|Reding, owner of St. Michael Hospice, Inc.
As the owner of St. Michael Hospice, Inc., a local hospice she purchased in 2008, Toni Reding is always on the go. She may be the head honcho, but she also works as the administrator and director of Patient Care Services.
The Laguna Hills resident says she once dreamed of becoming an explorer or a pathologist, but somewhere in the back of her mind, was also health care. She has an Associate’s Degree in Nursing from Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham, Ore. and a BS in Psychology from Portland State University. She is also a Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Nurse.
"Hospice is an intermittent visit service that cares for patients of any age who have been diagnosed with a life-limiting illness," she explains. "It is delivered to patients in their home wherever that may be."
“We provide a team of people who can help patient’s direct and choose the journey that is right for them. We strive to get the word out about hospice to everyone, but we have a special focus on minorities. Cultural differences in end-of-life care need lots of attention. While hospice may not be for everyone, my goal is to make sure that everyone who needs the service knows that is available. I really love that about what I do,” she says. “Every day, my education continues as long as I am paying attention to what is going on around me. There is always something new to learn.
“I have always been interested in the healthcare underdog,” she continues. “I counseled at a camp for the disabled when I was a teenager and my interest in all things medical was reinforced at an early age. I thought I would be a doctor. I NEVER thought that I would be a nurse and yet once I became a nurse, it has taken me through many different career paths. I have worked as a nurse in emergency rooms, summer camps, schools, long term care for the elderly, industrial nursing, and of course hospice.”
She says her first personal involvement in hospice hit her when she was in her 40s.
“My mother was dying of breast cancer in Oregon and Mike [husband] and I were raising our sons in Colorado. My dad was not coping very well with mom’s illness and the hospice that cared for my mom became my actual eyes and ears. While I made frequent trips from Denver to Portland, it was of enormous benefit to me to be able to get a neutral look at my mother from the hospice nurse when my dad was overwhelmed,” she says.
In terms of her day-to-day routine, it is anything but typical for Reding.
Reding spends a lot of time her time educating patients, families and her staff on how to deliver the best hospice care possible.
“Hospice has taught me how to live every day. There is so much potential joy even in the most ordinary of days if we just pay attention to the fact the we are alive. I am by nature optimistic but my involvement in hospice has taught me to look beyond the big pleasures, like vacations and holidays, and focus on the every day,” she shares. “I actually stop and smell the roses every time I walk by and there are many roses in the world that do not come in the shape of flowers.”
While it might be challenging and often an emotional ride working in the hospice sector, Reding enjoys being able to teach people that dying is a normal part of living and that it is not an illness itself.
“I feel so honored that I have been invited into their world at this very intimate time in this person’s life and that I can assist them in dying in the way that best fits their own expectations,” she says. “People want to die at home and everyone has an idea of what the perfect death looks like. We do all that we can to make the ‘perfect death’ happen for them by taking care of any uncomfortable symptoms that are present so that patient and family is able to focus on what is important to them. Almost always that will be family and friends.”
Sometimes, the families carry a lot of anger and that is often directed at the messenger, she adds.
“They are so unhappy that the situation cannot be changed because they do not want to lose their family members,” she says as to the biggest challenge of the job. “This loss of control for these families is so difficult. We do everything that we can to empower them to laugh and love and learn from one another while they still can.”
Born and raised in Portland, Reding grew up in the small town (36 people) of Brightwood.
She suggests that for anyone who is considering a career in hospice work: Have fun, make friends and open your heart to the possibilities of wonder.
“Be the bigger person whenever you get the chance. Surrender to the things you have to study that you think are worthless and embrace the joy of knowledge,” she says. “My life has been very good, and I hope that the footsteps in their life are the journey that they will always want to celebrate and remember.”
Reding has been married for 29 years to Mike, and they have two adopted children, Peter and Patrick, both 25. When she isn’t working, she is an avid reader, likes to cook all kinds of foods, play board games, card games, and paint and spend time outdoors.