Patient and Plants: How 'Carol's Plants' Will Live On, Help Others


BY: Tina Thonnings, Volunteer Service Manager
CATEGORY: News and Community; Philanthropy

​Earlier this year, Hospice of the Western Reserve volunteer Bob Rensel hosted a Volunteer Initiative at the Cleveland Botanical Gardens. Bob, a horticulturalist at the Cleveland Botanical Garden, is certified in Healthcare Garden and Design. His education highlighted the great value of plants for hospice patients including these benefits for ill and dying people:
  • Plants clean and oxygenate the air. Patients are less likely to experience respiratory discomfort from conditions such as asthma or COPD if plants are filtering pollutants from the air.
  • Plants have a calming effect on patients and lower stress and anxiety levels, as well as heart rates and blood pressures.
  • Plants improve cognitive functioning, specifically patients' ability to focus and to remember.
  • Patients that interact with and care for plants report lower pain levels.
  • Plants can add beauty to a patient's room.

In March, we got an invitation to further Bob’s message through a wonderful plant legacy project.

Many people have a “last wish” or legacy to live beyond their own life. Carol Gibbons, a headquarters home care patient, wished that her hundreds of house plants to be given new homes and live on. In addition to having had many dogs and birds, Carol collected a wide array of ferns, painted/curled begonias, spider plants, philodendron, shamrock plants, cacti and other succulents.  She had more plants in her house than places to sit. It took Carol approximately eight hours to water her “family” of plants.

In working with Hospice of the Western Reserve, Carol got her wish. Her beloved “soul sister,” Lorraine Meyers, sent forth Carol’s plants to a wide range of plant people and places. Some of Carol’s plants went to offices to add life, oxygen, color and joy. Other larger plants and statuaries got carried off to Stan Hywet Hall and Museum in Akron.

Another set of plants, in the form of root-cuttings were brought to the Lakeshore office for planting. A group of eight Hospice of the Western Reserve volunteers, two Hospice of the Western Reserve Teen volunteers and a horticulture class of six students from Gates Mills High School transformed the many rooted cuttings into small bedside planters. 

To date, Carol’s plants have been distributed to at least 45 Hospice of the Western Reserve patients, families, bereaved and elderly guests. In the spirit of plant therapy, Carol’s plants bring cheer, calm and enhance the quality of life for all of us who received them. 

Pictured above: Carol Gibbons (on left) with Lorraine Meyers.

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More than 1,000 Hospice of the Western Reserve employees and 3,000 volunteers live and work side-by-side in the same neighborhoods with our patients and families. We are privileged to have cared for more than 100,000 Northern Ohioans since our inception.