When Stefanie Rogal thinks of how to describe her husband Jim, the word that comes to mind is “passionate.” Passionate about his job as an attorney; passionate about playing and watching sports; and passionate about his family, especially his three daughters, his granddaughter and, of course, his wife, who he was with for more than 30 years.
“He just really loved life,” recalled Stefanie. “Even towards the end of his life, he said to me one day ‘I’m not afraid to die. I’ve lived a great life.’”
It was in 2014, when Jim was in his late 50s, that the couple first knew something was wrong. Jim was having tremors, which they thought might be related to an old sports injury. It turned out to be the early stages of Parkinson’s Disease. Despite the diagnosis, he didn’t let the disease slow him down. Jim continued working, and he kept up just fine on the tennis court and the golf course.
The family made an early call to Care Dimensions for palliative care, which is designed to help patients with advanced illness, but who are still actively treating their disease. Palliative care also helps guide caregivers on their journey.
“At the beginning, I swear the palliative care was more for me,” said Stefanie. “Being able to talk to the nurse or having a social worker call and check in on me about him, it was incredibly helpful and validating.”
By late 2020, the illness had slowed Jim down and showed signs of advancing. While playing golf, for example, he had trouble keeping score and finding his ball. It was an early sign of dementia, which can be common with Parkinson’s.
“His friends would tell me they were just happy to have him on the course, saying ‘we don’t care about the score,’” said Stefanie. “And I told them, ‘No, but he cares.’ It was really hard for him to know he couldn’t do the things he loved.”
Jim transitioned to hospice and died in May 2021. He had been receiving care at home, then spent his final days at the Kaplan House. Stefanie said the hospice experience allowed her to be Jim’s wife, and not his nurse.
“He was my best friend. I had been his caregiver for so long. And when the end was near, I didn’t want to be anything other than his best friend. The hospice care team helped make that happen.”
Because of COVID restrictions at the time, remembrance services were limited. This October, Jim’s family and friends will have a larger celebration of his life, coinciding with the Walk for Hospice.
Being from the North Shore, Stefanie knew about the Walk and had participated many years ago. This year will be different though, and she and Jim’s loved ones walk in his memory, and to support Care Dimensions.
Stefanie is the captain for the Walk team “Raising the Bar”, an homage to Jim’s legal career. (Stefanie was also a para legal when the two first met.) The team is one of this year’s biggest, already raising thousands of dollars and made up of members of Jim’s family, friends and colleagues.
“I want other families to be able to have the experience that we did. I’m truly grateful for all of it, from the palliative care to hospice to the grief support after his death.
“Jim was super grateful for what he had as well. And I know that doing this walk would be important for him.”
One of this year's biggest teams at the Walk for Hospice will be the "Pickleballers." The group is doing more than walking; they're helping to organize the event and spread the word about the benefits of hospice. ...Continue reading
A longtime supporter of the Walk for Hospice, Jacquelyn Overberg of Danvers knows the route well. This September will feel different though, as she steps off in memory of her father, who died last spring. ...Continue reading
Seeing her best friend Dale care for her husband while he was on hospice gave Linda a new perspective about Dale and reinforced her commitment to the Care Dimensions Walk for Hospice. ...Continue reading
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.