November 13, 2019
What it's Like to be an EveryStep Hospice Social Worker: Dana McCarthy
Dana McCarthy's first experience with hospice care came at the age of 15 when her father was a patient.
"I remember Joyce came to the house," she says. "People helped us. I witnessed what my mom went through after dad passed."
Ten years later, Dana was looking for a new schedule after working as a social worker during the 3 to 11 p.m. shift on the adolescent floor of a local hospital when she found an opening with EveryStep Hospice (then known as “Hospice of Central Iowa”).
"A lot of people didn't know what hospice was 30 years ago," she says. "I just felt like it was something I could give back to."
And that's exactly what she's done for the past 30 years, working as an integral part of the hospice care team, providing support and important resources to patients and their families as they traverse the end-of-life process.
"I just wanted to help others, to make a difference in the world, whether that be small or big," Dana says of her decision to pursue social work in the first place.
In the beginning, Dana says she quickly learned that she needed to find boundaries for the job.
She recalls one patient, a young mother with four children dying of cancer, affecting her particularly hard.
"We really helped her family and kids," Dana recalls. "But it was horrible when she passed. I really took that to heart. I had to figure out a way to care for our patients but then not take that home. You have to find positive outlets."
Over her 30 years with the organization, Dana has helped a number of patients and their families manage the challenges that come with the end of life. In many cases, this means utilizing EveryStep's Quality of Life program.
Whether it's helping to pay for utilities because finances are tight or recreating a favorite home-cooked meal, EveryStep helps our patients find quality of life on their terms. Sometimes this means fulfilling wishes and creating lasting memories for patients and their families.
"We once had a little boy on service who imitated a duck," Dana notes. "We were able to help get them to Walt Disney World to see Donald Duck. He was elated. It was cool to make that happen for him."
In another instance, Dana and the rest of the EveryStep care team did all they could to ensure a patient continue to attend church and have a proper burial.
"The Foundation helped us by connecting the basilica and they gave her a Catholic Mass and buried her at Resthaven Cemetery. We were able to treat her with the dignity and respect she deserved."
Dana's life was again touched by hospice personally in 2000 when her mom was admitted as a patient to EveryStep’s Kavanagh House on 56th Street.
"It really made it full circle," she says. "We provide wonderful care and try to go above and beyond. We really try to give them the best quality until the end of life."
And for Dana, that means helping others, supporting our patients and their families.
"We accept people for who they are, we don't pass judgement," she says. "And hopefully we can make a difference."
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