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Patient Stories

Family Ties, Hospice Help Barbara Live with Dignity

For more than 50 years, Barbara Swenson put her family’s needs first. Whether she was tending to her two children, helping run a 90-acre farm, or supporting the family following her husband John’s near-fatal car accident, Barbara did whatever it took to make things work.

Now 83 and living with Alzheimer’s disease, Barbara needs help with just about everything. Her family has rallied to ensure she has what she needs to live at home with dignity and without pain, and hospice with Care Dimensions is a vital part of their plan.

Warning signs

Up until 15 years ago, Barbara ran her family’s Melrose household with the same strong will that she had all her life. Having grown vegetables on a Maine farm when her children were small, she used that experience to maintain three gardens that fed her close-knit family. She also enjoyed cooking, driving, swimming, reading, and helping care for her two grandchildren.

Her daughter Krissy and son Mike – who both live in the same building as their parents – noticed Barbara was losing interest in activities and would occasionally burst out crying for no apparent reason.

The situation worsened. Barbara’s primary care doctor recommended a neurologist, who diagnosed Barbara with Alzheimer’s. “We knew we had a big challenge ahead of us,” said Krissy. Barbara wouldn’t take her pills. Other medications gave her hallucinations. She started to wander.

In 2021, Barbara broke her collarbone and was admitted to the hospital, where she developed an infection. She couldn’t receive medicine intravenously because she would rip out the tubes. She was discharged to a rehabilitation facility.

Choosing hospice

Krissy worked with Barbara’s doctor and a discharge planner, who believed Barbara would qualify for hospice. “I remembered a friend saying how great Care Dimensions was for her uncle, so we chose them,” said Krissy.

“Mom’s condition started to improve soon after she came home with extra support from the entire hospice team,” recalled Mike.

“Care Dimensions took care of the medical equipment logistics, like a bed, wheelchair, and commode,” added Krissy. “It gave us peace of mind knowing that Mom was getting the expert care that she needed, right here at home.”

Barbara’s hospice team supports her and her family. Nurse Peggy Nolan visits weekly to check Barbara’s symptoms and ensure she’s sleeping well. Social Worker Marissa Gadacy provides dementia-related education and support and connected the family to Mystic Valley Elder Services for Barbara’s ‘round-the-clock personal care. Chaplain Marshall Hawkins offers spiritual support and talks with John about the challenges that Barbara’s illness presents for him and his family.

A Care Dimensions volunteer visits every other Sunday to offer a peaceful presence. Krissy reports that her mother is engaged during and after music therapy with “Dan the music man” Steinbrink and visits from pet therapy dog Wrangler and his owner.

“The key word about my wife’s care is ‘dignity,’” said John, who has been married to Barbara for
60 years.

“There’s no caring for someone like family does, and hospice is an extension of that,” added Krissy. “Mom is loved, well taken care of, and with her family, where she belongs.”

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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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