Assisted Living: Finding Help for a Loved One

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“Many people have told me I should have waited until my husband was near death to accept hospice care,” said Ellen Kelly, whose husband Charles was referred early on in his illness. “I tell them no. Hospice was referred for my husband, but the person that was really saved was me.”

Charles Kelly spent the majority of his life in service to his country. After finishing undergraduate studies at Notre Dame and law school at the University of Virginia, he served 30 years in the U.S. Air Force. He married Ellen, and they had four children together. He and his family enjoyed many vacations to North Carolina’s Outer Banks each summer to catch hard-shell crabs.

After more than 50 years of marriage, Ellen began to notice changes in her husband. He was having difficulty walking, and sometimes had trouble remembering things. His balance and stamina decreased to the point that he needed a walker to get around. At times, he could not remember that he needed the walker, so he was at constant risk for falling.

Ellen began to worry that she could not pick up her husband if he fell. She had to block off staircases to reduce the risk of his falling while trying to get to an upstairs bathroom. He began to have frequent accidents as he lost the strength to make the trip to the bathroom in time. Charles’s personal care was a struggle for Ellen due to her advanced age and his combative behavior resulting from dementia.

On a visit to her husband’s physician, Ellen told of the exhaustion she felt from attempting to care for him at home. She asked if there were there any services that could be utilized to provide help in the home and manage his baffling symptoms. As it turns out, there was. Mr. Kelly was referred to Community Hospice home care.

A care-giving team of a nurse case manager, social worker, home health aide and chaplain began to provide care for the couple. Charles began to receive help with his personal care three times a week from a home health aide and weekly visits from a registered nurse. A social worker provided emotional support for Ellen and socialization for her husband. Ellen often commented on how grateful she was for all the measures taken to maintain her husband’s dignity, such as always calling him by his last name or shaving him as often as possible.

Eventually, Charles’s care needs became too much for his wife, even with the help of Community Hospice. The social worker began to work intensively with Ellen and her daughter to help find an appropriate placement for the patient. Charles’s placement was complicated by his behavioral issues caused by his disease. Many facilities thought they could not provide for his care safely. During the many weeks it took to find an appropriate facility placement, all staff increased the frequency of their visits to help support the patient and his family. At one point, the social worker began to call Ellen on a nearly daily basis to offer support, community referrals and offer additional suggestions for placement. Family meetings were held to review financial resources and assistance with Medicaid application was offered. At one particularly challenging period, the social worker could call and sing to Ellen.

Charles was eventually transferred to an assisted living home near his wife. The hospice team continued to visit him in his new home, collaborating with facility staff on his care while remaining in regular communication with the family.

“I am so happy I received help from Community Hospice early in his illness,” Ellen said.

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