Gayla Roberts, LPN; and Kay Cole, social worker; help families and their loved ones prepare for their final journey together in life and the transition beyond this life.


by James Coburn – Writer/Photographer

Gayla Roberts said her experience with long-term care and home health prepared her for the hospice world.
“But then again, I think it’s a God given talent. But then again it just came natural,” said Roberts, LPN, Humanity Hospice, located in Oklahoma City.
Roberts has been with Humanity Hospice since January of this year. When Keisha Jackson’s life-long dream of starting her own hospice came to fruition, a team of hospice professionals who have worked together since 2006 joined her at Humanity Hospice.
“She hand-picked who she wanted to be on her hospice team,” Roberts said. “I was really quite honored to be asked.”
Roberts has been a hospice nurse since 2006. She has 20 years of experience as a civil service employee. She had always wanted to become a nurse since high school. When she was 37, she quit her government job and went to school at Gordon Cooper Technology Center in Shawnee.
Roberts started her career at Parkland Manor in Prague. She moved to Edmond in 2003. Her first job in the metro area was director of assisted living before working in home health.
“There’s certain nurses that are better at one kind of nursing than another,” she continued. Roberts cannot imagine doing anything else.
“I had a nurse that had a daughter that was in a NICU unit. She stood at the bedside and just balled her eyes out,” Roberts recalled. “She said, ‘Gayla I don’t know how you do this.’ I said, ‘Honey there is no way I could do your job.’”
Hospice is for families. Being there with a dying patient brings a myriad of emotions. Sadness, peacefulness and a completion. Roberts develops a relationship with them as a second family. Roberts has become very attached to some of them, she said.
“It’s such an honor to be there,” Roberts said. “It’s like you’re the last person who touched this patient. I do pretty good until I go to the funerals afterwards. When you go to the funerals afterwards, you see the families and they are so appreciative of the services that you provided.”
Being a hospice nurse means attending to mind, body and spirit as part of life. Roberts also does things to enrich her own life when she is not working. She likes to garden and shop.
“I have six grandkids and spend a lot of time with them,” Roberts said. “You have to find a break during the day for yourself, especially if you’ve had a stressful day. And this bunch here, if you’ve had an exasperating day, you can come in here. You can laugh; you can cry. We just love each other.”
Kay Cole is a social worker, and she’s part of the circle of care at Humanity Hospice. She was the first employee, other than owner Keisha Jackson who came on board when the hospice opened in April of 2014.
“In terms of social work and hospice, we do a little bit of everything,” Cole said. “A lot of it is grief counseling, readying the patient and family for death, helping them meet their spiritual and emotional needs”
Cole helps to facilitate the advanced directives, but the majority of her work is grief counseling, she said. For some families, the thought of a loved one dying is a sudden ordeal to deal with. It’s difficult.
“Knowing that it’s coming doesn’t necessarily make it easier,” Cole said. “I think the grieving process is the same whether it’s an event or a long-standing event. The difference is when the patient is slowly passing, we have more time to meet the family’s emotional needs and spiritual needs in getting them ready to go on that journey.”
She works very closely with the nursing staff. They all share the same attitude that Roberts has in terms of death and dying, Roberts said. They all have the same deep desire to make sure that it a positive event for the family and the patient.
“The nurses, I have so much respect for them. They do things I couldn’t do,” Roberts said. “And these nurses I work with have worked with social workers in the past, and they really know when to utilize a social worker instead of trying to do it all on their own.”
Cole views every death she has experienced as a positive experience. Families become accepting, she said. And it reinforces her desire to be part of that process.