Barbara Ann Morrissey’s family was her pride and joy. She ran an in-home daycare when her kids were little so she could be home for them. She enjoyed her yard, cooking big meals and was well known for her family dinners and summer clambakes. After she lost her beloved husband, Frank, after his heart attack in 2006, she worked as a medical assistant at Framingham Union Hospital. Upon retirement, she became the nanny for the medical director’s kids.
“She just loved kids,” said daughter Danielle Morrissey. “She met my dad when she was 13 and he was 15, and she’s always had a very strong sense of family.”
In February 2019, after Barbara experienced speech and swallowing problems, her doctor diagnosed her with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). “Mom was losing her ability to eat, speak, swallow and clear her lungs,” Danielle said. “Each of us five kids had a day of the week to take care of mom, but by May we knew we needed to get some in-home support. My sister, Danette, a nurse, did the research and selected Care Dimensions to help us take care of mom.”
The Care Dimensions hospice team reviewed the medications and procedures and coordinated with Compassionate Care ALS to support the family, including the selection breathing and cough-assist machines for Barbara. “This was new territory for us but, once the team became involved in our lives, we felt well supported,” Danielle said. “It was a relief to have someone there when we thought we had cause to worry.”
In September that year, her hospice team decided to move her to the Care Dimensions Hospice House in Lincoln to stabilize her. “We were really struggling at that point and so grateful for the additional support,” Danielle said. “We were so appreciative of the opportunity to just be her kids.
“For the longest time we kids were her caregivers, the most challenging work we’ve ever done,” she continued. “At home, we physically moved her – she could stand and pivot but not walk. We watched someone we loved, so full of life, lose her voice and other functions. We gave our mother tube feedings and deep suctioning, which we never thought in a million years we’d be able to do. It was so hard for us to watch her suffer, but we each rose to the occasion in ways we didn’t know we were capable of.”
Barbara died peacefully in September 2019 surrounded by her loving family. In December the family attended the Tree of Lights ceremony, held in person as it was pre-COVID. “The lighting of the candles was so peaceful and it was beautiful to be surrounded by families who also lost a loved one,” Danielle said.
One year later the family participated in the virtual Walk for Hospice and to celebrate their mother’s birthday. “We walked around Cushing State Park in Scituate, her favorite place to go,” Danielle said. “We hung our heart on a tree for her.
“We were particularly touched by Care Dimensions’ thoughtfulness of the bereavement bag delivered to us last spring,” she added.
Now Danielle volunteers at the Care Dimensions Hospice House in Lincoln once a week, managing the front desk and assisting patient visits. “My family placed our tribute brick here, along the walking path in the Garden of Remembrance in honor of my mom and dad. Our experience has taught our family we can overcome anything, so we’re especially grateful to support the expert and compassionate care other families need at the end of life.”
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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.