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"Stepping Up" Letter

"Right At Home saved my sanity at a time when I had nowhere to turn for help. My husband, Jim, had been told by his oncologist three months earlier that his small lung cancer was no longer treatable by chemotherapy, and that his prognosis was between two and three months. They put us in touch with our local Hospice, who was available to take care of him for the rest of his life.

The first two months we spent seeing our attorney, and making his final arrangements. Then in the first week of the third month, Jim began to exhibit the symptoms we had been warned about, such as forgetfulness, extreme tiredness, falling and unable to eat because he was not hungry.

Deidre-Anne's Story About Jim

We soon discovered that the Hospice was unable to provide the necessary care we had expected. I knew that I was unable to give Jim the care he needed because I had had heart bypass surgery and was unable to lift more than ten pounds at a time. When the Hospice suggested that Jim be transferred to a nursing home, he became very distressed, so I told him that I would find a way so that he did not have to go. In-home care was the answer.

The Hospice social worker had given me a list of the facilities and home care organizations to call. The first three were unable to help me because either the people I needed to speak to were either unavailable, or busy.

My fourth call was to Right At Home. By this time I was upset, and was not able to articulate what it was that I needed. The woman I spoke to told me to take a deep breath, count to ten, and then talk to her. I began crying, and she told me to take my time, she was not going anywhere. Finally I told her my problems, and she said that although her supervisor was on the phone with another client, she would speak to her when she was through and would call me back.

She called back in about ten minutes and told me she had “good news and bad news”.  The bad news was that the area where I lived was outside of their franchise, but she had contacted the other group, and that someone would be at my house by 5:00 with the paperwork and would explain everything to me.

The person who came at five sat with me and my husband and went over everything with us. When we finished, I told him that I would like their services to be expedited as soon as possible, and he told me that one of the aids would be arriving at 7:00 and would remain until 10:00.

The aide arrived a little early while the representative was still there. I was glad he was a large man because my husband was also large. The representative explained to him how to use the “lift gate” to pick up my husband and how to guide him to the bathroom. Then he told the aide to also clean up the master bathroom. I was surprised later to find that not only did the aide to that, but he also had folded a load of towels and sheets that had been in the dryer before he washed a load of linens from the bathroom and had placed them on the bed.

After the aide left, my granddaughter and her friend came by to check on how the evening went, and my husband was lying in his bed, and was about to go to sleep. We spoke for a while, but about a half hour later, we checked on Jim again, and he had changed his position and was halfway off the bed, with his legs on the floor. My granddaughter and friend were able to position him in the middle of the bed, and they left for the night.

I set my alarm and checked on Jim every hour, and each time he was sleeping peacefully. The next morning at 8:00, he was still sleeping, so I took a quick shower, and got dressed. When I went back to check on him, he was sitting on the other side of the bed and did not want to move. The aide was due at 9:00, so I waited with Jim until he got there. When he arrived, he was able to get Jim to the bathroom, and cleaned the linens. Then he made Jim a small breakfast of scrambled eggs, English muffins, coffee, and orange juice. I told the aide about the experiences the previous night, and he suggested that I call the Hospice and request a hospice bed, bedside commode, wheelchair and walker, since Jim had been using mine. I was unaware that these were available to me, and he told me that you “just have to ask”.

The next morning while the aide was working with Jim, the furniture arrived, and I told the delivery man to come back later, because I had not yet cleaned the sunroom out and had no place to put it. The aide overheard me, and told him to deliver it, and that he (the aide) would clean out the sunroom. He did this by moving items to the covered patio, and cleaning the patio tables and the outside refrigerator to use as end tables. 

Later that day, he also helped Jim to get into the hospice bed, and when the evening aide arrived, he was able to get Jim settled for the night.

The aides from Right At Home not only took care of Jim, they took care of me. They made sure I ate, even when I was not hungry, and they made sure I was comfortable sitting with Jim. I did not sleep very much; instead I would put a pillow over the rails of the bed and sit beside him, resting when he rested. He wanted to hold onto my hand and know that I was there. After he had a bad fever, I asked him if he knew who I was, and he told me “Of course I know who you are. You are my wife and I love you; I have always loved you.” Those were probably the last words he said, because after that he did not speak again.

Jim went into the hospice bed on April 10, and my husband passed on April 14. Without the Right At Home people helping me throughout, I would not have been able to spend those last few days with him, nor would I or the rest of my family have been able to be with him at the end.

They were truly a Godsend for me, and allowed my husband to die peacefully, with his family and friends able to say goodbye, but most important of all, my husband died with dignity."

— Deidre-Anne, married to Jim 54 years, together 56 years.