Caring for people is passion of new hospice executive
Sangre de Cristo Hospice is a homecoming for Carmen Ermel.
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Posted: Sunday, September 19, 2010 12:00 am
Caring for people is passion of new hospice executive By LORETTA SWORD | email@example.com The Pueblo Chieftain | 0 comments
Carmen Ermel has spent most of her professional life helping older people live independently and adapt to some of the losses that aging guarantees.
Her newest job involves helping people die — with dignity, and without some of the burdens that dying so often brings along on its unpredictable journey.
Ermel took over July 26 as chief executive officer of Sangre de Cristo Hospice. It was a homecoming in several ways.
The 58-year-old grew up in Beulah and graduated from South High School. She started college at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, then transferred to the University of California at San Bernadino, graduating with degrees in business administration and social science.
She eventually returned to Pueblo as a community relations representative for a local nursing home.
That was 20 years ago, when the concept of hospice care was just beginning to take hold nationwide. Pueblo was ahead of the national curve with Sangre de Cristo Hospice, founded primarily by longtime CEO Joni Fair, who retired in January.
Ermel said she had contact with hospice volunteers at the nursing home, and decided to get some training from Fair so she would understand how the two organizations could better serve Pueblo’s most vulnerable citizens.
“That was my introduction to hospice, and I’ve been connected to hospice services throughout my career since then,” she said. That connection continued in her next job as director of the Area Agency on Aging for Custer, Chaffee, Fremont and Lake counties.
Ermel’s most recent position was as senior vice president of operations for Spectrum Retirement Communities, an organization with 1,000 employees that operates retirement and assisted-living communities and Alzheimer’s care facilities in seven states.
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“I coordinated with hospices in each market, so when our seniors needed services they could stay in the assisted-living community rather than having to move to a skilled nursing facility,” Ermel said.
She had always planned to return to Southern Colorado, she said, and she heard about the opening at the Pueblo hospice right about the time she had begun pushing herself to finally make the move.
“It was always my goal to get back down here permanently. I also had reached a point where I wanted to be involved in ‘total service’ for seniors — something that didn’t involve real estate,” she said.
Ermel counts among her goals continued outreach in all of the communities the organization serves to provide education about hospice services and recruit more volunteers.
Finding new funding streams also will be imperative, with Medicare reimbursement for hospice care due to take major cuts over the next decade.
Taking the reins of an organization that has flourished for nearly 30 years under the leadership of its passionate founder is both an honor and a welcome challenge, Ermel said.
Fair plans to remain connected to hospice as a volunteer, and Ermel said she’s been generous with her knowledge and experience.
“She’s very graciously opened her mind and her heart to help,” she said.
“I’m very excited to really get started applying my experience, my skills in collaborative efforts, and my energy to this job. Failure is not an option. This is such an important and humbling service that we provide.
”It’s a position I don’t think anyone should pursue as a paycheck. It’s truly a calling and a mission, and it’s a humbling honor to be selected.”
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