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Maria Lepore, 6th from the left, and her extended family. Author Beth Fox Lepore is 2nd from the left.
Maria Lepore, 6th from the left, and her extended family. Author Beth Fox Lepore is 2nd from the left.

Hospice Helps Grant Mom Her Final Wishes

Posted on May 16, 2023 by Beth Fox Lepore

My husband and I stood at his mom’s funeral this past March, numb with grief and a bit in shock at how quickly her life had been taken from her. Seventy-eight years young. It just felt wrong. However, as we looked at each other through our tears, we silently agreed: we had no regrets

Of course, we regretted not having more time with her, but that was beyond our control. Only God can give life. However, what we could control, we did. In our mom’s last weeks – and I say “our mom” because while she was technically my mother-in-law, she was “mom” to both of us – we said what we wanted to say, did what we wanted to do, and went where we wanted to go. And, when her journey with hospice came to an end, we regretted nothing. Care Dimensions helped make this possible.

We never thought we’d be in this situation. Our mom Maria was a vibrant Italian lady with keen eye for decorating, a sharp sense of fashion, and a talent for hairdressing. A native of Sicily, she fluently spoke both Italian and English, often mixing the two as she carried on conversations with her Italian siblings and her American-born children and their families. A beloved “Nonni” to 12 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren, she delighted in feeding them pasta around her kitchen table and sneaking them chocolates after dinner. She loved to shop, entertain, and have everyone “be together.”

That all changed in September 2022.  What she thought was a simple backache turned out to be stage four metastatic urothelial cancer – "treatable but not curable,” according to the doctors. However, after five intense months of treatments, the cancer proved stronger than the chemo and treatment no longer was a viable option. Hospice was her only choice.

This unfamiliar and unwelcome territory initially felt overwhelming. We made the call to Care Dimensions while Mom was in the hospital, figuring that it would take a few days to get things rolling.  Yet, just three short hours later, an intake coordinator met us at the hospital, armed with information that became our lifeline when we eventually brought Mom home to live with us.  We called it “The Book” – a notebook that explained everything to us, from what to expect as her health transitioned, to how to handle the grief that would come at her inevitable passing.

Care Dimensions assured us that they would make possible our mom’s final wishes: (1) not to be in pain, (2) not to die in a hospital, and (3) to have everyone together. They said they would take care of everything.

Everything? Surely that couldn’t be true. But yet it was.

Every call was returned within a few minutes of us making it.  Early in the morning, late at night… time of day didn’t seem to matter to Care Dimensions.  If we needed a visit from a nurse, we got one. Medication? Deliveries at 11:30 at night became routine. Multiple questions in a single day? Answers were given, every single time.

It took us only a couple days to realize that Care Dimensions meant what they said: they’d provide us 24/7 support and do everything they could to make sure our mom could stay home with us for the rest of her life.

It felt as though our care staff was always one step ahead of us, anticipating our need for medicine, supplies, or equipment. It all was delivered to our house, saving us trips to store or pharmacy that otherwise would steal precious moments from spending time with our mom. They showed us how to make everyday tasks a little easier, from lifting her in the chair, to helping her get dressed in the morning, to dosing her medicine with a syringe instead of through pills.

When our nurse heard that we had pushed our mom’s wheelchair through the snow to take her to the movies one last time, she immediately ordered us a transport chair so that we could get out and about more easily. I think we used that chair more than any other piece of equipment that we had. We will always be grateful that our nurse realized such a little change would make a huge difference in our lives. That chair let us bring Mom right into the middle of whatever activity our family was doing.

Care Dimensions helped us recognize the physical and emotional signs of our mom’s changing health status, so we were prepared for what was to come.  Daily, our nurse talked us through what we were seeing, and explained what to expect next.

When our mom finally passed peacefully in our home — just five short weeks after entering hospice — every person who mattered most to her was able to hold her hand and say a final goodbye.  There was no hospital, no pain, and we were all together.  Exactly as Mom had wanted.

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