This month’s BOOM! profile is Jenille Ball. Jenille is the Executive Director of Hospice of Montgomery. Hospice of Montgomery is about one thing and that’s caring for patients with a life limiting illness. And probably more important, it’s caring for the caregivers of those patients. It’s a difficult task but Jenille and her team of professionals have been providing this kind of care to the River Region longer than anyone else. Many readers of BOOM! are caregivers for an aging mom and dad or perhaps even a spouse. You know the strains and challenges of always being there for them and it can be especially difficult when someone has a serious illness. Jenille is someone who understands what you go through because she lives it everyday through her staff at Hospice of Montgomery. She recently shared some of her life and work experiences with us and offered valuable insight into the benefits of hospice care to the thousands of caregivers in the River Region. We hope you enjoy this month’s cover profile as much as we have.
BOOM!: Please give us a brief biography, i.e. where you’re from, education, what brought you to the Montgomery area, did you raise your family here, schools, married, family, etc?
Jenille: I was born and raised in Montgomery. After graduating from Lee High School I attended Troy State University, studied music, was a majorette in the marching band and played flute in the concert band. After college I married and raised 2 sons, led children’s choirs in my church, worked in various church related community outreach activities where I first learned that not all people lived the life that I had. I returned to Troy State University and received my nursing degree in1984.
Working part-time at Jackson Hospital and with Central Alabama Home Health I found the place of my life’s calling at Hospice of Montgomery in 1990 as the Clinical Director and then Executive Director in 1997.
My Daddy, his brother and an army friend operated an automotive repair business ‘Vann and Johnson’, for over 40 years –mama was the bookkeeper. Mama and Daddy came from very poor and fractured families but worked day and night to give their children a better life. They were always working. Daddy came home at 5:30 – we had ‘supper’ together – Daddy left/returned to the ‘shop’ – I do not know when he came home – but, he was there to have breakfast with us. Mama helped us with our homework, pin curled our hair – supervised our bath, put us to bed – returned upstairs to the ‘office’ to work. Because of their unselfish love and generosity, we all have lived and continue to live a blessed and privileged life. My sister Brenda Vann lives in Montgomery and is an attorney – practicing social security disability law. My brother, Buddy Vann died at age 33.
BOOM!: As the Executive Director of Hospice of Montgomery, could you please share with our readers what hospice care is? Who pays for hospice care and how long can a person have hospice care?
Jenille: Hospice care is a special kind of care that enhances the quality of life for both patients with life-limiting illnesses and their families. Comfort and supportive care are provided by a team of highly trained, specially qualified and experienced health care professionals and volunteers. This care and support allows patients to focus on living, as they spend the remaining days in comfort and dignity. Hospice is a philosophy of care founded on the belief in the sacred dignity of human life. Hospice care affirms life and regards dying as a natural process. Hospice neither hastens nor postpones death. Hospice care adds life to one’s days, not days to one’s life.
Most hospice care is provided in the home. Some hospices also provide in-patient care in the form of a hospice home. Patients come to hospice facing serious illnesses of many kinds. Some hospice patients have cancer, while others suffer from heart, kidney or lung disease, Alzheimer’s disease, strokes, Lou Gehrig’s disease and other life limiting illnesses and diseases.
Whatever a patient’s condition, the role of hospice remains the same: to provide professional medical care, manage pain and other symptoms, and respond to the social, emotional and spiritual needs of each patient and their family members with compassion. Services provided by Hospice of Montgomery include: Medical and Nursing Care, Personal Care, Social Work Services, Grief Counseling Services, Volunteer Assistance, Spiritual Care, Case Management and Family Training in Patient Care.
Hospice costs are covered by Medicare, Medicaid in most states, and by most private insurance programs and HMOs. The expenses of all medicines related to the life-limiting illness are covered under the Medicare Hospice Benefit. While many insurance companies, as well as the Medicare Hospice Benefit, require that a terminally ill patient have a prognosis of six months or less, there is not a six-month limit to hospice care services. Hospice eligibility requirements should not be confused with length of service. A patient in the final phase of life may receive hospice care for as long as necessary when a physician certifies that he or she continues to meet eligibility requirements. Under the Medicare Hospice Benefit, two 90-day periods of care (a total of six months) are followed by an unlimited number of 60-day periods.
BOOM!: How is your business, Hospice of Montgomery, different from the other hospice providers in Central Alabama?
Jenille: For over 35 years, Hospice of Montgomery has provided medical care for the seriously ill, bereavement and grief counseling for families, as well as caregiver relief. We were Alabama’s first hospice and remain the only Independent, non-profit hospice in the River Region. We are the only hospice supported by the River Region United Way, which helps us care for non-insured and underinsured patients as well as providing grief counseling. Community Based- because we were founded by people in this community and our Board is made up of people with in the communities we serve. We have a very low nurse/patient ratio which means our nurses have sufficient time to provide the care our patients require. All of our nurses are registered nurses- trained in disease process and symptom management. Patient/Family Education- we provide ongoing education to our patients and families related to all aspects of caring for a patient in the home. They know what to expect throughout the illness and are not in a panic when death occurs. In Home Respite- not only are our Home Health Aids available to assist with personal care but as their schedule allows- they are able to stay with the patient for 2-3 hours extra to allow the caregiver a break.
BOOM!: As a leader in providing hospice services can you share what it’s like to help families deal with the death of a loved one?
Jenille: As one might imagine, watching a loved one die is never easy, but there can be immense satisfaction to families in knowing that they provided loving and caring support. The same holds true for hospice staff and volunteers. Most people who work for hospice do not consider it simply a job. Most feel called and consider it a ministry and are incredibly passionate about their labor. While often difficult, hospice is one of the most rewarding occupations one can have.
Because a family’s experience of terminal illness and a loved one’s passing does not end at the moment of death, our hospice care extends support for the family in grief through the Bereavement Program up to thirteen months after the patient’s death.
Hospice of Montgomery’s licensed professionals provide direct patient and family assistance and support in coping with the difficult psychosocial issues that arise as a patient and family face a serious life-limiting illness. Grief counseling and support groups are also available for anyone living in our service area who are experiencing the loss of a loved one.
BOOM!: With a busy life, how do you spend time with family? What’s your special experience of being a grandmother? What do your grandchildren call you?
Jenille: I am NeNee to my 2 sons, their children and wives, my nephew and niece. My oldest son, Desmond Bailey is a LT. Col in the army, soon to be Col and commander of the troops who caught Saddam Hussein. He has been deployed to Iraq 3 times and most recently to Kuwaiti. Books have been written about him and he has been interviewed on CNN and local TV stations. For the past 16 years I have traveled to wherever Desmond is stationed every 3-4 months (when he is not deployed) to spend time with him, his wife Kelly and his children – Jackson/age 16 and Cameron/age 12 – who taught me to ‘bunny hop’ the curb on our bicycles. Daxton Bailey followed in my daddy’s steps, and is a mechanic for Alabama Power Company. I frequently visit Daxton and his wife Stacy at their home in Wetumpka for a ‘spend the night party’ with them and Addyson age 6 – we color, play games, read books, ride the property in a golf cart wearing our PJ’s and jump on the trampoline.
Phillip Vann, my nephew is a building project manager for a national construction company stationed in Atlanta and at a very young age Philip said he wanted to marry a girl ‘just like his NeNee’. When he was married in October 2014 I was seated in a place of honor along with his mother and mine. Jessica Vann, my niece is a marketing and public relations representative for the same national company as her brother Philip. Jessica spends the night with me occasionally and we eat Chinese food, watch movies and share ‘girl talk’. The children phone often, e-mail and regularly return to our family home on Biltmore Avenue where I lived from age 5, as well as our lake home.
BOOM!: You have traveled extensively, what are some of your favorite travel experiences? Favorite vacation spot? Any travel dreams planned for the future?
Jenille: My beloved uncle Roy, the youngest brother of my Daddy who lived with my parents when I was born, chose me as his traveling companion. Beginning in the 1990’s we traveled the US and Europe enjoying symphonies, ballets, operas, museums and history. After Roy’s death in 2004 my dear friend, Alice Vaughn and I have traveled to Europe – first to England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, then to Israel and most recently to Paris. The most memorable trip was to Israel and Jerusalem – I shall never read the Bible in the same manner. Next trip will be to Rome/Italy.
BOOM!: What are you most passionate about?
Jenille: I am most passionate about Hospice care. I believe we should be morally troubled that patients who need hospice care do not receive it.
BOOM!: How do you like to relax and wind down?
Jenille: In my rare moments of spare time, I enjoy listening to classical music, reading poetry, browsing my library of museum books and watching the history channel on TV. My quiet time is listening to Richard Harrison’s McArthur’s Park and the operas – LaBoheam and Madam Butterfly. I constantly read and research issues related to end of life care. I do not enjoy but must exercise 4 times/week – dancing with Richard Simons and Tibo.
BOOM!: As you’ve aged, how have your priorities changed?
Jenille: They haven’t changed much. I enjoy my work and plan to continue working for a very long time. My mama is 86 and works part-time at Hospice of Montgomery as the bookkeeper and also is the bookkeeper for my sister’s law practice! I guess she’s my role model for the priorities I have… strong work ethic, Christian faith and moral compass.
BOOM!: Give us three words that describe you?
Jenille: We do not usually see ourselves like others do – If I had to choose I think they would be: unique, intelligent, personable.
BOOM!: Many Boomers are experiencing a renewed sense of purpose, new goals, even in retirement. How would you describe this sense of renewal in your life? Any advice for the rest of us seeking renewal?
Jenille: I believe God has a plan and a purpose for our life. Those who find and follow that plan and purpose, seem to be generally more content and much happier. We should always demonstrate a kind spirit toward others. Most often less said is best said and some things are better left unsaid. Also, we should appreciate what we have and be thankful for what we do not have.
BOOM!: Many communities are now embracing the concept of a “Hospice Home”; can you explain what these are? Why do you think Central Alabama needs a “Hospice Home?”
Jenille: The loss of a loved one is a life changing event; one that each one of us will experience at some point in our lives. The passing of a loved one in a hospital provides some peace of mind, in telling ourselves the doctors did all they could with the hospital’s resources available. However, our loved one spent the final days or hours in a sterile and impersonal environment. There is an alternative to this picture.
Providing a serene, compassionate and comfortable environment for our end–of-life care is central to our mission. When terminally ill persons are surrounded by family, friends, and the comfort of their own home, and things that are most familiar to them, a peace is about them. However, even this may be beyond our reach. Hospice of Montgomery has a plan to enable those who seek an alternative to the hospital for end-of-life care.
To better serve the citizens of the River Region, Hospice of Montgomery proposes a home away from home to care for our terminally ill loved ones. Once completed, the Hospice Home will provide an alternative for those who for whatever reason are unable to remain in their own home for end-of-life care. The Hospice Home will supplement our existing in-home care program. More than 26 percent of hospice patients nationwide received care in an inpatient hospice facility, up from 21 percent in 2010 and there are only three hospice homes in Alabama and none in Central Alabama.
The need is clear. The fastest growing age group in the River Region is 65 years and older; and recent national statistics indicate that nearly 85 percent of hospice patients are 65 and older. In addition, studies show that one in three of us will face the reality of either being diagnosed with a terminal illness or serving as the caregiver for a seriously ill loved one.
The need for hospice care in our community will continue to increase and Hospice of Montgomery is not only committed to meeting the growing need in the River Region, but also to ensuring that the quality of hospice care improves along the way.
In our fast-paced society, the most critical barrier to hospice care is the shortage of properly prepared family caregivers for patients. When a patient is not able to manage his or her own needs, a primary caregiver is required for safe, comfortable care. If the caregiver themselves is elderly and frail, the needs of the patient are often beyond their capabilities.
In addition, for those age 65 and over who don’t live alone, the typical caregiver is a spouse, often with compromised health, as well. The intense physical and emotional drain that accompanies care-giving can quickly exacerbate existing health limitations, leaving both patient and spouse in need of help.
America is facing a nationwide care-giving crisis that is only going to worsen in the next 20 years. Today 6.5 million elderly live alone; by 2020 that number will have risen to 13.3 million. Solutions to the caregiver crisis are limited, particularly for those patients needing specialized end-of-life care. Hospice is uniquely qualified to provide this care and operates under a philosophy of care that can only be effectively provided by those specifically trained in the field.
Hospice of Montgomery has been working alongside caregivers in patients’ homes for nearly 40 years. Now, as the caregiver crisis worsens, Hospice of Montgomery is ready to provide the same uncompromising, compassionate care to those who simply don’t have the option to spend their final days at home. For the family, there is peace of mind in knowing trained professionals are available around the clock if necessary to attend to the needs of their loved one.
A Hospice Home will help relieve the critical caregiver shortage that plagues our community. It will also help strengthen the quality of life in the River Region by completing a life-long continuum of care, ensuring that our neighbors whom are most in need of safe, compassionate medical care at the end-of-life are not forgotten.
A well-designed Hospice Home will provide an environment of comfort, quality and peacefulness for patients and their loved ones, as well as a positive atmosphere of professionalism and productivity for those who volunteer and work in hospice care.
In addition, the Hospice Home will offer workplace initiatives to local universities and hospitals, inspiring spaces for business, educational and spiritual retreats, ample space for support group meetings and healthcare training, and resources for healthcare information and support services.
The River Region Hospice Home will be a lasting monument to the many individuals and families which Hospice of Montgomery has been privileged to care for and who continually remind us of the meaning of dignity, grace, courage and hope in the final phase of life.
We want to thanks Jenille for sharing her story with us this month. We also want to thank Amy Godsoe-Capps of Hospice of Montgomery for lending her busy hands to this project. If you have any questions for Jenille regarding hospice care, please call her at, 334.279.6677 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about Hospice of Montgomery visit hospiceofmontgomery.org. As always, thanks to Kim Bethea from The Studio @ Eastchase for her professional cover photos. If you have questions, comments or suggestions, please send them to email@example.com
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