Navigating the final months of a loved one’s life can be an emotionally challenging experience. However, for Deborah Wilson, finding Heart to Heart Hospice brought a sense of peace and comfort for her and her mother, Linda.

Linda battled multiple sclerosis (MS) for decades, and in recent years started to show signs of dementia along with the deterioration of her central nervous system. While Deborah was in northeast Indiana, Linda was living in a nursing home in Illinois as COVID swept across the country. 

Seeking a more suitable living arrangement, Deborah relocated her mother from Illinois to a nearby nursing home in northeast Indiana. Deborah visited her mom often, brightening up her room and ensuring she was properly cared for.  Even then, her dementia progressed and she suffered a persistent infection from a sore on her leg. She was hospitalized four weekends in a row when suggestions of hospice care entered the picture.

Accepting Hospice as a Reality

“I didn’t really know what hospice was. It’s a hard pill to swallow at first,” said Deborah, to admit that your loved one is nearing the end of their life. “That is until you see someone care for your parent [like hospice does]. They aren’t waiting for them to die, they are making sure they die comfortably.”

The first hospice company went out of business, so it was time to find a new one. From the beginning, Heart to Heart Hospice put Deborah at ease. She interviewed two companies and chose Heart to Heart Hospice because her mom was able to keep her current primary care doctor. She said Community Education Representative Kristen Randol with Heart to Heart Hospice made her feel comfortable, answered all of her questions, and didn’t pressure her or criticize other hospice providers. 

In nursing facilities, hospice providers offer additional care and services beyond the nursing home staff, including regular medical checkups from nurses, pain and symptom management, and aide visits to help with bathing and other activities of daily living.

“Heart to Heart worked for my mom but worked with the nursing home” to ensure her mom’s comprehensive care, said Deborah. They stayed on top of her leg pain, always working to keep her comfortable. “She cried less [from the pain] with Heart to Heart. I could tell the love and care that went into each visit.”

Deborah appreciated the open communication with Heart to Heart Hospice, with updates after every visit including weekends. A nurse and aide would visit a few times a week, with increasing frequency near the end. 

Compassionate Care and Dignity

Beyond medical care, Heart to Heart Hospice prioritized Linda’s comfort and dignity. They secured a new mattress and a reclining wheelchair to enhance her comfort and safety. Deborah brought her mom soft, warm hospital gowns that didn’t gap, and the hospice aide ensured she wore them.

Linda had a deep faith in God and enjoyed regular visits from the hospice chaplain. She loved playing the piano (by ear!), and the hospice aide regularly took Linda to play the nursing home piano, even during her final weeks. Hospice workers talked to her mother like she was their mom or grandma. Deborah’s requests, such as adjusting her mother’s bath schedule, were always accommodated with kindness and understanding.

“They did care the way I wanted it,” said Deborah. “Heart to Heart took care of her and me. They kept me up to date, which put me at peace. When I wasn’t there, they were my set of eyes. It was wonderful!” 

Family Support

With her mother’s increasing dementia, Deborah found empathy and understanding from the hospice team, who were well-versed in dealing with the unpredictable disease. 

“[Family members] change a lot with dementia, and we don’t understand,” said Deborah, noting the hospice team was respectful, truthful, and kind. “They told me what I needed to know, even if it wasn’t easy to hear. She was dying, but they continued to treat us with the utmost respect.” 

After three months with Heart to Heart Hospice, Linda peacefully passed away in her sleep. Deborah was grateful for the pain management expertise, as well as the ongoing compassionate care. Deborah was impressed numerous Heart to Heart Hospice staff called her to check in after her mother’s passing.

Advice for Other Families

Deborah encourages families considering hospice care to thoroughly research multiple companies. “See your options, and let them know what’s important to you,” she advised. Medicare hospice benefits allow patients and families to choose a hospice provider, which many may not be aware of. She also highlighted the importance of staying engaged with the hospice team to ensure your preferences are met. 

Deborah is thankful for the care her family received from Heart to Heart Hospice. She wrote: “Their compassion for the patients and their family is second to none. They have kept my mother as comfortable as possible and have helped her have the best quality of life possible during her last days. My mother and I have been blessed by this company.”