xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Taste of Carroll may have been canceled, but Hospice Heroes soldier on

From left, Nicole Breighner, a licensed practical nurse; Dorothea James, Carroll Hospice’s lead chaplain; social worker Chloe Keller; hospice bereavement counselor Jessica Roschen; Carroll Hospice Department Secretary Katherine Nicholson; and Robert Weinreich, a member of the Taste of Carroll Committee, are being honored as the 2020 Hospice Heroes.
From left, Nicole Breighner, a licensed practical nurse; Dorothea James, Carroll Hospice’s lead chaplain; social worker Chloe Keller; hospice bereavement counselor Jessica Roschen; Carroll Hospice Department Secretary Katherine Nicholson; and Robert Weinreich, a member of the Taste of Carroll Committee, are being honored as the 2020 Hospice Heroes. (Courtesy photos)

It’s an odd time for Carroll Hospice. While much of the U.S. health care system is busy fighting to keep people ill with COVID-19 alive, those who work in hospice haven’t stopped striving to support people, and their families, during their end of life journey.

And like everyone else, COVID-19 has forced them to adapt: Monday would have been the 21st annual Taste of Carroll culinary event, to be held at Carroll Hospital and raise funds for many of the programs at Carroll Hospice. Due to the pandemic, it was canceled.

Advertisement

“The nature of the event is on the last Monday of April, we come together in the east pavilion of Carroll Hospital and we have 650 to 750 people that come and sample 40 of the food and vendors in our market,” said Heather Akers, event manager at the Carroll Hospital Foundation. “In the recent years, we have been able to raise somewhere in the neighborhood of $200,000 to support uncompensated services at the Dove House as well as the community outreach bereavement programs.”

But just because social distancing prevents hundreds of people from coming together to enjoy the event, that doesn’t mean a complete loss for fundraising. Reimagining Taste of Carroll presented by M&T Bank, a mobile, silent auction ran for four days allowing people to bid on the same items that would have been offered at a silent auction at the live event.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Those interested in donating can visit the Taste of Carroll website at www.carrollhospice.org/Taste-of-Carroll.

Another Taste of Carroll tradition has been to name six Hospice Heroes, staff or volunteers that have been nominated by the peers for going above and beyond and who are honored at the Taste of Carroll event.

While that in-person celebration cannot happen, Nicole Breighner, a licensed practical nurse, Dorothea James, Carroll Hospice’s lead chaplain, social worker Chloe Keller, hospice bereavement counselor Jessica Roschen, Carroll Hospice Department Secretary Katherine Nicholson and Robert Weinreich, a member of the Taste of Carroll Committee, are still being honored as the 2020 Hospice Heroes.

Weinreich, for one, is adamant that he isn’t really a hero, but is an ardent supporter of those in hospice. His wife, Joann passed away at Carroll Hospice, and Weinreich said the nurses, doctors and staff made all the difference to them in that journey.

“A doctor said she was at a point where we need to think about hospice. It took us two months honestly to come to the conclusion that we could even call. They made our life so easy after that, and I am sorry we didn’t cal l them day one," he said. ”We became part of their family. I don’t know of a better group of individuals that I have ever met."

Many of his fellow heroes also feel strange to be given such a label.

“I am honored to be named a hero just to be doing what I consider to be my job,” Breighner said. “I don’t fee like I did anything above and beyond what is expected of me in my job.”

“It’s a affirming, but it’s a little surreal,” added James about the honor. “Often you do all you can, thinking it isn’t enough.”

But when thinking about their peers, it’s clear the hospice staff hold each other in high regard.

“l think everyone who works at Carroll Hospice really is a hero,” Roschen said. “I am amazed every day by the compassion that everyone has and how caring bravely, they are really doing so for our patients and families every day, especially with this pandemic.”

And the COVID-19 pandemic has definitely impacted their work, from taking precautions when dealing with patients who are COVID-19 positive to navigating the restrictions on visiting hospice patients housed at nursing home facilities, and the limitations on families coming to visit their loved ones at the Dove House in Westminster.

“There are some really gut-wrenching things that are hard to process where families are not able to have closure at the time of death and it’s very difficult,” James said. “Hospice has built-in ways in which we already do that, so it is helpful for families.”

Advertisement

Keller, part of whose job at Carroll Hospice is to provide clinical emotional support to patients and their families, is one of those built-in ways to help families through an already difficult process in an even more difficult time.

“My mom was a hospice nurse, so I have always just been OK with talking about death and dying,” she said. "I felt like I could have those tough conversations with people that some people run away from.

But that said, according to Keller, COVID-19 is adding whole new forms of stress for family members as they navigate the end of life process with their loved ones.

“All of a sudden, going to the hospital is terrifying. A lot of our families don’t want their loved ones to go to the hospital,” she said. “There is this heightened level of anxiety — If one of us gets sick, is that it?”

For that reason. Akers said, she believes hospice’s family and community services will be needed even more as the pandemic eventually winds down.

“There’s been a lot of documentation about grieving during all of this for lots of reasons,” she said. “I think the hospice bereavement program is going to continue to be really robust when we start getting back to our daily lives.”

Those services include bereavement counseling for members of the community, not just those who have had a loved one pass at Carroll Hospice, according to Roschen, and another reason why she hopes people will support hospice through donations in lieu of attending the Taste of Carroll culinary experience this year.

“Our bereavement service are strictly funded through donation,” she said. “We are fortunate that awe are able to provide our services for free to the community. To keep that going, we really do need fundraising and donations.”

Donations will also go toward an ongoing project of expanding the Dove House, in-patient hospice facility.

We are going from eight beds to 14, and that’s something that has been put on hold amidst all of this," Breighner said.

And for those unable to make a large donation, Weinreich said, just as people are hailing doctors and nurses around the world fighting COVID-19 with small gestures such as clapping, he hopes people will think of the hospice heroes doing end of life care throughout the year.

“They are angels, they are warriors, and they deserve everything we can give them to do their job and to make it a little easier," he said. ”Even just send them a flower every once in a awhile and tell them they are going a good job. Little things, they really appreciate."

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement