Every day, Ross and her team of Brookdale associates touch the lives of many as they shepherd patients and their loved ones through a difficult journey. She and her team start off each morning with a stand-up call, where they discuss any developments in patients’ health that may have happened overnight or on the weekend. Ross works hard to resolve any issues that the team encounters, has ongoing operational oversight and helps the hospice team manage their roles.
“After that, each day takes its own shape,” says Ross. Constant change is the nature of hospice work, as patients’ and loved ones’ needs evolve. Some patients’ health may stabilize, others decline, making adaptability a key quality for bedside hospice care workers.
“We always talk about what it means to have a hospice heart,” Ross says. According to her, being compassionate and caring, as well as being a strong communicator, are crucial qualities for working in hospice care. Having the right education and experience is also an important part of the job.
“I started out as a social work intern in hospice. But for others, their experience may not be hospice. We’ve had people join the team with oncology or ER backgrounds. And oftentimes there are emergencies, so that emergency response background is helpful.”
“And being authentic. Being an honest, authentic person,” Ross says. “Those are the key pieces in being a good fit for hospice care.”
As hospice director, it’s Ross’s responsibility to manage things from an operational standpoint, assessing budget concerns, working with third-party vendors to make sure that everything is running smoothly, and spreading the word about hospice at Brookdale communities as well as in the general community through educational events and speaking opportunities.
Somehow, Ross still finds the time to go above and beyond to ensure that her employees receive the advice and support they need to be successful.
“I try to always be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for my team. We all try to be aware if a team member has multiple deaths of their patients and how they are coping — that’s hard. It really does take special people to be in hospice, and we don’t go into every day sad, but it can catch up with you. So it’s about being very aware where people are and making sure our doors are wide open as leaders.”
This network of support and open communication is one of the qualities that makes working at Brookdale hospice special. And this isn’t just limited to Brookdale hospice. Working with an entire range of senior living and healthcare resources makes helping patients and their loved ones that much easier.
“Being part of the Brookdale continuum of care is unique to Brookdale hospice. We really have a lot of resources under the same Brookdale umbrella.”
“At Brookdale, we’re able to work with independent living, assisted living, skilled care teams, memory care, Home Health and private duty home care. We can support our residents along their journey,” says Ross. “For example, say we’re caring for someone in their home who passes. Maybe the spouse then needs to move into assisted living or receive home health care. We can make one phone call and connect them to whatever they need.”
Hospice care at Brookdale also provides full-time music therapists, as well as bereavement services that help patients’ families and loved ones after the patient has passed. According to Ross, being able to provide so many resources to patients and their families has been important and empowering for her team.
“We may have a short time with patients, but we need to do the best we can. We really try to be present to make the best out of the situation. We can’t change it, but we can be there and be involved, making sure people are comfortable and that we’re supporting the family the best we can.”
And it takes a special team to do it.
“Our hospice associates pour their hearts and souls every day into patients and their loved ones. It’s an honor working with this team,” Ross says proudly. “Being able to walk alongside patients, their loved ones and the team every day — is amazing.”
“Everyone should feel like this every day.”