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Patient Stories

Cardiac Patient Finds Help from Specialized Hospice Care Program

Innovative Cardiac Program Helps Avoid Hospitalizations

“My Dad’s quality of life has improved dramatically since becoming a hospice patient of Care Dimensions,” says Gloria Cole of Weston. That may sound like a contradictory statement, but Cole credits the Care Dimensions cardiac program’s close monitoring of his health and quick adjustments of his medication with keeping her Dad’s heart failure in balance while allowing him to remain home and out of the hospital.

Joe DeSalvo, 92, of Wenham, has suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cardiomyopathy—a progressive heart disease that weakens the heart’s ability to pump blood and causes heart failure— for many years and it’s been getting increasingly worse. “There really isn’t anything more that doctors can do for his heart disease and his declining health,” explains Cole. “It comes down to daily management of his diet, fluid balance, and fine-tuning the medications to manage his symptoms to keep him comfortable.”

After two years of a continuous cycle that found DeSalvo in the hospital every three months to stabilize his fluid levels and monitor his medication, Cole finally raised the idea of hospice care with her father’s physicians. “We nearly lost my Dad in May when, after eight days in the hospital, they couldn’t stabilize his heart or fluid levels. The episode was traumatic for the whole family,” says Cole. “I started to fear for my Mom’s health because it took so much out of her to go back and forth and keep all the details straight. It was just getting to be too much to handle by ourselves.”

Cole knew that her Dad could benefit from hospice services. “He was initially reluctant, but I told him it just came down to where he wanted to receive his medications and be cared for—at home or in and out of the hospital.” As part of Care Dimensions’ cardiac program, DeSalvo receives a call every day to check on his blood pressure, weight, fluid levels and how he’s feeling. He also has daily visits from hospice aid Laurie Gello to help him with showering and personal needs; she is the first line of defense to alert the team if something isn’t right. “Dad developed pneumonia right before Christmas, but because the team picked up on it so quickly, he was able to be treated with antibiotics at home. Without hospice, he would have been in the hospital for a week or possibly not even survived,” says Cole.

DeSalvo, a Coast Guard and World War II veteran who drove troops in amphibious landing vehicles during the invasions of Normandy, Iwo Jima and Okinawa, appreciates all that hospice has brought to his care. “Every day that I can get up and play the piano, is a good day.” He looks forward to his visits with his care team; including his volunteer who is also a veteran. “It’s so comforting to me to know that my Dad has such a high level of professional oversight on his health and medications. Now I don’t have to worry so much about his care, the stress on my Mom’s health or the strain on me and my family. I can visit with them and really make the most of our remaining time together.”

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Since 1978, Care Dimensions, formerly Hospice of the North Shore,  has provided comprehensive and compassionate care for individuals and families dealing with life-threatening illnesses. As the non-profit leader in advanced illness care, we offer services in over 100 communities in Massachusetts.

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