Keeping Mom in the Game with Home Health and Hospice

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My mother was a strong, proud and independent woman. She was also smart. If Mom had been born in a different generation, she would have been a lawyer or a writer. However, she was a stay-at-home mom with seven children and always busy. Then, when my dad died suddenly, she went to work full time to support herself and the three children still living at home — one just 12 years old. She retired in her mid-60s and spent many years traveling around the globe with her great friends and across the country to visit her children, grandchildren and later, great-grandchildren. 

By the time she reached her mid-80s, her rambling house had become too much for her, so she sold it and moved into the home of my sister and her husband. There, she had her own suite of rooms to maintain her independence. She went to the senior center three times a week, where she was known as unbeatable at Scrabble and a formidable pool player. 

Beth and Mom. Photo by Beth Dimitruk.

Her first heart attack, at age 91, changed everything. After surgery and several weeks in the hospital and a rehabilitation facility, Mom came home weak and tired. Thankfully, her visiting nurse arrived the next day and outlined a plan to surround her with care and get her back on her feet. The plan included her primary nurse who visited two or three times a week to review her medications, check all her vital signs and teach her about heart disease and how to manage symptoms. Since Mom was at risk for another heart attack, home telehealth, the remote monitoring of her vital signs and symptoms, and a health coach, who provided regular check-in calls, were added to her plan of care. A home health aide was scheduled twice a week to help Mom with bathing. The entire team was kind, caring and completely focused on helping Mom achieve her goal of resuming her independent lifestyle. 

After about six weeks of exceptional care and support, Mom was strong enough to be discharged from visiting nurse services, and for almost a year was able to return to her senior center Scrabble games. Unfortunately, her heart failure was progressive and another heart attack soon followed, this one more intense and damaging. The hospital case manager explained that even with the most advanced medical care, there comes a time when treatment is no longer effective and a transition to comfort care is the most appropriate option. Mom decided to return home with hospice care. 

Hospice is designed to provide comfort care and support to meet the complex medical needs of patients and to support their family as well. We were comforted to learn about the hospice’s focus on compassion and dignity and about the services available from the staff and volunteers. 

The day after Mom came home, the hospice nurse arrived and he got to work. Since the VNA and hospice agencies shared one electronic medical record, he already knew all about Mom and her needs. He arranged for the delivery of a hospital bed to help her sleep comfortably and oxygen for her shortness of breath. He made sure she had pain medications and other supplies and scheduled a home health aide to help with personal care. He also took the time to get to know Mom, learning about the things she cared about and her end-of-life wishes. He even made arrangements for a hospice volunteer to challenge Mom to a game of Scrabble. She beat him.

With the help of hospice, Mom spent several comfortable months at home, enjoying the company of friends and surrounded by her family. She was even able to hold her newest great grandson. At the end, she died peacefully, with her daughters by her side. 

Home Health VNA provides comprehensive medical care and support to maximize health, independence and quality of life. Merrimack Valley Hospice, offers comfort care and palliative services for patients and grief and bereavement support for families. When you need home health or hospice care, trust Home Health VNA and Merrimack Valley Hospice — the regional leaders in the delivery of home and community-based medical care and support throughout the Merrimack Valley, Northeastern Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire. For more information visit HomeHealthFoundation.org or call (978) 552-4186.  

 

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