Jill Chapdelaine and her mother, Karen Dugan
There is never a “good” time to lose a beloved family member, but a death on Christmas Day can be especially challenging. For Jill Chapdelaine, whose mother died at Care Dimensions’ Kaplan Family Hospice House in the early morning hours on December 25, 2018, the loss was profound, but it was surrounded by “comfort and grace.” She explains, “my mom died peacefully with loved ones by her side, while under the supportive and nurturing care of the Kaplan House staff.”
Jill’s mother, Karen Dugan, contracted scarlet fever as a young child. The illness resulted in damage to her kidneys that also compromised other organs and ultimately left her with health issues from which she suffered throughout her life. “Despite my mother’s health challenges, she was determined to live a full life,” Jill explains. “She went on to get married and gave birth to six children, all of whom she adored. Family was everything to her and she never let her health issues get in the way of doing all that she could to be there for her family. Unfortunately, in 2015, my mother suffered a fall that compromised her health and set to motion a series of medical issues that she was not able to overcome.”
Towards the very end of her life, Karen spent nearly two months in the hospital, with her husband Terry by her side, while doctors and nurses did all that they could do to manage her complex medical condition. When the decision was made to transition to hospice care, Jill reached out to her cousin Joanne MacInnis for help. Joanne, president of Aberdeen Home Care of Danvers, immediately sprang into action and called Care Dimensions. Because her condition was so dire, Karen was transferred to Kaplan House in a matter of hours.
Just two days before Christmas, the family and Kaplan House staff set about making sure Karen was surrounded by warm and homey holiday touches. “The Kaplan House staff was so gracious and allowed Joanne to personalize the room with a Christmas tree with twinkling lights and all the holiday trimmings, while the family hung Christmas lights and family photos throughout the room,” Jill explains. Care Dimensions also provided crocheted blankets made by volunteers, which the family was allowed to take home after Karen’s passing.
Most important of all to Jill and her family was the fact that the Care Dimensions staff closely monitored Karen’s medications to keep her comfortable. “I didn’t see her in any pain,” says Jill. “It was a mercy knowing that she was being so well cared for.” Jill and her family also appreciated that, upon arrival, the staff wanted to know all about Karen and what she was like. “They were attentive and responsive, but not intrusive,” Jill explains. “They seemed to know just what was needed and when. They sent in a clergywoman to read to my mother and a music therapist who sang to her. It was magical there during her last few days. I only wish we had gotten Mom on hospice sooner.”
Since her mother’s death, Jill has taught herself to crochet scarves and hopes to work up to bigger projects, such as blankets, which she would like to someday donate to Kaplan House. And despite living in East Longmeadow, Jill is happy to make the long trip to Danvers on September 29th to participate in the Care Dimensions Walk for Hospice as part of Team Aberdeen. “My mother arrived at Kaplan House two hours after my cousin Joanne helped coordinate the referral,” she says. “That in and of itself was a miracle. I could not be more proud to have this opportunity to walk alongside my cousin—one of this year’s Walk co-chairs—to help raise money to support Care Dimensions.”
To register or donate to the Walk for Hospice, please visit CareDimensions.org/Walk.
About the author
Janet Zipes is a freelance writer specializing in healthcare-related topics.