Welcome to House of Light, a blog produced and managed by the staff of Casa de la Luz Hospice. Casa de la Luz ("house of light" in Spanish) is a locally owned and operated hospice, serving the city and surrounding communities of Tucson, Arizona. Through this blog, we hope to offer education, information, and support about caregiving and hospice care to terminally ill patients and their loved ones. For more information, visit the contact us page.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Monday, February 25, 2013

Free Informational Event for Tucson Residents

Individuals interested in learning more about the planning process of creating a will or trust, as well as about planned giving, will be able to attend a free informational workshop on March 6.

Susan Villarreal, attorney at law and vice president of the Casa de la Luz Foundation board, will lead the discussion. Her presentation will highlight current law changes as well as introduce leaving a legacy to a charity of choice. The event, Write a Will: Leave a Legacy is hosted by the Casa de la Luz Foundation in partnership with the Community Foundation For Southern Arizona.

The workshop will take place on March 6 from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at 7740 N. Oracle Road. The workshop is free of charge and open to the public. A light lunch will be served at 11:30 a.m. Individuals are asked to call 544-9890 to register by March 1.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Friday Five: Caregiving and End-of-Life Planning

The Friday Five is our weekly roundup of links to smart articles and helpful resources across the Web.

1. What's wonderful about the handful of writers out there who focus on caregiving is they always present a good picture of what it means to be a family caregiver. In this blog article, Paula Span points out that some individuals become caregivers because of duty, obligation, and lack of options. She refers to them as reluctant caregivers. We know that no matter the reason for becoming a caregiver, we admire these individuals all the same.

2. It's always good to take a few notes from someone who knows. This list of 9 tips for caring for the family caregiver is written by a healthcare professional and more importantly, a family caregiver. He offers some valuable advice for accomplishing caregiving tasks and maintaining physical, mental, and emotional health as caregiver.

3.There is a movement to recognize the burden family caregivers carry every day. Our healthcare system is relying on these individuals to provide daily care, often without training, unexpectedly, and for years. That's why TEDMED has named The Caregiver Crisis as one of our Great Challenges. Read Examined Lives: A young caregiver helps three generations to see a personal picture of a family caregiver's struggle.

4. There will come a time in every person's life when you realize you're not immortal and the people you love are not immortal. For most people, that time comes when someone becomes seriously ill. And then many individuals depend on their doctors to guide them in making healthcare-related decisions, treatment decisions, medication decisions. We know how much an individual relies on the person with the expertise, and for that reason, we agree with this article. Doctors should discuss end-of-life planning with their patients. Planning ahead and open discussion can ease the difficult decisions that arise at end of life.

5. We usually provide you with a lot of articles to read about caregiving and end of life, but we stumbled across this series of videos from the American Health Lawyers Association about the importance of advance health care planning. It's a bit dated looking, but the information is still relevant. It's an interesting perspective because the series follows a fictional family discussing health care planning issues. The videos could help guide you in your own planning, or if you're a healthcare professional, might help you figure out how to discuss it with your patients.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Wednesday Image Plays Golf!

Practice for the 2013 Accenture-MatchPlay Tournament at 
The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain
Image taken by Marilyn Hansen

Hospice care teaches us not only how to approach death with dignity, but also how to appreciate life. The Wednesday Image is a weekly series of images that represent what we love most about life in Tucson.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Three Misconceptions About Hospice Care

Myth: You need a doctor's referral before you can talk to the hospice.

Anybody can call a hospice agency and ask for information about care services. If you, or someone you love, is terminally ill and would like to know your options, a hospice provider would be happy to answer your questions about comfort care. If you believe you, or a loved one, is eligible for hospice services, contact a local hospice provider and ask to schedule an evaluation.

We encourage individuals to empower themselves in their health care knowledge and decisions. We are happy to provide information as well as take self-referrals or referrals from individuals' family members and friends. If we believe an individual meets the criteria for hospice care, our staff members are happy to contact his/her physician and take care of the necessary paperwork.

Myth: You are required to use the hospice that your healthcare provider referred to you.

We encourage individuals to exercise their power of choice. If your healthcare provider only gave you the name of one hospice organization, feel free to ask your provider for the names of other area hospice agencies or research other hospices in your area. You should double-check and be sure your hospice of choice works with your insurance. When you're letting individuals care for you, or your loved one, in your home, during this sensitive time of life, you should feel trust in and comfort with your hospice care team.

Myth: Hospice care is only for individuals dying of cancer.

Because hospices used to provide care to terminal cancer patients most often, there's a lingering belief that hospice services are only for cancer patients. However, hospice care is not based on a specific disease; care is provided to individuals who are expected to live six months or less. Hospice organizations can provide support to patients suffering from cancer as well as diseases such as dementia, heart disease, kidney failure, and more.

If you, or your loved one, reside in the Tucson and Pima County areas, and would like more information about hospice services, contact Casa de la Luz Hospice at 520-544-9890.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Friday Five: Links We Liked This Week

The Friday Five is our weekly roundup of links to smart articles and helpful resources across the Web.

1. Do you like to give people cards to express your congratulations, sympathies, and other well wishes? It's not uncommon to give and receive cards for all the big moments in life, and even cards just because. But, there are no cards for when an individual you know goes on hospice. Here's a Forbes article about the lack of hospice-relevant cards by Hallmark, and information on how you can help encourage the creation of hospice cards.

2. What are your suggestions for dividing the "workload" among family members? Here's an article about the "Sandwich Generation" that offers some suggestions on how family members can discuss care and financial support,and hopefully avoiding some ugly confrontations.

3. If you've discovered Pinterest, we'd love to recommend checking out the National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization's Pinterest boards. We love their inspirational images and the variety of photos they've gathered of people showing their support for hospice.

4. The American Heart Association maintains a great resource section on their website for caregivers. Check out these top 10 tips to refresh yourself. We're especially fond of the tips 6 through 10. The first few are ones you hear pretty frequently, and the second half of the list are ones you should probably hear more often.

5. We discovered a new blog on the Boston Globe website called Mortal Matters. Judging by the first few entries, we're pleased that there's another person arguing for a broader discussion on what end-of-life care means in this country and for encouraging individuals to be open about what kind of care they would want at the end of life.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Wednesday Image: Holding Hands

Sculpture at The University of Arizona
Image taken by Carrie Bui

Hospice care teaches us not only how to approach death with dignity, but also how to appreciate life. The Wednesday Image is a weekly series of images that represent what we love and appreciate most about life in Tucson.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Organizing Your Personal Affairs, Just in Case

Maybe you're a little less organized than you should be. Or maybe you are organized, but it's a system that works for you and that you've memorized. What if something happened to you, and your parent/spouse/child/sibling had to go through your paperwork, pay bills for you, talk to your bank? Would they be able to? If the answer is no, or not sure, use this helpful checklist to guide you in organizing your important information and putting your affairs in order.

Place these important documents in labeled folders in safe place, but still easily accessible to your loved ones. Make sure you tell him/her where these documents are kept. You may choose to also provide copies of some of this information to your loved one, such as a spouse or child. If there's a lot of information, including some that may require explanation, consider scheduling an annual meeting with the person you've designated to manage your assets. Take the meeting time to review information, such as ownership of property, list of assets, debt and loan statuses, etc.
  1. Last will and testament, and contact number for your attorney and executor
  2. Safety deposit box information, including contents, bank name and address, and a list of individuals allowed access
  3. Instructions for your loved ones, including contact information for any advisers and relatives, friends and other loved ones
  4. Funeral or memorial service information and instructions, including pre-payment information, name and location of selected mortuary/funeral home
  5. Birth certificates, marriage certificates, divorce decree, and/or separation agreement
  6. Social Security card or number
  7. Military discharge papers
  8. Federal and state income tax returns for the last several years
  9. Insurance policies, including company name, policy number, and beneficiaries
  10. Titles, deeds, and leases to all property
  11. List of assets and locations
  12. List of debts, including outstanding loans, amount owed, etc.
  13. Securities and investments, including records of trusts, stocks, bonds with broker names/numbers
  14. Credit card account numbers, cards, and statements
  15. Loans payable and receivable, and any other contracts and agreements to which you are a party, including names, addresses, and conditions of these
  16. Other business records
  17. Appraisals, receipts, or estimates of valuables
  18. Usernames and passwords of online accounts, including online banking, e-mails, social networking sites, etc.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Friday Five: Caregiving and Hospice Care

The Friday Five is our weekly roundup of links to smart articles and helpful resources across the Web.

1. If you're interested in statistics and numbers, these Pew Research Center studies are always interesting. We found this new release on "the sandwich generation" particularly appropriate for the topics we're always discussing on our blog. We're well aware of the many individuals out there who are struggling to juggle aging parents and children.

2. Speaking of caregivers, we found quick read article with some survival tips for individuals caring for a loved one with Alzheimers. They're three common tips, but that doesn't make them any less important.

3. If you follow hospice and healthcare news, then you already caught this news about a Brown University study of end of life care. The researchers learned that despite an increase in the use of hospice care, there's also still huge numbers of people spending time in the ICU in the last months of life. It amazes us still that despite what we know about how most individuals would choose to die at home, so many are still being sent to the ER and intensive care units.

4. For individuals looking for some understanding about hospice services, we liked this article, "Hospice care is geared toward maintaining quality of life long before death is near." We can't agree more that hospice provides support, not only to patients, but also to family members and other loved ones. Oftentimes, hospice comes into the picture after years of caregiving and treatments, and many families find it a relief to have people to turn to with their questions, fears, and needs.

5. If you'd like to explore more about the services a hospice provides, visit the National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization for a description of services, the hospice team, and answers to frequently asked questions. NHPCO can also assist you in finding a hospice in your area.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Wednesday Image: Is That A Wildcat?

University of Arizona Cactus Garden in front of Henry Koffler Building
According to university stories, the Koffler building is supposed to resemble a wildcat.
Image taken by Carrie Bui

Hospice care teaches us not only how to approach death with dignity, but also how to appreciate life. The Wednesday Image is a weekly series of images that represent what we love and appreciate most about life in Tucson.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Hospice Enhances Quality of Life for Patient & Caregiver

As a hospice social worker, I find it so gratifying to provides resources and supports to enhance a patient's quality of life and to strength his/her caregiver(s).

I recently worked with a patient who was cared for at home by his wife. The couple had a vacation home in northern Arizona, and was able to travel there from time to time while our patient was under hospice care. Since he needed his hospice services to remain in place while he was away from his Tucson home, we arranged hospice oversight for him in northern Arizona.

While under hospice oversight, our patients remain under the care of Casa de la Luz, and we partner with another hospice in the area where the patient is visiting. The other hospice will respond to a patient's needs for the duration of the vacation. For example, while my patient and his wife were in northern Arizona, if he needed hospice attention, his wife would call Casa as usual. Then, a Casa staff member contacted the oversight hospice for follow up with the patient. This arrangement works well for patients who are able to travel. Patients enjoy an enhanced quality of life while still receiving the benefits of hospice care.

Hospice oversight also helped our caregiver. The wife frequently told me that when she was able to get away from Tucson to their vacation home, she could "feel the stress melt away." Those breaks from the norm allowed our caregiver to rest and relax and focus on time with her husband during his last days.

This couple was also able to utilize the hospice respite benefit. Hospice patients are periodically entitled to five days of respite care in an approved facility so the caregiver can have a break to rest or travel or attend to other important matters.

The respite benefit allowed the patient's wife to visit and spend time with grandchildren while her husband was cared for in a skilled nursing facility. By arranging respite care for our patient and his wife, she was able to rest from caregiving and enjoy special celebrations with her grandchildren.

She said, "The supports of hospice respite and oversight allowed me to have the energy to care for my husband all the way through to the end of his life. The breaks were available just when I needed them. I couldn't have done this without hospice support!"

By Lisa Daniels, Social Worker

Friday, February 1, 2013

Friday Five: Caregiving for the End of Life

The Friday Five is our weekly roundup of links to smart articles and helpful resources across the Web.

1. One of our favorites, the New Old Age blog, had this great story about how a group of women rallied around one of their own. For the Love of Sunny is a sweet story about how a group of friends caught the signs of their friend Sunny's decline from Alzheimer's, and how after Sunny's diagnosis, they remained, supporting Sunny and her husband. It's a lovely story about how friends can approach illness. It can be difficult to watch a friend change, but continued support of friends makes a difference for the seriously ill individual and for their caregivers.

2. Our second suggestion for links to read this week is a lot like the first. "A hospice visit: We will sing together again some day" is a doctor's article about visiting a dying friend. At the end of life, it's our relationships with others that matter.

3. When it comes to dying, it's going to happen to all of us. We encourage end of life planning because we know most of us will die from some kind of long-term, chronic illness. It's hard to know where to start the conversation, though, and that's why we like these questions in this LeadingAge article, "End-of-Life Planning: Starting the Conversation."

4. We admit it, we're suckers for a good checklist. These easy tools can be so helpful in identifying needs, making sure personal items and documents are in order, and just offering a good starting place. So of course we like this Where to Begin Checklist from AssistGuide Information Services. Not only is it an easy to read format and in a file format that you can save to your computer, but it also offers suggestions of how to tackle each item on the checklist.

5. Casa de la Luz Hospice is excited to have reached Level 3 in the national We Honor Veterans program. Learn more about the program and what hospices around the country are doing to better their care of veterans at end of life.