Hospice/VNA finds new partners

People who are drawn to hospice work are special people and even though one of the local hospice volunteers, Mary Grusin, thinks it’s the doctors, nurses, and especially social workers who are helping people die with dignity, she is the one who deserves celebrating. For the past three years, she’s held the hands of six VNA/Hospice of the Florida Keys patients, and has put together countless puzzles, has heard stories of their lives while sharing her own, read books and looked at pictures, and helped their caregivers get out of the house for a couple hours for a mental re-energization. But, most of all, she has cried.

“I get teary, and I didn’t know how that would work out,” Grusin, VNA/Hospice’s Unsung Hero nominee, said. “Even nurses cry, especially if you have been with someone for a long time, but it isn’t debilitating, it just happens.”

Grusin, a 21-year Key West resident, was worried about the career change, but after years as a senior administrator at various colleges and universities and working closely with students and their families, she wanted a challenge.

“I didn’t know anything about the medical field and decided this would be a good way to learn about it,” she said, after dealing with her own family experiences and initially taking the training course for her own edification to learn about the end of life experience. “The training was really, really good.”

She’s with some families a long time, but some just a short time. “I experience the appreciation as much from the family as I do the patient,” she said. “It’s like dancing, where you have to figure out where they are and join them. It makes me feel great to know that I have helped a family through this process.”

The home health care and hospice community honors the millions of nurses, home care aides, therapists, volunteers, and social workers who make a remarkable difference for the patients and families they serve during November, according to the National Association for Home Care and Hospice. “These heroic caregivers play a central role in our health care system and in homes across the nation.”

With VNA/Hospice of the Florida Keys’ recent affiliation with Haven Hospice, Michelle Chennault, Human Resource Manager at VNA/Hospice of the Florida Keys said, “It’s bringing more support and strengthening our ability to care for even more people here in the Keys by targeting and growing the lines of care in hospice and home health.”

Lines of service include end of life care, but also rehabilitation therapy with physical and occupational therapists, and even in-home speech therapy. “We really want people to know that they have a choice with their at-home healthcare,” said Chennault. “We offer a full continuum of care, which allows patients and their families to develop relationships with the caregivers.”

According to Chenault, VNA/Hospice of the Florida Keys has won patient satisfaction awards in top 25 percent of home health agencies in the nation for the past three years. On medicare.gov’s Home Health Compare, VNA/Hospice of the Florida Keys rates higher than Florida and National averages in most categories. “We have the highest patient satisfaction in Monroe County,” Chennault added about the results.

Their affiliation with Haven Hospice adds the expertise of another award winning hospice and home health care company that is established in 19 Florida counties with 10 offices. “We serve rural communities and Monroe County fits in to our patient care model,” said Haven Hospice’s Patricia Krogh on a recent Keys visit.

“There is a right to choose your at-home care,” added Chennault. “You do not have to go with whoever the hospital or doctor recommends, the patient always has the right to choose.”

Hospice/VNA of the Florida Keys has 30 patient care volunteers and 200 to 300 volunteers for events like the annual Fourth of July Picnic. Donations made to hospice in Monroe County stay in Monroe County, and donations can even be intent directed, which can be placed directly to specific campaigns, staff training or special programs.

The best way to not get old is to learn and experience new things,” said Grusin, who would be happy to chat with anyone who is interested in being a volunteer. “It’s not dreary at all. It gives so much back.”

The Inaugural Masquerade Ball tickets are on sale now for the New Year’s Eve Party. Tickets are $200 for the party starting at 7:30 p.m. until 12:30 a.m. in the Grande Ballroom at Marriott Beachside Resort. Black-tie is encouraged. Entertainment will be by the seven piece Southernmost Brass Band and emceed by Pirate Radio’s Jack Smith.  “Call or come by the office to pick up tickets,” said Michelle Chennault. Ticket sales will be available at any VNA/Hospice events and should be online sometime this week at themasqueradekeywest.com, by emailing [email protected], or by calling 305-294-8812. All proceeds raised in the Florida Keys stay in the Florida Keys. They are also doing a 50/50 high dollar raffle with a chance to win $10,000. 200 tickets will be sold at $100 apiece and will be drawn at the ball.

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