Linda Carritte and Care Dimensions Hospice Aide Dale Lemure grew up in Lynn, Mass., and have been friends ever since they met in seventh grade, nearly 60 years ago.
Linda has been a member of Dale’s Lucky Lemures Walk for Hospice team for several years and walks in memory of her mother, who received hospice from Care Dimensions (then Hospice of the North Shore and Greater Boston) in 2011.
Their friendship rose to a different level this summer when Dale cared for Linda’s husband, Tom, during the last two and a half weeks of his life. Seeing Dale care for her husband gave Linda a new perspective about her friend and reinforced her commitment to supporting Care Dimensions through the Walk for Hospice.
Linda remembers Tom as strong, loving man who enjoyed being with his family, playing golf, and watching sports during their 41 years of marriage. In early June, she noticed Tom suddenly had difficulty walking and breathing.
Linda took Tom to a local emergency room, and he was diagnosed with pneumonia, which aggravated respiratory conditions he hadn’t disclosed to anyone. Tom’s illness was so severe that doctors recommended hospitalization and aggressive therapies.
“Tom didn’t want any treatment or to be in the hospital,” recalls Linda. “He stabilized in a couple days. We respected his wishes and brought him home with hospice.”
For the next two weeks, Tom enjoyed welcoming family and friends who visited him at home. Although he was bedridden, he was sharing stories and eating. “Being able to talk with family members and friends in our home made that time so much better for Tom,” says Linda. Their daughters, Carly – who is a nurse – and Corinne, alternated visits from their homes in Connecticut.
And then there was Dale. Linda asked Care Dimensions to assign her close friend as the aide on Tom’s hospice team. From Dale’s first visit, Linda saw another side of her friend that she didn’t know existed.
“She went into a different mode when she came in – it was business,” Linda says. “She was so professional and able to separate our friendship from her work. She knew what we needed to do. It was impressive to see her go from my friend to a pro who took us through those last weeks.”
Dale explained how to make Tom comfortable by giving Linda and her daughters tips on positioning him in bed. “Dale offered a calming presence. She wasn’t flustered at all by anything and knew exactly what to do,” Linda recalls. “She noticed little things when caring for Tom and said, ‘Make sure you tell the nurse about this.’ She was so helpful, and we didn’t worry that a nurse wasn’t there all the time. All I had do was call the Care Dimensions Nursing Support Line and they guided me.”
After two weeks, Tom’s condition rapidly deteriorated over four days. Tom became agitated and Care Dimensions hospice nurse Jessica Lavoie increased her visits to help manage his pain and symptoms.
Linda remembers how Dale helped calm Tom and his family, especially during Tom’s final days.
“Dale told Tom, ‘You don’t have to be scared,’” says Linda. “She was so comfortable talking to him and us. She was so compassionate and understanding, which helped him and us feel comfortable. She explained that Tom was actively dying, and what to expect. If she hadn’t, those last days probably would have been a shock.
“On the final day, Tom couldn’t speak but we knew he was in pain because he began moaning, which he had never done before,” Linda continues. “Nurse Jessica was there within an hour. She gave Tom what he needed to be pain-free, allowing him to die calmly and peacefully. It ended as beautifully as it could.”
“Linda has been a great friend to me, and godmother to one of my sons,” says Dale. “I never thought I’d be taking care of her husband, but I’m glad I was there. It was an honor and privilege. Linda’s like family to me, and I’m very happy that I could do this for her.”
“Dale and I were best friends as kids,” adds Linda. “When we had children, we weren’t as close but stayed in touch. Over the past few years, we’ve been close again. That friendship never really goes away, and it means a lot to me. We’d do anything for each other.”
Tom’s obituary requested that instead of flowers, memorial donations be made to the Care Dimensions Walk for Hospice Team "Lucky Lemures.” Linda will be walking with Dale and the Lucky Lemures for the ninth time on September 24.
“Now I see why all these people Walk as a thank you,” says Linda. “Hospice is the best. I so recommend it to anyone who needs it or wishes to have a tranquil end of life for their loved one. My family and I always will be grateful for the care Tom received.”
About the author
Lisa Conti is Senior Marketing Communications Specialist for Care Dimensions and manages its Voices of Care blog.
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Since 1978, Care Dimensions 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.