HOSPICE HOUSE OF SHIAWASSEE COUNTY needs staff, volunteers and donations. Shown following a meeting at the Caledonia Twp. nonprofit site on Monday, April 26 were (from left) Travis Watkins, Ryan Drake and Hospice House Volunteer Director Jan Sherrard.
Hospice House offers free end-of-life care solely supported through donations.
(Independent Photo/Karen Mead-Elford)
Hospice House of Shiawassee County Volunteer Director Jan Sherrard is looking for staff, volunteers and donations to keep the nonprofit group going. With a mission to offer as much comfort as possible during the final days of life, Hospice House of Shiawassee County, located in Caledonia Township, opened its doors in 2011 – free of charge. It is one of three hospice facilities in the state that does not charge for services. Instead, it is supported 100-percent by donations. Sherrard has been with the nonprofit since it opened.
“It’s been a developing struggle with staff,” Sherrard said. “As people got older, volunteers would leave, there have been a lot of changes.” Sherrard has found herself working numerous 12-hour shifts to cover all staffing needs, sometimes working as many as 12 days in a row with minimal help when guests are living onsite.
She currently has two full-time staff members to work at night and three part-time members to help at various times, as scheduling requires. She had two volunteers assisting until June of 2020, but currently she has nobody volunteering.
In 2020, Hospice House of Shiawassee County served 102 guests, but was closed for part of the year due to the pandemic shutdown. On an average year, Hospice House serves 140 or more guests in a year. This year saw an average of three guests arriving per day through the entire month of January – an exhausting schedule to maintain for any person.
“Of course, come February I was so tired. For the past couple months, if we have a few patients come in and when they pass away, I’d have to take a week off to catch up before we can operate again,” Sherrard said. “That’s how we’ve been managing.”
Describing what she looks for in hiring staff, she offered, “For patient care, I like people to have at least CNA experience. RNs are wonderful. But they need that basic healthcare background and I’ll teach them hospice on top of that. There is a lot to learn in just learning hospice. You don’t just take somebody in and do a week or two and throw them to the wolves.”
Regarding volunteers, Sherrard said she thinks afternoons have been the busiest times at Hospice House. Afternoons often involve guest registry, so afternoon volunteers would be appreciated.
Sherrard said she is thankful to have a nursing college student who will be helping come summer. “That helps take the pressure off of summer,” she shared. The nursing student has helped previously.
The hospice training program, according to Sherrard, encompasses medications, how to make decisions, signs and symptoms of when to notify the family, when to notify the hospice organization, how to work through crisis situations with families and how to talk about grief.
“There is a lot of anticipatory grief that people are going through and I find that death brings out the worst in people, as a general rule. We’re all dysfunctional in one way or another at that point,” she said. “And then there are the issues of the patient themselves. What do they need to have peace and comfort? What do they need to redirect their hope, instead of hoping to get better, hoping for a peaceful end? A reconciliation. And that’s quite a transition to go through.”
Not every guest arriving at Hospice House of Shiawassee County is cognizant they are near death. Sherrard and staff take everyone on a case-by-case basis. Every case is unique.
Ryan Drake, a funeral director at Watkins Brothers Funeral Homes and a Hospice House board member, offered, “Death is such a taboo subject in our culture as a whole. Some people come to Hospice House because they know. They come here because they want to be comfortable. They want a homelike atmosphere. They want family and friends to be able to come and go. Some people, though, they are blindsided with that diagnosis.”
Travis Watkins, of Watkins Brothers Funeral Homes and also a Hospice board member, shared “Funds are something we very much need because we are free to the community and this is such a needed organization. And a lot of people don’t realize how much they need it until it’s that time. We rely 100-percent on donations. Donations we get are usually from families that have used Hospice House.”
For individuals wanting to volunteer in less direct ways, there is always a need to help with flowerbeds, deck-refinishing and painting projects.
“This is a high level of need. Not only does our community need this, we need our community to support this,” said Drake.
“I think this is a really big deal for our community to have something like this,” Watkins emphasized.
“If I’m not able to keep going, you’re probably not going to find someone to volunteer all the hours that I do,” Sherrard said. “So that would increase the financial demand again. Right now, we’ve been running around $100,000 to $110,000 per year since 2017.”
“Jan is Hospice House,” Watkins added. “That’s why we need to get her some help.”
If interested in helping, please visit hospicehouseshia.org or mail in a donation to 2005 Copas Rd., Owosso, MI 48867. For more information, call (989) 743-9000.