Life’s journey can sometimes take a rough path and you just need someone special to help you along—or in Maureen Reiss’ case, a team of special Delaware Hospice professionals. It was Maureen’s turn to care for her mother. Always an active and healthy woman, June Keenan had suffered a stroke while vacationing in Florida. Along with other symptoms, she lost her ability to communicate her wishes and needs.
Maureen’s home near Milford was too small to take her in, so she found an assisted living facility 30 minutes away. Maureen said, “My mother was so frustrated that she was not able to express herself, and she became very challenging. She would grind her teeth constantly, spit out her medications, and throw things on the floor. With her physical disabilities from the stroke, she could only eat with her fingers, so no one would sit with her at meals. From being a lovely, sociable person she had suddenly become someone that few could understand or communicate with, and she was furious about it.”
One of the few things that worked well to calm her was Maureen’s therapy dog. She said, “My mother loved the dog. She would make soft sounds and pretend to kiss the dog.”
With a few hospitalizations for minor health issues, she suffered additional setbacks in her physical rehabilitation. Simultaneously maintaining a family household and caring for her mother grew to become a tremendous burden for Maureen.
In the doctor’s office one day, Maureen met someone from Delaware Hospice who recommended she make a call. Her mother was admitted as a patient immediately, and Maureen found the help she needed.
“Most important,” remembered Maureen, “was their help in putting a ‘do not hospitalize’ order in effect. They became advocates for my mother, closely monitoring her medications and working through her particularly challenging situation with smart solutions.”
A lot of caregiver stress comes from wondering what’s happening when they are not at the patient’s side. Knowing that Delaware Hospice’s team members would be visiting on a certain day, gave Maureen relief. She said, “I would receive messages on the answering machine just letting me know someone had been to visit my Mom and everything was okay. It was wonderful to realize I wasn’t in it alone anymore. I could take a few minutes to do my own laundry and get there a bit later because I knew she was okay. It was really great to feel that somebody else cared. I still have those messages on my answering machine!”
“During my mother’s final days, our regular nurse couldn’t be there, but the on-call nurse was at our side and it was as if she had been with us the entire time. It was amazing how she took us through the last hours. They were hard; but at the same time, I treasure those moments.”
Maureen said, “It’s difficult to put into words all that Delaware Hospice did for us. It wasn’t just the care and comfort the team provided my mother, but for our entire family. I knew I wasn’t alone, that someone else really did care. I knew that any time of the day or night I could call and seek advice. The team empowered me in a way that left me feeling comfortable with a situation that seemed unmanageable at times.”
“Uncertainty can be unnerving, but I knew that I had support. The team would patiently answer questions that often the medical professionals didn’t have time to answer. They helped me navigate the complexities of many end-of-life issues. I learned that, ‘Yes, you can do this alone,’ but sharing the load was beneficial not only to me, but also to my family and, most important, to my mother.”
Maureen felt that having Delaware Hospice nurses visit her mother at her assisted living facility was instrumental in avoiding unnecessary hospital visits, as minor ailments were addressed in a timely manner with the assistance of the hospice nurse.
She said, “Most important, since my mother didn’t have very good socialization skills due to her communication disability, the hospice team ‘befriended’ my mother. During my 34 years teaching experience with children with disabilities, I would often ask parents, ‘What do you want for your child?’ The answer was universal: ‘I want my son to have a friend.’ You know, that’s exactly what I hoped for my mother, and members of Delaware Hospice’s team became her friends!”
Story Credit: Beverly Crowl, of Delaware Hospice