For 26 years, Susan Workman's career focused on the travel industry, and she enjoyed helping her clients plan dream vacations. Today, she's putting that planning experience to work in a whole new way for Mercy Hospice patients and their families.
In 2003, Susan and her husband moved to Ohio, and she accepted a job with Mercy Professional Care Physicians. Since then, she's held positions in the hospital's trauma and loss office, in Mercy Homecare and, beginning in 2007, with Mercy Hospice as volunteer coordinator.
"I love working with our patients and feel like hospice for me is a real ministry. It always puts things in the right perspective," she says.
Currently, 65 volunteers provide a variety of services for hospice patients in their homes and in residential care facilities in the Canton area, including sewing, visitation, respite care, communion, Pet Patrol visits, hair styling, veteran pinning ceremonies, instrumental music and even sing-alongs. The volunteers also facilitate a regular widow breakfast and widower breakfast that are open to the community.
She says the widow breakfast in particular has developed into a very active social group that goes above and beyond for those who attend.
"One widow didn't have anywhere to go for Christmas last year, and another woman in the group invited her to join in her family's celebration," Susan says. "Many of our volunteers also come from these breakfast groups, including an 88-year-old woman who modeled for Mercy Hospice's annual Hope Blossoms Fashion Show this year along with her 89-year-old boyfriend."
Fashion Show, Other Donations Make Special Activities Possible
For Susan, coordinating the fashion show benefit is another highlight of her work because it enables the hospice team and volunteers to do special things for patients and families, such as arranging an uplifting day for a caregiver experiencing burnout.
"This woman had quit her job to care for her husband three years ago because they don't have any family, and we could see how hard it was for her," says Susan.
She and several volunteers surprised the caregiver one day recently with a candygram, a hand-knitted prayer shawl, a foot and hand massage, inspirational readings, a bouquet of flowers, balloons, lunch, dinner and even dessert.
"The woman thanked us many times for this special day," Susan says. "It meant so much to her and really rejuvenated her. It made it easier to go on, knowing that we cared about her, too."
Donations to hospice also paved the way for a patient to ride one last time in a small plane — something he had not done since his years in the military. The pilot, also a veteran, donated his time and the plane, and hospice paid for the fuel.
"They flew over our office, and afterwards, we held a pinning ceremony for both our patient and the pilot at the airfield," Susan adds.
Naturally, Susan is already planning for next year's fashion show, which will have a Paris theme. She also has other ideas for hospice fundraising that she hopes will someday come to fruition.
She says, "I’m always open to anything that might help our patients and their families."
To learn more about Mercy Hospice and its volunteers, visit cantonmercy.org/hospice-volunteers.