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Profiles in care: JourneyCare focuses on compassion amid COVID-19

While the coronavirus pandemic has changed daily life as we know it across the globe, our JourneyCare staff, volunteers and community have shown selfless, creative and compassionate responses from the start. Take a look behind the scenes at how we are all working together to provide seamless care for our patients, their families and each other.

Ensuring no one is ever alone

A JourneyCare patient with COVID-19 was facing her final moments in a long-term care facility. Her daughter wanted to be with her at this critical time, but also feared entering her mother’s room – she couldn’t risk contracting the virus. To ensure the patient faced the end of life with all the support she needed, a JourneyCare social worker brought her to the window so her daughter could safely see her and say goodbye, while both a nurse and certified nursing assistant rearranged their schedules so they could be by the woman’s side until the end.


Innovating to keep patients connected

JourneyCare clinicians are getting innovative in helping patients stay connected with their loved ones during COVID-19. Normally, they utilize a secure app called TapCloud to stay in touch with patients between visits. But now they have found a new way the app can help those we serve video chatting with loved ones. “Reception at a facility where I often care for patients is spotty with FaceTime and Skype, but I have had great success using TapCloud” says Willow Team Case Manager and Registered Nurse Jeanne Browning. “The laptop screen is large and easy for residents to see their family members. One patient and her daughter who lives in Colorado cry with joy every time they ‘see’ each other. This woman speaks in a louder, stronger voice and is more engaged when speaking with her daughter than in everyday life at the facility. Their chats are touching as they repeatedly tell each other ‘I love you’ and give virtual hugs and kisses at the end of the session.” Browning says TapCloud has been especially helpful for patients and family members who formerly visited daily. “It has been such a success I am having trouble keeping up with the demand!”


Volunteers show creativity

Volunteer Katrina Carlson had been visiting a JourneyCare patient named Ilse for three months before Illinois issued the shelter-in-place order. Both women grew up in Germany and emigrated to the United States in March 1961. With similar journeys and so much in common, they became fast friends. Their visits would fly by with tea and treats, speaking English and German and reminiscing about WWII. Even though they endured great hardships, Katrina says they laugh a lot and “that is good for both of us.” Since they can’t visit in person right now, they visit regularly over the phone and agree, Katrina says, “since we survived, WWII, we will survive this too!” Recently, Katrina brought Ilse German books to read, while Ilse also left books outside her garage for Katrina to pick up. We are thankful to our amazing volunteers who keep finding creative ways to connect with our patients even while separated.


Generous grocery shoppers

Volunteers Diane Wlezian and Mike Cussen had been taking one of our patients to shop for groceries every week for several months before Illinois’ shelter-in place-order. Once the order was issued for residents to remain home, Diane and Mike purchased groceries with their own money and dropped the food off at the patient’s home as a surprise – even bringing in the help of our Volunteer Services Department and a neighbor when the patient didn’t answer the door, so the groceries would not spoil.


Granting a final wish for a child’s family

The pediatric team honored JourneyCare’s promise to help all patients live on their own terms – even amid the restrictions caused by COVID-19. As one little girl was ceasing life support at the hospital, her family wished to share their last moments with her at home without visitor limits the hospital had in place. Our team worked to make ensure smooth transition to her home and provided clinical and emotional support at the bedside. Thanks to their expertise and compassion, the family could simply focus on being together during their daughter’s final moments.


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Volunteers sew more thousands of face masks!

Volunteers from all over Illinois helped create thousands of fabric masks for JourneyCare staff, patients and visitors. The effort was headed by volunteer Linda Kielas and garnered donations from sewing groups throughout the Chicago area, including the Sew and Sews from Sun City Huntley, as well as large fabric donations from ‘Project Runway’ TV alum Peach Carr. Click here to read more in the Chicago Tribune!


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Working tirelessly to keep clinicians safe

Volunteer Nikki Pals single-handedly assembled more than 625 personal protective equipment (PPE) kits for our clinicians! JourneyCare has used more than 900 of these kits so far, which contain protective equipment like gloves, masks and gowns to help as our staff responds to the coronavirus. We are grateful to Nikki for her dedication in helping to protect our patients and their families, our staff and the JourneyCare community.


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Generous donors, many efforts

JourneyCare donors generously supported our nonprofit mission and our staff. Many participated in Giving Tuesday Now, a new global day of giving that raised more than $30,000 in one day to support JourneyCare patients and families. They also bolstered the spirits of staff at our four inpatient hospice CareCenters, providing dozens of meals to the clinicians going above and beyond for all of our patients, including those with COVID-19. And for our littlest patients, donors ensured our pediatric team could continue distributing “Positivity Packages” to their homes. These small, simple items are meant to help spread happiness and provide creative activities for our young patients who cannot leave their homes. The initiative was so popular, donors supported the creation of additional packages by giving crafts, books, toys, coloring supplies and more.


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Keeping spirits high

The JourneyCare Juniors and Youth Advisory Board volunteer groups, along with adult volunteers, created nearly 100 signs to encourage and lift the spirits of JourneyCare staff and clinicians at our partner facilities. Their hard work has helped keep staff going! To see a virtual thank-you to staff from our Youth Advisory Board, click here.


‘I love you, a bushel and a peck’

After patient Edie Morello died of COVID-19 in our Barrington CareCenter, our JourneyCare team ensured her and her family’s wishes were honored thorough to the very end. Coverage in the Chicago Tribune details: “The JourneyCare hospice staff asked her daughter, Jody Bender, if she’d like to choose a ‘walkout song’ to accompany her mom being carried to the funeral vehicle. Nurses and other staff lined up in the hall as Morello was carried out to Doris Day’s ‘A Bushel and a Peck.’ ‘Mom sang that to me and my cousins and our babies all my life,’ her daughter, Bender said. ‘The joy with which she sang it, and her eyebrows would go up. It was adorable.’”


92-year-old’s health improves from COVID-19

Geri Burney, a JourneyCare patient and resident The Fountains of Crystal Lake, was able to eliminate severe symptoms from the coronavirus thanks to collaboration between staff at JourneyCare’s Pepper Family Hospice CareCenter in Barrington, The Fountains and Northwestern Medicine Hospital in McHenry. The Northwest Herald reports that her condition deteriorated suddenly while she was in isolation with the virus and her family feared they would lose her. But thanks to their care, she is now comfortably staying with her son. “It’s like a miracle,” Burney’s son, Tom Burney said. “They always came up with plans to get my mom back … We are really blessed to have those three wonderful institutions in our community.”


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Birthday is saved as patient turns 102

Birthday patient Doris Gruskin might have spent her 102nd birthday with little celebration and separated from her family, including her daughter who faithfully visits from out of state each month. Instead, her JourneyCare team worked with with staff at Belmont Village in Oak Park where Doris lives to host a virtual birthday party full of surprises. Many JourneyCare volunteers sent cards, her JourneyCare chaplain hosted an online chat with Doris’s family, her daughter sent cupcakes and JourneyCare volunteer Deb Hendriksma Anderson gifted Doris with a floral watercolor that she created. See photos and read more about the celebration in the Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press Oak Leaves.

Update: Read more about Doris here!