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Care Dimensions Hospice Team Helps Rockport Man and His Husband Care for Beloved Mother

When Anne Marie “Anna” Frisone was young, she loved going out to dinner and dancing. She read anything and everything. Born and raised in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., Anna worked full time for the phone company while raising three sons, whom she regarded as her life’s work. In 1987, when she was 63, Anna moved to Massachusetts to live near her son John. She continued to live independently though, in recent years, she had shown increasing signs of dementia, repeating things and envisioning things that didn’t exist. “She became agitated and anxious and, when no one believed her, it infuriated her,” John said.

In March 2020, after a six-week hospitalization, John and his husband, Mark Jurewicz, moved Anna into their Rockport home so they could care for her better. Anna couldn’t hear or see and required intensive daily care. Within a few months John developed significant medical challenges of his own and he knew he couldn’t keep up the same level of daily care for her. “It became very difficult for me to take care of both of us, so we finally asked for help,” he said.

In January 2021, Anna’s primary care physician, Dr. James McGuire, proposed in-home hospice care for her and recommended Care Dimensions.

“My previous understanding was hospice care was there for three days and then you die,” John said. “But the Care Dimensions hospice team went above and beyond, explaining how the hospice team could help and what would be best for my mom. Bottom line, we needed more help, especially during COVID. The hospice team spent weeks familiarizing themselves with my family and helped me realize I could relinquish managing every piece of my mother’s care. That was hard and it took a while for me to let go. The team was very patient with me and the strain lifted.

“While we are a legally married, committed gay couple, there are still times that we experience adverse reactions from certain people, groups and organizations,” John said. “We were extremely relieved and very thankful that we were welcomed into the Care Dimensions family of caretakers without hesitation or judgment. This made an otherwise emotional and very difficult situation much easier.”

Support smooths the way
“When I arrive and meet a new family, I want to get a feeling for what’s important to each family member,” said Sybil Darcy, Anna’s RN case manager. “I tell them I’m there to keep their loved ones at home, out of the hospital and comfortable, and the trust builds from there. I’m quick to remind the patient and family they’re in control.

“This is a beautiful, loving family who changed their whole lives to care for Mom, who was queen of the house,” she continued. “Her nails were done; she was dressed stylishly. She was so loved and so well cared for. It’s intimate and so very brave when a family member stays home to take over the caregiver responsibility – and I make sure I tell them that. Caregiving is a significant commitment, a 24-hour-a-day job. It’s so noble.”

As Anna’s health was changing, the number of hospice team visits increased dramatically. “The team became like an extension of our family,” Mark said. “They knew what they had to do and they coordinated everything. It was such a relief.”

“We support the whole family in their journey toward end of life,” Darcy said. “Our approaches and medical interventions are in response to our patient’s unique disease progression. Hospice treats symptoms as they come along. Our goal is to keep patients comfortable and free of pain. Death doesn’t have to be traumatic; it can be peaceful and natural.”

Team visits promote emotional, spiritual health
“We had watched my mom suffer for a long time but, with help from her hospice team and the whole evolution of care from Care Dimensions, Mark and I soon developed a natural acceptance of what was happening and felt comfortable with my mother’s last stage of life,” John said.

Social worker Melanie Porter, LICSW, guided the couple to set their expectations each step of the way. “As prepared as people might feel, losing a loved one is very emotional and can feel surreal. I was privileged to observe Anna and her relationship with John and Mark. She had lost her hearing and eyesight, but they stepped right in to do everything and more for her. I never had any doubt they were honoring her wishes.”

“We honor every relationship and family dynamic,” said Chaplain Steven Mullin, who has provided pastoral care and spiritual support to Care Dimensions families since 2002. “In this instance, Anna lived with her son and his husband, which could be seen as unique, but to us it’s just family. John and Mark were happy to share that they were relieved to receive wonderful care and their gay marriage was respected and honored by the Care Dimensions team.

“Many families don’t want to see a chaplain because for some it signifies the very end and death, but John and Mark wanted their mother to have the Catholic sacraments and prayers. They had their own strong feelings about the church, and I’m sensitive to that, yet they called me and asked me to come to her, because that was her language and her faith and they wanted Anna to be at peace,” Mullin said.

Hospice team ready with solutions
“They all fell in love with my mother,” John said. “At 97, she had a great sense of humor and they loved it about her. They couldn’t have realized how much their caring meant to us and my mother. It was wonderful having this team available 24 hours a day and one phone number to call – we never really needed it, but it was there. Even at 10 at night – Care Dimensions told us someone would be there to answer the phone or come out for a nursing visit.”

“The hospital bed was here within two hours, in the middle of a snowstorm,” Mark said. “And when there was an issue with some equipment, Sybil came up with a solution in an hour. It was such a change from having to worry about all the details ourselves. It was a relief to know there was a whole team taking care of us.”

“Each member of the team is so special to us, especially because they loved my mother,” John said. “I just wish we’d called Care Dimensions sooner.”

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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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