.
“Most of the folks I work with are World War II veterans and I thought it was my time to serve them.”
Each case unique
Hospice can be emotionally trying for all involved, given the nature of its proximity with death, the caregivers said.
“It’s a hard thing to get a diagnosis of six months or less to live,” said Renwick.
“The families don’t know what to do,” Oakley said.
“So you teach the primary caregivers what to do,” Veenhoff said.
That could be anything from giving people bathes to shaving them, dressing them or just talking.
“It’s all unique and individual, Wojciechowski said. “I just don’t jump in. I go in with my sensors on and teach in a sensitive way. If I see someone (moving) someone in a dangerous manner, I ask permission to step in and suggest they don’t do it that way.”
Ryan learned from taking care of her partner that when the body starts breaking down, “It’s normal and not shameful. It’s just the way you are today.
“To assist someone into the shower or to dress them is natural and inevitable. How could there be any shame attached?”
According to Veenhoff, “You also feel you’re helping the primary caregiver. They run out of steam every once-in-awhile,” and need the help.
“It does a lot for us too,” Veenhoff said. “You’re with someone who is ill, but you’re still enjoying them. It makes you grateful for everything.”
Watching the clients die is not pleasant, but hospice is all about death with dignity and understanding, the four graduates said.
“You find things that help you deal with it; walks in nature, hobbies and the bereavement people (at the hospice) help us,” Veenhoff said.
“I talk to other caregivers and I go to my (hospice) teammates, because of the confidentiality,” under which hospice works, Wojciechowski said.
The caregivers are allowed one bereavement visit after a death, but they have to be careful to not get too close, Renwick said.
“They have to be professional, they can’t be their friends or family.”
While they watch out to not get too close, the four recent graduates remain motivated and realize what they do is important for the county.
“There’s not much in the library or book stores about death and dying,” Wojciechowski said.
To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4237.
What is hospice?
Hospice is the idea of letting those with a few weeks or months to live do so with dignity surrounded by family, often in their own homes. Hospice employees and volunteers provide social, emotional and spiritual services to patients and their families to help reduce pain and suffering during the process.
– Information from the Hospice Association of America
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