Thursday, January 16, 2014

President & CEO Rafael Sciullo Talks Achievements, Care and Community Support

Suncoast Hospice and our family of programs had a wonderful year of growth and service to patients and families in Pinellas and Pasco counties in 2013.

Watch this video of our President and CEO Rafael Sciullo talking about some of our 2013 achievements of care to the community, including two new healthcare partnerships, and the many ways the community can get involved with us in 2014.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Volunteer Helps Care Team Office Run

Chris handles some paperwork.
In her retirement, Christine “Chris” Beach wanted to find a meaningful place to volunteer her time. One of her friends  volunteered making evening phone calls for Suncoast Hospice and Chris chose to become a volunteer with us, too.

Chris jumped in enthusiastically last July serving as an office volunteer for one of our south Pinellas facility care teams based at our St. Petersburg community service center. Office volunteers help our care teams and departments countywide operate.

Chris works Mondays and sometimes Thursdays at the center providing essential support to her team. She enters all of the volunteer visit notes, updates the telephone support list, runs reports for another office volunteer to use and prints labels for that volunteer’s mailings to patients’ attending physicians.

“The office is a good fit for me. I do whatever they need me to do and I’m willing to do more,” said Chris, adding how she appreciates the welcoming environment there.

Chris gets set for computer work.
“The people who work for Suncoast Hospice are really sweet. It’s so nice to be around happy people. I feel like I made a home here. I love it here,” she said.

Is volunteering one of your New Year resolutions?

Become an office volunteer. Individuals with computer skills are particularly needed. Apply online or call 727-586-4432.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Spiritual Care Opens Pathways to Peace

By James “Jim” Andrews
Suncoast Hospice’s Director of Spiritual Care

Jim Andrews
One of the founding principles of the hospice movement is that caring for people faced with life-limiting illnesses requires attention to not only their medical needs but their psycho-social and spiritual needs as well. Suncoast Hospice is fortunate to have compassionate, highly-trained hospice chaplains dedicated to addressing those spiritual needs. 

I recently became the director of spiritual care for Suncoast Hospice. Before that, I served as one of our hospice chaplains for more than 12 years. It was a privilege and honor being a companion on the journeys of our patients and families.

One Man's Spiritual Pain

Whether you’re a religious person or not, facing a serious illness inherently brings up spiritual questions of meaning, purpose, comfort, forgiveness, relatedness and hope. I remember meeting one patient named "Connor" who lived inside a beautiful building in an exclusive part of town. The building's elevator had one stop on his floor and it opened in to his enormous, impeccably decorated home. I was greeted by a paid caregiver who took me back to the living room and introduced me to Connor. Before we finished shaking hands, Connor broke down in tears. 

We sat quietly together side by side on his couch, and after some time passed Connor was able to speak and share his story with me. On the surface, it sounded like the great American success story. He had started out selling door to door and over the years had worked his way up from regional sales manager to marketing vice president for an international corporation. He had more money than he knew what to do with and every creature comfort that his heart desired. Yet, he was filled with regret. 

Connor explained to me, “Jim, I spent my whole life chasing after the all-mighty dollar and I totally neglected what matters most in life.” I asked him what that was to him and he responded, “Faith, family and friends.”

He went on, “As a young man, I was very involved with my church and got a lot out of it. But I haven’t darkened the doorway of a church in decades. I cheated on my wife and never spent time with my children, so I’m estranged from all of them. I was always too concerned that my friends were just out for my money. So here I am facing the end of my life and there’s not a soul on the planet who really loves me and cares about what I’m going through.” 

Finding Peace Within

Connor faced some deep questions of faith, forgiveness and meaning, however with some support and guidance he was able to come to a sense of peaceful closure about his life and relationships. The chaplains and specially-trained volunteers of Suncoast Hospice and other hospices across the country provide a compassionate presence and a safe, gentle place for people to wrestle with their unanswered questions and pain in their souls. 

It’s an honor to work with our hospice’s incredible group of spiritual caregivers.

Are you or someone you love living with a serious illness?

Call us to find out about our services at 727-467-7423 or visit us online to request services.

*The patient's name was changed for privacy protection.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Volunteer Connects the Bereaved to Grief Support

Mary "Missy" Wolf
Mary “Missy” Wolf reaches out to support those who've had loved ones die in our care. As one of our bereavement support volunteers, Missy makes 12 to 15 calls monthly from her home to the bereaved six or nine months after the deaths. She finds out how they're doing and lets them know we're here to help.

“I love that Suncoast Hospice care is all inclusive helping patients and the families. A lot of times people want to talk after a death but others around them don’t want to talk about it. They may feel isolated or lost. We give them an open invitation to receive our grief support if they want to participate,” Missy said.

Missy works full time for a commercial realtor’s office and has children. She began her volunteer service with our Suncoast Hospice Foundation in 2004, including doing ambassador calls to thank donors and special events, which help support the care and services we provide. She then joined us doing patient and family support and bereavement support.

She makes many bereavement calls on weekends when she feels people are in more relaxed settings and may follow up with them during the week. She enjoys making that connection.

“Most people I speak with are so appreciative of the care their loved ones received from Suncoast Hospice and appreciate that I’ve called, even if they don’t feel they need any help at that time. I find it rewarding to check in with them so they know they’re not forgotten. After my mother died and having a baby, I didn’t really have the ability to talk to anyone professionally and I was left to deal with my grief alone. It’s nice for people to know that someone is going to call them and ask how things are going,” she said.

Interested in becoming a bereavement support volunteer? Submit an online volunteer application or call 727-586-4432.

Are you hurting from the loss of a family member or friend? Join us for support at our groups or workshops.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Suncoast Hospice Integrative Medicine Clinic Provides Comforting Care to Patients

Integrative medicine is a specialized kind of care that blends conventional medicine with therapies such as acupuncture to treat the whole patient. The care can help relieve the the physical, emotional and spiritual pain of a patient with a serious illness.

Suncoast Hospice physician Kirksak Jay Poonkasem, M.D. practices integrative medicine to bring much needed comfort to our hospice patients at our new Suncoast Hospice Integrative Medicine Clinic. Watch Dr. Poonkasem talk about integrative medicine and our care at the clinic in this video.  

Check back soon for a Part II video with Dr. Poonkasem telling the story of one patient who greatly benefited from the care at the clinic.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Suncoast Hospice Celebrates National Hospice and Palliative Care Month

By Deidra Woods, MD, FACP, FAAHPM, CMD
Suncoast Hospice Medical Director

Dr. Deidra Woods
November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month: Hospice. Care on Your Terms. Palliative care is the medical specialty focused on the relief of symptoms associated with serious illness and hospice care is palliative care applied to patients nearing the end of life.   

I’d like to share what a privilege it has been for me to devote my medical career to this very special group of patients. The first reaction of my medical colleagues is usually, “Hospice does such a wonderful job. I appreciate all your organization does for my patients.”  But then they lean in closely, grab my arm tightly and whisper, “I don’t know how you could do that work.” I sincerely answer, “I can’t imagine doing any other work.”

Drawn to Hospice

Prior to working in hospice care, I practiced in Naples, Florida in a geriatric practice that supplied physician services to long term care facilities, including nursing homes and assisted living facilities. After about a year, a hospice nurse approached me in a nursing home and asked if I’d be interested in becoming a full time hospice physician. At that time in 1994, I wasn’t familiar with the concept of full time employment for physicians in hospice care. But her enthusiasm for her organization and conviction that I was suited for that work swayed me to interview for the position and I’ve been a hospice physician ever since. 

Rewarding Field 

The ability to relieve suffering and address the important issues and meaning of end of life are the greatest rewards in medicine. To my colleagues who are concerned that my work may be depressing, my answer is never. It’s ultimately the greatest feeling to know that I’ve helped a patient or family to have a meaningful experience as death approaches, with the patient as comfortable as possible.  

The loving care that families provide to hospice patients is an inspiration to us in our daily work. Our volunteers who provide countless hours of care and companionship to our frail elders remind us of the goodness and generosity of people. The courage that our patients and families demonstrate as they face the reality that life is finite and each day is a gift makes us thankful for our own blessings.   

The lessons I’ve learned at the bedsides of people whose lives are drawing to a close are the most valuable I’ve ever learned and have enriched my life immeasurably. Being allowed to share such intimate moments with families is a real gift.   

The practice of medicine itself is a very special career, made even more special when devoted to patients in hospice and palliative care. Please help us celebrate National Hospice and Palliative Care Month by visiting the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization website,   

Have you been touched by hospice and palliative care? Tell us your story.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Suncoast Hospice Provides Care in ALFs and Nursing Homes

By Sherylee Hanson
Community Liaison

Sherylee Hanson
Did you know Suncoast Hospice provides care and support to our patients and families not only in their homes and assisted living facilities (ALFs) but in nursing homes, too?

Our services are the same in all settings, which may come as a surprise to some. For many in our Pinellas County community, the ALFs and nursing homes are their homes and Suncoast Hospice can be there to help those who are affected by advanced or chronic illnesses, caregiving or grief.

Our care teams are experts in hospice care and palliative care, also known as comfort care. It’s our privilege to partner with and work alongside the staff of these skilled and assisted living facilities to provide specialized physical, emotional and spiritual care to our patients and families. We work together with our patients and families and their doctors and health care providers to establish personalized care plans that honor the decisions and wishes of our patients and families. Our goal is to bring them improved quality of life. 

Some of the members of our care teams include board-certified hospice and palliative medicine physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, licensed counselors and therapists, chaplains, certified home health nurses aides and trained volunteers. Our teams provide pain and symptom management, palliative therapies (pet, music, massage, aroma, etc.), emotional and spiritual counseling, caregiver training and support, family support and more.

Our services may be paid for by Medicare, Medicaid, managed care, private health insurance, private payments and the generous financial support of our community. Through community donations, we’re able to care for all who need us regardless of their ability to pay.       

I believe there is hope in hospice and at Suncoast Hospice we’ve learned how to redefine hope. Many find that at this time in their lives they hope for new things. It can manifest itself in ways, such as when our patients benefit from our pet therapy. A majority of our pet therapy visits happen in nursing homes, ALFs and our care centers. We had one patient who had closed himself off from others, and only after trying pet therapy did he open up to the dogs that visited him, his care team and others.

Our teams are there to be supportive and bring comfort, dignity and hope in the journeys of our patients and families. Most patients and families say they wish they had called us sooner. It’s never too early to ask about our care and services. 

Are you wondering if it’s time for hospice for you or a loved one?

Call us any time for information at 727-467-7423 or submit an online request form.