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Patient Stories

Palliative Care Helps Phyllis Pursue Her Passions

Phyllis Kransberg of Beverly always has enjoyed living life to the fullest. From modeling in her early 20s to buying and selling antique dolls with people from around the globe, to shopping for her great-grandchildren, she is passionate about what she does.

When Phyllis was referred to Care Dimensions’ palliative care program following a hospital stay for congestive heart failure and rapid atrial fibrillation at the age of 91 in March of 2020, she was uncharacteristically tired and depressed.

“I didn’t know what palliative care was,” recalls Phyllis. “I assumed that I didn’t have long to live.”

She soon discovered that palliative care was just what she needed to help keep her out of the hospital and back on track, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic took its toll on so many older people with health problems.

Telehealth, coordinated care

“Phyllis was very weak when she returned home and was closely monitored for symptoms. We had ongoing conversations about her goals and priorities to help prevent further hospitalizations,” recalls Care Dimensions Palliative Care Nurse Theresa Coughlin, who has been visiting Phyllis at home monthly throughout the pandemic.

Care Dimensions’ palliative care program offers comprehensive, ongoing support from an interdisciplinary team that may include a physician, nurse practitioner, registered nurse, social worker, or chaplain, depending on the patient’s needs. Patients may have varying levels of support depending on the progression of their illness, with more support at times to help manage worsening symptoms.

Care Dimensions placed a telehealth system in Phyllis’ home to get daily reports of her vital signs and to be alerted of any weight gain from fluid retention. Theresa shared updates with Phyllis’ primary care physician and cardiac nurse practitioner to ensure they all understood Phyllis’ condition and preferred course of treatment.

 “When Theresa started coming to my home, Massachusetts was in a state of emergency due to the pandemic,” says Phyllis. “I told her, ‘This is a dangerous job.’ And she just said matter-of-factly, ‘This is what I want to do. It’s what I’m supposed to do.’ I’m so glad she kept coming to check in on me.

“Theresa is very warm, funny, bright and intuitive about how I’m feeling,” Phyllis continues. “She’s a great conversationalist – like a friend coming to visit with medical expertise. She’s a treasure. We can talk about anything. I look forward to her visits. She’s been a godsend and I am very fortunate to have her.”

While Theresa monitored Phyllis’ condition and coordinated care with other health care providers, Phyllis slowly began to regain strength. As the weather warmed, Phyllis began taking short walks outside with her walker. She progressed so well that she no longer required the telehealth system and monitored her weight on her own.

Staying active

Phyllis tries to get outside for short walks every day that weather permits. Most Tuesdays, she enjoys one of her favorite activities: shopping at Savers in Danvers. “My daughter and son-in-law take me, and I get the most fabulous toys for my five great-grandchildren,” Phyllis says. “We stay at least an hour, walking and moving and having fun. It’s a great family Tuesday.”

Phyllis admits that she gets tired more easily these days, which requires her to “listen to my body and do what it tells me. My mind tells me aging is part of life, but my body sometimes refuses to understand it. I can’t believe that I’m 92! I’m still 27 in my head.”

To relax and recharge, she turns to her long-time passion of writing. “I love words,” says Phyllis, who has been writing narrative poems the past few years. She began writing at 10 years old and started a hyper-local newspaper in her apartment building in Boston. She also enjoys collecting letters, ephemera, and older children’s books. The dozens of antique dolls that adorn her apartment are what remain after she sold most of her collection.

“You have to have a passion in life. If you don’t, life can be very dull,” she advises.

Phyllis says she is blessed to have “a wonderful family that treats me like a queen,” plus the support she receives from Care Dimensions’ palliative care program.

“Having someone in your life like Theresa – who is filled with kindness and humor – is very helpful,” Phyllis adds. “If I behave and stay on my meds, with a little luck I hope to avoid going back to the hospital. Life is good.”

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After being diagnosed with cancer of the tissue lining the abdomen, Steve turned to Care Dimensions for palliative care to manage his symptoms and help him live the way he wanted while dealing with a serious illness.

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Audias Escobar moved from Guatelmala to Boston to pursue his American Dream in 2005. With his health rapidly declining, he wanted to secure a bright future for his daughter. His Care Dimensions hospice team helped him make arrangements for his daughter's continued care and for a final trip home.

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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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