Longtime social worker supports hospice care journeys

BY LASHANTE KEYS, Empath Health Community Partnership Specialist

We all want excellent care and comfort for our family in their final chapter of life. Suncoast Hospice is here to walk with you during that time.

You will have a complete care team to call on for support. From medical, nursing and personal care to therapies, counseling and volunteer support, the team helps ease the journey for families.

Deangelis Brandon-Hendriex, Ph.D. is a social work counselor at Suncoast Hospice for more than 21 years. She moved here from Atlanta after graduate school at Clark-Atlanta University, following her heart to do specialized children’s traumatic loss and grief counseling. Now she provides counseling for a new population – hospice care patients and families living in long-term care facilities.

Her passion for the mission still burns strong.

“I was here with some of Suncoast Hospice’s founders and saw such compassion. I knew that this is what I wanted to do,” said Brandon-Hendriex, who received an undergraduate degree from Bethune-Cookman University.

Going from counseling children to adults was a huge learning curve, but every manager she’s had has been caring and understanding. Brandon-Hendriex still enjoys getting up every morning and coming across the Skyway Bridge to make a difference.

“It is good work because every day I am helping somebody to grow and making the world a better place.”

Education and support

Each day takes a different path, she explained. Brandon-Hendriex tasks run the gamut from office meetings to patient care conference.

“I enjoy being the first one hitting the ground with families,” she shared.

One of the tasks she focuses in on is helping families grasp a better understanding of their situations and hospice services.

“A lot of people are fearful when they hear the ‘H’ word. There is fear of the unknown. There are a lot of stigmas to overcome,” explained. “Some people say that hospice is going to kill you.”

Brandon-Hendriex said they discuss what the doctor has told them and explain to them what to except. They go through benefits, finances and basic education on Alzheimer’s, stroke or other disease and how they affect the body.

“You have to break it down at every level so each person walks away with clarity,” Brandon-Hendriex explained.

Listening to their life stories and concerns is another concentration. Sometimes they might just sit, talk and laugh over a cup of coffee. Other times they may do journaling or a life review, go through the hospice handbook or address anticipatory grief.

“There are a lot of emotions rolled up from the time of signing the papers to the passing,” she revealed.

Services for caregivers are also available because they can get burned out and end up in the hospital. Brandon-Hendriex conducts support groups at nursing homes and assisted living facilities. There are also support groups, workshops and Caregiver Coffee Break meetings at all of the service centers. Journaling, exercise, yoga, guided imagery are all used as tools.

“And we have to take care of the little ones and keep them involved, so they can deal with the facts and their emotions,” she said.

Empowerment and comfort                     

A living will is another area of education that is offered. A living will is not a last will and testament. It is a medical document to use when people are alert and oriented to put things into perspective if something were to happen.

“We find out who is the major decision maker. There might be six children, but someone has to be able to step up and be the advocate,” Brandon-Hendriex explained.

It takes a team effort with compassionate leadership and staff to enhance dignity and comfort for patients. Hospice helps families have as much control as possible.

“Whether it’s helping families to pick out last outfits, giving patients ice cream or other pleasure foods or picking out a blanket, paperback or other goodies at our resale shops for patients, we find out what’s going to make them happy and what they can accomplish,” she finished.

Is it time for Suncoast Hospice?

For more information, call our main line at (727) 467-7423 or (727) 367-4673 to request an informational visit.

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