Hospice worker Ginger Kane makes sure to take care of herself, too.
Thursday, June 16, 2005
Ginger Kane’s early morning routine gets her into a zone she carries throughout her often emotionally taxing work days.
Kane, 48, is an administrator for Heartland Hospice Services in Monterey, which provides rest and comfort to terminally ill people and their families. Kane, a marathoner, gets up around 5:15am and leaves her Carmel home for an early morning run along Scenic Drive.
After she finishes her run and the sun rises, she wakes her youngest son Philip, 18, for school. Kane prepares Philip’s lunch and they casually discuss the newspaper over breakfast. Philip, a senior at Carmel High, goes about his day, and Kane gets into work around 8am.
Working at Hospice—the modern incarnation of a concept first conceived in medieval times as a peaceful refuge for sick and dying travelers—presents unique challenges.
“Hospice is a very intense place to work,” Kane says. “Seeing human loss and its effect on those loved ones left behind make it a real emotional rollercoaster.”
Originally from the Jersey Shore, Kane always knew she wanted to be involved in psychology, even at an early age. Eventually she received her master’s degree in social work and went on to become a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), and started working out in the field for Hospice. She worked her first three years in San Jose and has worked her last nine years in Monterey.
“Having a social work degree is much more versatile than a degree in psychology,” Kane says. “I wanted to have that human interaction that social work, as a profession, demands immediately.”
Kane speaks of a time early in her career when three of her four clients passed away in one day. A colleague noticed her sadness, and told her to think of her own presence as what “freed those people.”
“Death isn’t always a bad thing,” Kane says. “In many cases it is a blessing. People can orchestrate their own death. Spirit is much more powerful than the body.”
The clients of Hospice include those on their last days of life as well as the loved ones who will be left behind.
“It’s very common for loved ones, on their deathbed, to hang on [to life] until someone close gives them permission to die,” Kane says. “I try to explain to those losing a close family member that giving another person permission to die is like giving them the gift of peace.
“Everyone already has their own solutions [in dealing with death]. I’m there so they’ll figure them out. Just being present and listening means a lot to people.”
Kane gives as much attention to her own children as possible without ever taking them for granted.
“People who are dying never have regrets about careers, just unresolved issues involving family relationships and forgiveness,” she says. “Being a mother is the essence of Ginger.” A recent, amicable divorce hasn’t soured Kane or her two children. Her ex-husband and she are very conscientious about making all their decisions in their children’s best interest.
She cherishes the recent milestones of motherhood, including her eldest son, 22-year-old Sean, graduating from Fresno State with hopes of joining the FBI and Philip graduating high school. Philip begins college at Sonoma State in the fall and will play for their lacrosse team.
Originally, Kane hoped to finish her doctorate in psychology and graduate with her children.
“It would’ve been fun for all three of us to experience those moments together, but no one’s disappointed,” she says.
As Kane finishes her Ph.D. and watches her children begin new chapters of their lives, she continues to exemplify nobility within her profession and in the community.
She speaks humbly of her recent promotion, to Administrator of Heartland Hospice. The job title states that she oversees the finance and budget of Hospice. But she has her own variation on her duties: “Making sure the patients are receiving care as well as the staff I oversee.”
“I miss the direct patient contact, but having direct contact with the staff that cares for the patients makes up for that,” she says.
She also gives in-services to nursing homes in the community and collects feedback regarding Hospice’s services.
“I love meeting the people at nursing homes,” she says. “Most just want someone to listen to them. One woman always laughs when she sees me. She calls me the Grim Reaper.”
When she finishes her work day and dinner, she leaves her Carmel home once again. Kane speed-walks at sunset; she takes the same route she runs at dawn and follows the speed-walking with upper-body weightlifting.
Kane says she must always remain “in touch with my spiritual, physical, intellectual, and emotional self, on a daily basis.”