• How to Get Started Volunteering with Hospice

    So, you’ve decided to try volunteering with hospice and you want to know how to get started. If you haven’t yet made this wonderful and life-impacting decision, check out our article on the benefits and rewards of volunteering with hospice.

    Bridgeway Hospice is a great hospice to volunteer with and, if you’re in the Atlanta area, we have a location near you. The process is thorough, but you will have someone guiding and assisting you throughout the time you are with us.

    Bridgeway serves all of Metro Atlanta stretching through Northeast Atlanta and into the Athens area ( Click here to see a list of our locations ). As a volunteer you are welcome to volunteer as little or as much as you are available. No long-term commitment is needed to volunteer with Bridgeway Hospice.

    After initial contact is made through phone or email, a volunteer coordinator will contact you to set up an orientation meeting. This first meeting will mostly be an informative session including a comprehensive training program. Topics range from hospice philosophy and services offered to individual needs and boundaries. This meeting is important to determine how you can best serve the patient through your strengths, skills and talents.

    Bridgeway Hospice’s volunteer coordinators try to set honest and real expectations for new volunteers into what can be an impactful and rewarding volunteering endeavor. “I give them the true facts of what this experience could be and what to expect. Volunteers often tell me ‘it was exactly what you said, and I appreciate it,’” says LaShonn Waller, one of Bridgeway Hospice’s volunteer coordinators.

    After the first meeting, the local volunteer coordinator will match you with patients based on their proximity to you, and the needs of the patient relative to the volunteer services you can provide.

    On the first day of volunteering with a hospice patient, the volunteer coordinator will accompany you on the visit. This initial visit will be rather short and also include caregivers and other staff to determine if it is a good fit for you both. Additionally, the volunteer coordinator may take you to meet other patients in this same manner on the same day to determine which patient will be the best fit for you.

    The coordinator will keep you updated and current, especially with regard to the patient. “I have 35 volunteers and I talk to each one of them every week to give them updates and just to see how they are doing,” Waller says.

    Volunteering with Bridgeway Hospice will help you gain great personal satisfaction from knowing that you have made a positive impact in another person’s life. For more information please contact any of our wonderful volunteer coordinators at www.bridgewayhospice.org/volunteer/

  • Why Volunteer with Hospice?

    Volunteering with hospice is an immensely rewarding experience for the volunteer and those they serve. Hospice is a form of remedy for a difficult and often depressive time for patients and their families and hospice’s goal of comfort, peace and quality of life is greatly enhanced by its volunteers.

    Studies have repeatedly shown that volunteering is linked to greater levels of happiness and well-being. Additionally, caring for others has also been found to lead to happiness and fulfillment. Volunteering with a hospice is an excellent method to accomplish both.

    A passion to care for others makes a real and tangible difference in people’s lives. A warm person’s smiling face increases positivity and uplifts a hospice patient and their family. Having someone new to talk with and spend time with can be a tremendous gift and blessing.

    Photo by Crown Agency

    Volunteers can serve in a large variety of roles. No matter your abilities or situation, you can help provide comfort and peace to others in a difficult season. Primarily, volunteers provide companionship by spending time with the patient and simply being there with them. By telling stories, listening to the patient’s stories, reading or even pet and music therapy, volunteers are a ray of light to hospice patients.

    In addition to providing company to those in hospice care, volunteers are also needed to help with more practical matters. Bridgeway relies on volunteers to help with office work, fund-raising, community outreach and other operational areas.

    Depending on the situation, volunteers sometimes keep vigil with the patient and/or their families during the end. However, volunteers are never asked to do something they don’t feel comfortable doing. Additionally, “In Georgia, volunteers do not participate in any hands-on care such as bathing, feeding or moving the patient,” says Shari Koch one of Bridgeway Hospice’s volunteer coordinators.

    Photo by Elijah Henderson

    Bridgeway serves all of Metro Atlanta stretching through Northeast Atlanta and into the Athens area. ( BridgewayHospice.org/Locations/ ). As a volunteer you are welcome to volunteer as little or as much as you are available. No long-term commitment is needed to volunteer with Bridgeway Hospice.

    Volunteering with Bridgeway Hospice will help you gain great personal satisfaction from knowing that you have made a positive impact in another person’s life. For more information please contact any of our wonderful volunteer coordinators at BridgewayHospice.org/Volunteer/

  • Who Pays for Hospice?

    One of the most frequently asked questions concerns about hospice care is who pays for it and how is it paid for. As with any form of healthcare, cost is a valid concern. However, when you are dealing with an illness that may require hospice care, paying for it is the last thing you want to worry about. Fortunately, hospice care is covered under most types of health plans and requires very little to no out of pocket patient cost.

    Photo by Nathália Bariani

    To qualify for under these health plans, the patient must meet the basic hospice requirements. These requirements state that the patient be diagnosed with a terminal illness and no longer be pursuing aggressive treatment and have a life expectancy of less than six months.

    Nearly 90 percent of hospice costs are paid through government programs and most of it comes through Medicare. Most hospice patients are Medicare eligible and Medicare will pay all costs of hospice care except for co-pays on prescription drugs.

    Medicare covers a broad range of services including nursing, therapy, social work and even equipment and supplies. Room and board is not included in these services. The only stipulation to Medicare coverage of hospice care is that it will not cover treatment to cure the illness or treat it, beyond palliative care of the symptoms. The upside to this is that there is no limit to how long Medicare will provide for hospice care as long as the patient remains eligible.

    For those that do not qualify for Medicare, Medicaid also provides coverage in much the same way. Eligibility requirements for Medicaid vary from state to state and can be found on the program’s website, www.medicaid.gov

    Additionally, if the hospice patient is a veteran or military personnel, hospice benefits are provided for by Tricare, the medical care benefit of the armed services. Eligibility and care stipulations are nearly identical to those of Medicare.

    Finally, although most private insurers such as Blue Cross Blue Shield and Humana cover hospice care, their plans vary across providers. Of course self-pay is also an option and many charities exist to help those less fortunate to have the comfort and dignity they deserve.

    We know that is a difficult time for all involved if you are considering or pursuing hospice care, so the cost of care should be the least of your concerns. Bridgeway Hospice will work with you to determine the best method of payment and provide the best level of care, no matter your situation to make this time as comfortable and peaceful as possible.

  • What’s the Difference Between Hospice Care and Palliative Care?

    Bridgeway Hospice and Bridgeway Palliative Care share many of the same goals although there are some subtle but important differences. Whether you are considering palliative care for someone in your life or simply looking to learn more, in this article we’ll explore what palliative care aims to achieve and the primary ways in which it differs from traditional hospice care.

    Bridgeway Hospice and Palliative care have similar goals but some subtle differences. What is Palliative Care?

    Palliative care is specialized medical care aimed at managing the physical, emotional and spiritual issues associated with serious illness. At Bridgeway we work with your current healthcare providers to support their efforts in managing your health, while focusing on your personal goals and values.

    Patients with a serious illness, as well as their families, are impacted in all areas of their lives. Palliative care can manage these effects across the entire spectrum of care. In addition to physical problems such as pain, sleeplessness and appetite loss, palliative care also addresses the emotional and social side of illness including anxiety, stress and depression. Palliative care may also help patients and families affirm their thoughts and feelings through a therapeutic approach to emotional support.

    A palliative care team will also help with more logistical and practical issues such as helping the family understand resources the community offers to help with financial counseling, transportation and housing. The team also acts as a medical liaison of sorts to the family, offering explanation and understanding of available options and treatment.

    Differences of Hospice and Palliative Care

    The primary difference between hospice and palliative care is that, unlike hospice, palliative care can be utilized while the patient is undergoing aggressive treatment for the illness and at any time during the illness. Hospice care is reserved for patients that are no longer undergoing life-prolonging treatment and typically have less than six months to live. Palliative care has no such time or treatment restrictions—it acts as an additional layer of medical care for those patients who need comfort, care and support.

    Another notable difference between these two levels of care relates to how they are billed. Hospice is usually covered in full by Medicare and Medicaid. While Medicare and Medicaid may also help with palliative care, it is usually covered through the patient’s insurance. Some palliative care programs may operate out of hospitals and inpatient facilities, but Bridgeway Palliative Care is community-based—meaning that we will come to serve and care for the patient where they live.

    Bridgeway Palliative Care improves quality of life.

    Palliative care seeks to, and succeeds in, improving quality of life. The program aims to prevent unnecessary hospitalizations for issues such as dehydration and shortness of breath. By managing the symptoms at home, quickly, and in comfortable surroundings, patients benefit and costs are reduced.

    Gabby Cornett, Director of Palliative Care Operations for Bridgeway, states that “studies have found that early introduction to a palliative care team can increase quantity and quality of life for cancer patients compared to a control group facing the same diagnosis. In our program, we have noted more than 70% of our patients reporting an increase in quality of life.”

    The team at Bridgeway Palliative Care and Bridgeway Hospice are committed experts focused on bringing the very best care to any patient and their family through the appropriate approach to meet your needs.

  • Senior Life — Responsible Planning Documents for the New Year

    Senior Life — Responsible Planning Documents for the New Year

    Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

    A new year is a fresh opportunity and a new chance to plan and prepare for the future. It’s a great time to go ahead and dig into those not-so-fun tasks that you avoided the year prior. Legal documents and orders are no one’s idea of a fun New Year’s resolution, but they are necessary and helpful. So, with that in mind, consider this a quick catch-up on some files you should have on hand for the future. After you’re done the ensuing months will be that much more stress free as you have one less thing to worry about.

    A Will

    A lot of us put off getting a will but it’s nothing to be afraid of. It is, however, a very important document that will prevent a lot of headaches and trouble in the future. A will allows you to name an executor to carry out your final wishes as well as determine what to do with what’s left behind when the day comes. At such a sensitive time your loved ones would much rather remember you and carry out those final wishes than get embroiled in legalities and confusion.

    It’s not even as daunting of a task as you may think. Many online resources exist to help with this. The actual legal requirements may surprise you with how lenient they are. Most states do not even require the form to be notarized, simply that it be signed by the person granting the will and two witnesses.

    Advance Directives

    Along these same lines is the living will, or as it is more formally known, Advance Directives. This document allows you to appoint a proxy actor for your care decisions, in the event that you are terminally ill, unconscious or otherwise indisposed.

    This allows you to specify decisions you have made about how you would like to be cared for in the event of illness, trauma, etc. Again, there are several quick and easy tools to help you with this process and it is something you can do on your own if you feel comfortable.


    Within the living will or Advance Directives is where a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order should be placed. For a variety of reasons, you may prefer to not be resuscitated through physical or mechanical means, should your heart or lungs stop working. This is a personal choice, but it is a valid choice however you choose.

    Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

    While these documents are your own to decide on however you see fit, you should talk about them with those you love. Let them know the decisions you are taking and discuss them. This may help bring peace and understandinto all and additionally serve to alleviate any confusion that may arise at a later time.

    Even though these are files and decisions that most of us would rather not approach, that is precisely why we should finish them and file them away. Planning for the future and preparing these documents now, at the beginning of a fresh new year, will give you peace of mind and you won’t have to worry about them and think about them anymore.

    If you have any questions about these items or how to handle them, please don’t hesitate us. We’re happy to help and wish you a wonderful new year.

  • Caring for Yourself While Caregiving Through the Holidays

    Caring for Yourself While Caregiving Through the Holidays

    Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash

    Even though it is a special season, the holidays are stressful—be it traveling, hosting and attending events, buying gifts, etc. The effort is even more so when one is already a caregiver—a demanding role in itself.

    Whether you are a healthcare professional, family or a friend, caring for a loved one requires giving of your time and self. It is important that you do not neglect your own health in doing so. Remember: you can’t give help to someone else if you don’t have the help to give.

    To begin with, know your limits. Set them. Stick to them. We all have limits, but it is easy to forget or ignore them in our service. You know where your boundaries should be so don’t ignore them or feel inadequate for not going beyond them.

    Your limits are important for maintaining a balance. Balance is necessary so that you can continue to provide the level of care that your loved one needs. If you don’t spend some time respecting your limits and maintaining your own balance, you may struggle to find the strength that you need to care for them.

    For the sake of maintaining balance, continue to do things you enjoy. If you have standing appointments with friends, such as a regular dinner or card game, continue it! Spending some time caring for your own needs and being around other people you enjoy will help you to better serve the person you are caring for.

    Sometimes you just need a break though, and that is nothing to feel guilty for! There are actually levels of hospice care just for this purpose—to allow the caregiver a chance to take a break and recharge themselves. As human beings we require rest and reset, it’s the same reason we must sleep at night. The same applies for how we direct our time, effort and energy.

    While looking after your own body and mind to keep yourself able to care for your loved one, do not neglect your spirit as well. Feeding your own spirit is a big component of avoiding burnout and depression. Pray, meditate, exercise or practice your own spirituality in whichever manner you choose. Be aware and mindful during these times. Listen to yourself and your spirit to better identify your own needs for care and those of your loved ones.

    Knowing and understanding these ideas is one thing, but putting them into practice and utilizing their benefit is another. You may try journaling or another form of expressions to release your feelings. Write in a journal, type in a document on your computer or create some form of art if you are so inclined. Even a meaningful conversation with a trusted and empathetic friend can help you to release, process and understand your many strong emotions at this time.

    However you are able to look after yourself during this difficult season will be a positive step in the right direction. It is easy to get swept up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays and especially difficult to care for yourself when you’re a caregiver to someone else. Remember that you are not neglecting them for yourself, you’re helping them by looking yourself: you have to fill your own well before you can pour out of it for someone else.

  • When Family Members Are in Declining Health- Anticipatory Grief During the Holidays

    Holiday gatherings give us a chance to see loved ones that we may not often see. Usually this is a warm and happy occasion but sometimes it can lead to stark realizations of their state of health.

    Last weekend, a cousin and I were helping sour grandparents perform some maintenance on their home for the holidays. As we left, my cousin remarked to me, “Wow, Grandpa really isn’t the same. He doesn’t remember things I tell him and repeats himself. It’s really sad to me.” I agreed and reminded him to focus on the positive and try to enjoy the time that we have left with Grandpa.

    When I related this experience to Dr. TJ Hawkins, Director of Program Operations for Bridgeway Hospice, he told me that my cousin and I were experiencing a phenomenon known as “anticipatory grief.”

    “Grief can come from a variety of factors, including loss of life, relationships, finances, health, communication, and others,” he says. “It is not an isolated process, there are many steps.”

    Oftentimes we think of grieving as the process we go through when losing a loved one, but as Dr. Hawkins explains, we can be grieving the loss of our relationship with them, their health or even the simple act of communication with that loved on­—even if they are still physically with us.

    Fortunately, there are some concrete, blanket strategies to address grief, in all of its forms. These “3 Pillars” form the foundation of acceptance and healing of grief.

    Photo by Catherine Zaidova on Unsplash

    Pillar Number 1: Identity

    All grief is also partly an identity crisis in some form. Loved ones, and our relationships with them, inform our sense of self. Stay aware. Acknowledge your feeling but also try to understand them. Focus on the positive: the good memories you have or the ones you can still make. Don’t neglect yourself in all of this.

    Pillar Number 2: Accountability

    Along those same lines, find someone that you can talk to. You need to speak with someone who will listen and be nonjudgmental. These feelings of grief and identity should be released to someone who can empathize with you but remain strong.

    Pillar Number 3: Community

    In addition to listening ears and people to ground you, you need a place for expression. This may be a support group (Bridgeway offers 8 different groups throughout the Metro Atlanta area) or it may be volunteering.

    Essentially, you want to find a positive and constructive way to externalize the internal grief. This may be through helping others, it may be through a support group or it may be simply through talking one -on-one with a strong loved one.

    Grief is a process and it takes time to heal. Remember to always focus on the good and to acknowledge and address your feelings.

  • 5 Steps for Coping with Grief During the Holidays

    Coping with grief during the holidays, whether from loss or illness of a loved one in hospice care, can turn a typically warm and joyous time into a difficult and draining time. The holiday season is steeped in memories of years past and can make us feel sad when we remember fond times with our loved ones. While this time may not be easy, there are some steps that you can take to make it more manageable.

    Acknowledgement – Accept the difficulty, not the guilt.

    Grief is the process of healing, but it is just that: a process. Acknowledging and accepting from the beginning that this time will be difficult is one of the most helpful things you can do. The feelings of sadness are natural and should be experienced in order to pave the way for healing. Numbing the pain, through alcohol or other means, can be tempting but ultimately prolongs real healing.

    Sometimes, the bereaved may feel guilty by their sadness during what is typically a happy time. Allow yourself to accept that this is a difficult time and it is different from previous holidays. Anticipating holiday events can be just as difficult as the events themselves, so face this time directly and decide how you will personally approach this season. While these times will be painful (especially if it is the first year without your loved one), learning to manage them is an important milestone for grief.

    Have boundaries and control only what you can control

    However you approach this season, let it be the way that you choose to approach it. Don’t let guilt or tradition make you feel obligated to do things a certain way. While it may be tempting to skip the holidays altogether, this will not alleviate the grief and will deprive you of warm and healing human connection.

    This does not mean that you must do things the same way you have in the past. You may find it helpful to skip some of the “holiday rush” by doing shopping online, letting others do the hosting or cooking, etc. Try to stay physically active as well, since exercise is a very helpful remedy for depression. Additionally, you may find a good outlet through journaling, writing and other forms of expression.

    Honor their memory but create new traditions

    While the holidays are steeped in tradition, try to modify them to serve the memory of your loved one while including new loved ones. Don’t pretend everything is the same when it isn’t. Acknowledging the absence allows others to express their feelings and allows for more openness between everyone.

    Including new family and friends into existing or past traditions can help to bridge the gap between holidays past and holidays present. You may also want to start a completely new tradition. Doing something different can honor your lost loved one’s memory for years to come, just don’t forget to include others that you care for.

    Do for others

    It is the season of giving, but you might not feel like it. Try to be kind in giving or doing for others anyway and you may find yourself surprised by how richly rewarded you feel despite your grief. Consider doing so in honor of your loved one. Try inviting someone new or in need to your holiday gatherings. If you’re up for it, volunteering may help keep you engaged and give you another outlet for the love and kindness you shared with your loved one.

    Receive from others – Ask for help

    Just because it is the season of giving doesn’t mean you shouldn’t receive. Time spent with others who love and support can be the best gift you’ve ever gotten. Remember, it’s okay to be sad so there is no need to feel guilty. Don’t forget to let family and friends know of your new or changed plans and activities for the holidays.

    While you don’t want to isolate yourself, it is important to find some quiet time to reflect and remember but don’t let that outbalance the time spent with others who care for you. You may also find benefit from support groups which can be very effective and healthy around this time.

    This season will pass soon enough so while you are grieving, try to focus on the good memories you have while creating new ones.

    Happy Holidays from Bridgeway Hospice