Refill with Randy – Grateful to be part of the Hospice team

Posted 10 September 2023 at 8:00 am

By Randy LeBaron

“I could never do what you do.”

That is a comment that I have repeatedly heard from people over the past 1 ½ years since I started working as the Spiritual Care & Bereavement Coordinator for Hospice of Orleans. The implication is that working with patients who are dying, along with family members who are grieving, on a daily basis would be too emotionally exhausting. I get it.

I probably would have said the same thing to someone in my position a decade ago after experiencing Hospice from the other side. Even my wife gets concerned at times and asked me once, after I had officiated a number of funerals in a short time span, “When did your life become all about death?”

I don’t know if I have an answer to that but, as far as a response to the original comment, I am quick to respond by sharing how much I appreciated all of the help that I received from Hospice staff when my mother was dying from brain cancer and that I try to focus on how I could bring some sense of peace and comfort to others who may be going through a similar situation.

I also know that I am not the only one who feels this way or who shares a similar purpose in what they do. Many of the staff that I work with at Hospice of Orleans have also been impacted by their own personal losses and they too have chosen to use those experiences to fuel their passion to help others. I cannot share everyone’s story at this time but, over the next couple of weeks, I do want to share a few.

Today I would like to start with our Director of Advancement, Julia Alt, who oversees such things as: fundraising, philanthropy, event planning, and community relations. If you golfed in our tournament this past July, enjoyed an evening at The Toast for Hospice, or joined us last Fall for Hospice of Orlean’s Walk to Remember, there is a good chance that you have already met Julia.

Julia’s first encounter with Hospice came when her grandmother was placed in a Hospice Home in Monroe County after battling a 2-year illness. Julia, who was living in Atlanta, GA at the time and flying up on the weekends, was impressed not only with the care given to her grandmother but also to herself and her family as the staff would often check in with them to see how they were doing, if they needed anything, and to let them know of any changes in her grandmother’s condition. The experience made such an impact that just 6 months after her grandmother’s passing Julia felt God leading her to use her marketing background to assist a nearby Hospice Center in Atlanta.

Not too long after Julia moved back north to her husband’s hometown of Barker, NY. After settling in she sent in her resume and, after being hired last fall, quickly became an integral part of the Hospice Team. When asked what she would want others who may be considering hospice care for themselves or their loved one to know Julia responded that, “Hospice gives people time.”

As the person who has taken the phone call of a distressed caregiver who wants their loved one to be admitted but, in waiting until the very end there wasn’t time before the patient’s passing, Julia wonders how much better it may have been for both the patient and the family if they had allowed Hospice to step in sooner. Perhaps the family could have spent more quality time together, the caregiver could have been given more support, and the patient could have had a more peaceful passing. That is what Hospice can offer

One of the many misconceptions about hospice care is that it is only for cancer patients or only at the very end of someone’s life. The fact is that anyone with a terminal diagnosis of 6 months or less can qualify to receive assistance. I personally have had patients who were still very active, had healthy appetites, and chose to live on their own when they started services. Hospice helps to maintain the quality of a person’s life for whatever time they have left and it is not a sign that they or their family are giving up. If anything it means that they are accepting of their diagnosis and are choosing to focus on being at peace and pain free while they make the most of their time with family and friends.

I will be forever grateful not only to those from Hospice of Orleans who made it possible for my wife and I to care for my mother at home as long as we did and to the staff at The Aurora House in Spencerport who gave me the gift of being able to be a son, and not just a caregiver, during mom’s final two weeks with us. That is the reason why I am able to bear the weight of others who are going through grief, because others helped to bear the weight of my grief when I needed it most.

Come back in 2 weeks to hear the testimony of two more of my colleagues and, if you would like to join me and others from Hospice for this year’s Walk to Remember on October 7th (my mother’s birthday). 

See you in two weeks!

Pastor Randy