CHAPCA Award for Outstanding Program Achievement

Denise Carson, author of the book Parting Ways, accepts the Outstanding Program Achievement Award at the California Hospice and Palliative Care Association Awards Reception in Santa

Congratulations to Hospice Care of the West for winning the Outstanding Program Achievement Award given by the California Hospice and Palliative Care Association (CHAPCA). The award recognizes an innovative program that stands as a model for other hospices and end-of-life care providers. CHAPCA is dedicated to promoting and strengthening the delivery of hospice care for terminally ill patients and their families through education and advocacy.

At the CHAPCA Awards Ceremony in Santa Clara, I stepped up to receive the award honoring our mission to celebrate the lives of hospice patients. The inscription on the award read: Denise Carson and Hospice Care of the West Outstanding Program Achievement for Advancing End-of-Life Care. I gave an acceptance speech alongside Debbie Robson, Executive Director of Hospice Care of the West. Many doctors, nurses, social workers and volunteer coordinators from other hospices came up after the ceremony to congratulate us and thank me for the dedication to spreading the word about hospice to the public. They were so inspired and loved what I said in my speech about our commitment to changing the conversation about hospice from dying to living and celebrating life.

From conception to the birth of this blog,, I envisioned that we could be a resource for the community and beacon for other hospices on how to bring intimacy, preparation, participation and celebration to a stage of life that has been alienated for over a century now. This dream and vision is beginning to be realized. I’m so grateful to CHAPCA for this award and the inspiration my parents gave me in their own end of life journeys. I want to thank Debbie Robson, fearless leader at Hospice Care of the West, who believed in the vision of this blog, the team at Hospice Care of the West for carrying out this mission in their everyday interactions with their patients, and Donna Miller who started the Life Review Video Program that attracted me to Hospice Care of the West while I was writing my book, Parting Ways.

Today, we have brought this mission home into the Hospice Care of the West community with Reminiscing Corners to video record members of the hospice team i.e. nurses, social workers, spiritual care coordinators, home health aides and office support staff sharing their life wisdom. We play these videos at our bi-monthly Celebration! Thank you to Jay Gianukos, our resident life story documentary filmmaker who makes these Reminiscing Corners and Celebrations magic. The goal is to renew and invigorate the team in caring everyday for hospice patients. We take this mission beyond on our walls by inviting folks at seniors centers to sit at our Reminiscing Corners with our documentary filmmaker to preserve their life stories.

Below is the story that went out in the CHAPCA Trendsetters Newsletter about the Award:

The Award for Outstanding Program Achievement was created in 2004 to recognize a program or agency

that has created and implemented an innovative program in end of life care. This year was a bit different in that the award honored an individual and a hospice agency that made an impact on their community. The recipients for 2012 are Denise Carson, a columnist for the Orange County Register, and author of Parting Ways: New Rituals and Celebrations of Life’s Passing and Hospice Care of the West, represented by Debbie Robson, Executive Director.

Denise became familiar with Hospice Care of the West when researching her book. This led to a collaboration that has raised the Hospice Care of the West’s profile in the community, increased their census, and most important, led to improved and enhanced end of life experience for their patients.

After the book was published, Denise went to the hospice and suggested the creation of a blog that would serve as an online resource for the community. Working together with hospice staff, Our Celebration of Life (now Our Life Celebrations) was born in 2011. The blog features the agency’s life review project, along with many other innovative programs developed by the hospice. These programs include their organization of high school students called Dream Catchers who make last wishes come true for hospice patients, memory pillows created by volunteer seamstresses made out of patients clothes for their bereaved families and sitting vigils to assure patients do not die alone. In addition to the blog, Denise has been involved with creating a bi-monthly gathering of employees called Celebration, and she is currently designing a series of classes to educate the community on what is hospice, how to be a compassionate companion, how to record a life interview, how to create end of life plans and a lasting legacy. These programs will not only be available in the community, but also online.







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  1. Debbie Robson

    It was such a pleasure to receive this award for the commitment and work that Denise and I have been doing over the last couple of years to make an impact at Hospice Care of the West, the community, and now be recognized by our industry. Thank you Denise for your partnership on this journey! I am continually grateful for the inspiration that comes when we work together. I am honored to receive this award with you on behalf of Hospice Care of the West.

    Deb Robson
    Executive Director
    Hospice Care of the West

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