Monday, July 8, 2013

Busy Summer for Interfaith Action Initiative


Important meeting July 19th

The topic of the Friday, July 19, Northern Berkshire Interfaith Action Initiative monthly meeting will be youth suicide prevention, featuring guest Bear McHugh, project coordinator with Berkshire AHEC (Area Health Education Center).

The meeting will be held from 10 a.m. to noon in the Eagle Street Room of the First Baptist Church of North Adams. All are welcome to come and discuss this very important topic.

We wil also speak with Jess Dennis, the Team Leader for the new strategy team that is forming in North Adams to look at youth alcohol and substance abuse prevention. She is interested in making connections and getting involvement from the faith community in this effort.

Hospice discussion very informative

A total of 15 peoplle attended the June 21 meeting of the Initiative, where we welcomed Gloria Richard, patient care coordinator for VNA & Hospice of Northern Berkshire. We had a great and wide-ranging conversation about this vital service.

Gloria Richard, foreground patient care coordinator for VNA & Hospice of Northern Berkshire, speaks at our June meeting.

Here is some of what Gloria had to say:

“Thank you for having me. I really appreciate being here. And hospice is something that is very near and dear to my heart. I actually took care of loved ones of my own before I became a hospice nurse. I was a nurse but I wasn’t into working for hospice at that point. 

“But I felt that it was just something so important and that I really
appreciated having hospice for family members that we kept at home to keep them comfortable, to live out what the hospice philosophy is, to be able to be in your own surroundings, the place of their choice where they want to be in, to be comfortable, to die with dignity and respect. I believe in what I work is basically what I want to say.”

She points this out to the nurses she works with:

“I try to train our nurses and tell, whether we’re in the homecare side or the hospice side, that when you’re going into somebody’s home, you’re entering their realm, they’re in charge, and you need to basically listen to them, listen to their wishes and desires and let our work be something that keeps them comfortable and have the dignity of respecting in their home.

“Hospice focuses on the whole family as a unit, not just the person that has the disease process. We treat everyone as a unit, whehter its a family member or a caregiver. It could be a friend, it doesn’t have to be a blood relative. We also take care of patients on the hospice program that will die in the nursing home. And that’s stiil their ‘home,’ and we treat it as we’re going into their home and that the nurses and home health aides and the caregivers that work for the nursing home are their family.

“So when someone passes that’s been a resident there at the nursing facility for many years the family members are also the caregivers and they belong as well, so we offer social services and our bereavement program to the caregivers even in a facility, not just the families that take their people  iin their home.”

Hospice has a team that works together, Gloria said.

“The person’s primary care physician is always in the loop; they (tpatients) don’t necessarily have to go out to the doctor’s appointment to see the doctor; we have a very good working relationship with our local doctors;  and most all of them if we ask them to from the hospice perspective will make a home visit at some point in time if we really feel that that’s needed.”

Hospice volunteers can also give a caregiver a respite.

“We have medical social workers, we have home aides, certifiied nursing assistants that can do personal care, we have volunteers that can just go out and sit with patients. Say a family member has to leave, they just need a couple of hours for themselves, they need to go to the hairdressers for themselves because we also proport ‘take care of yourself’ because caregiving is so stressful and really we want to take care of the person that’s doing the caregiving as well.

“So we’ll coordinate for a volunteer to go sit for a couple of hours, read a newspaper to your loved one, play a game of checkers, do a puzzle, just be silent if that’s what they need but just for somebody to be there.”

She noted that it’s a difficult topic to talk about oftentimes. “A lot of patients don’t necessarily bring it up with their families. A lot of families may be afraid to bring it up with the person they love that’s going through the disease. The physicians may not feel comfortable bringing it up yet because they’re waiting for the patients to say ‘I’ve had enough, whay are my options?’

“I personally think it’s a very good idea for people to know a little bit about hospice before they need it, because so often we’re getting people actually coming on to service literally in the last days of their lives, and we just don’t have a lot of time to work with them.”

And “almost every insurance has a hospice component to it that they will cover services.”

Hospice is not only about terminal cancer but also  frequently applies to other end-stage diseases. There are occasionally cases where someone condition markedly improves.

“We actually have live discharges, and that’s OK, people have a right to revoke their benefit if they choose,” she said. “There is no penalty...your insurance covers that. “ People can go back on hospice and be covered by insurance if and when necessary.

Rev. Dave Anderson of First Baptist North Adams is the hospice head of pastoral care and our own NBIAI Steering Committee member Corinne Case provides pastoral care and bereavement support. In fact, I first met Corinne at a bereavement group she ran in 2010.

This is an important topic, and even though I have dealt with this issue in my own immediate family more than once, I still learned things from Gloria’s presentation, which went on much longer than presented here.

She noted that though hospice has been around in this area since the 1970s, there is “still not good enough awarenss because it’s a difficut topic for people to want to talk about.”

Mark Lincourt moves on, but not too far

Mark Lincourt gets ready to drive the spot relief truck during the 2013 North Adams Letter Carriers Food Drive.

In other news, the Friendship Center Food Pantry continues to be busy. At times it seems like things are leveling off, at other times not so much.

This May, for instance, we served just 8 more households during the month than we did in May 2012. This June, however, we served 92 more households than last June.

A bittersweet development is that Mark Lincourt, a founding member of the Initiative, largely responsible for making the food operations of the pantry successful from the start, has moved on — but not far. He has started a new position as Network Capacity Coordinator for Berkshire County for the Food Bank of Western Mass. 

The good news is that we will be seeing a lot of Mark in his new role and possibly as special guest host of our Initiative cable TV show “In the Company of Friends.”

Taking over as food distribution coordinator and taking Mark’s seat on our nine-member Steering Committee is Rich Davis, who has ably helped run the food operation — and more — since the pantry opened.

This change will necessitate some adjustments. We need a handful of special volunteers to take on some vital behind-the-scenes tasks for the food pantry. We need a relief driver one or more Tuesdays a month to bring our food back from a depot in Pittsfield. 

We also are seeking volunteers to help clean the Friendship Center on weekends (vacuuming, mopping, dusting etc.).

If interested in either of these jobs, please call Mark Rondeau at 664-0130 or email him at

Rich Davis, center, at 107 Main St, hub of activity during the 2013 Letter Carriers Food Drive.

Thanks for reading all or part of this and God Bless,

Mark Rondeau