Merger with Livingston hasn’t altered hospice’s mission

Volunteers say Camarillo Hospice continues good work
| November 02, 2018

By Anne Kallas
Special to the Acorn

COMFORTING—Hospice volunteer Julie Merrick greets 97-year-old Antoinette “Toni” Seydoux in her Camarillo home Oct. 29. Merrick has been visiting Seydoux regularly for three years. DIANNE AVERY/Acorn Newspapers
COMFORTING—Hospice volunteer Julie Merrick greets 97-year-old Antoinette “Toni” Seydoux in her Camarillo home Oct. 29. Merrick has been visiting Seydoux regularly for three years. DIANNE AVERY/Acorn Newspapers

It’s been roughly 18 months since Camarillo Hospice merged with Livingston Memorial Visiting Nurse Association, but the nonprofit hospice continues its work to provide care for those who are seriously ill and their loved ones. In addition to end-of-life care, Camarillo Hospice hosts support groups.

The local hospice is now a program under Ventura-based Livingston.

“Livingston has so many programs. This is a good change. They want to help people like Camarillo Hospice did,” said volunteer Julie Merrick as she sat with 97-year-old Antoinette “Toni” Seydoux.

“I have three other patients I visit, and they’re all in their 90s with all of their mental faculties, but their bodies are frail. You learn from seniors,” said Merrick, adding that her time with Seydoux, who no longer communicates verbally, is special. “It’s good to be present for one person.”

Merrick, 49, held and stroked the older woman’s hand, making sure her friend was enjoying the human touch she was receiving by constantly monitoring Seydoux’s face.

A middle school teacher who substitute teaches in the Pleasant Valley School District, Merrick was a volunteer with Camarillo Hospice’s Life Story program before joining the group’s Friendly Visitor program. She has been a volunteer for five years and has been visiting Seydoux for the past three.

The Life Story program, which originated with Camarillo Hospice and has been picked up by Livingston, chronicles the lives of patients for families to keep.

According to Kurt Rice, a registered nurse who helps coordinate hospice care for Livingston, such volunteer visits not only help the elderly and others facing end-of-life issues, they help the patients’ families.

While Camarillo Hospice was a volunteer effort that provided nonmedical hospice care, Livingston, a nonprofit that has served Ventura County for over 70 years, offers medical end-of-life services. Rice, along with other professionals, monitors medications and other medical needs.

“It’s extremely important to have these volunteers,” he said. “The families tell us what kinds of things, like music, that patients might like, and the volunteers will play that while they hold the patient’s hands. It helps to have other people able to provide support and love when a family can’t. Both of my parents were in hospice care in Michigan, and I could only visit them from time to time. It was nice to know they were getting personal care from volunteers.”

Volunteers also provide respite to busy families. With an increase in people staying in their homes until they die, families are required to provide care for their loved ones. Volunteers allow those family members to take a break while a volunteer provides compassionate care, Rice said.

Dr. Lanyard Dial, president, CEO and medical director of the Livingston Memorial Visiting Nurse Association, said the merger with Camarillo Hospice has expanded services.

In anticipation of the retirement of Sandy Nirenberg, who led Camarillo Hospice as executive director for over a decade until April 2017, the volunteer hospice merged with the Livingston Memorial Visiting Nurse Association, a more comprehensive health provider.

“Livingston is the only local nonprofit hospice and home care provider. So it was natural that we were looking to pair up with another nonprofit,” Dial said. “Obviously the kinds of services we each provided overlapped quite a bit. Camarillo Hospice had individual counselors and small bereavement groups they brought that were new to Livingston. Over the last 18 months we’ve expanded those bereavement programs.”

Maddy Hazard, manager of volunteer and bereavement services for Livingston, said that before the merger she would help coordinate hospice care for patients in Camarillo, allowing the hospice to provide volunteers while she coordinated other aspects of care. Now she coordinates all of the volunteer care, including bereavement classes, which include classes for teens.

“In the past, I didn’t go out to recruit volunteers in Camarillo. We thought we could work together, and I didn’t want to compete. We already worked as a team (before the merger),” Hazard said. “The volunteers are thrilled to have the expansion.”

Dial said the medical model for hospice care was expanded in 1986 when legislation for Medicare started to fund end-of-life services.

“Medicare wrote a model for medical hospice care. The volunteer hospice services need to be part of medical services. Hospices would be paid to do that care because they would have the licensed staff. The medical model that was created started a change in the way hospice care was given. It was no longer just a friendly volunteer but paid professionals to support patients, and their families, as they die,” Dial said.

In addition to keeping the hospice and bereavement services offered by Camarillo Hospice, Livingston has continued to support volunteers who help out with traditional Camarillo Hospice fundraisers such as the Saturday morning farmers market in downtown Camarillo and the annual spring garden tours, Dial said.

Georgia Katapody, executive director of four licensed care facilities, including the Ocean Breeze Estates senior residential home in Camarillo where Seydoux is a patient, said the volunteers provide an invaluable service.

“Hospice takes a village. They told us (Seydoux) only had four days to live because she hadn’t eaten in 10 days because she couldn’t swallow. It’s been over six months now since she was in the hospital and she’s still here. She eats very slow and the caregiver gives her help,” Katapody said.

Merrick said sitting and providing solace to elderly patients is a great antidote to today’s frantic lifestyle.

“They still have a spark of life in them that I can feel, even though they’re not on a cellphone or have an email address. They’re alive,” Merrick said.

For information about Livingston Memorial Visiting Nurse Association, call (805) 642-0239 or go online to lmvna.org.