Published on August 26, 2019

Hospice Helped Her Care for Her Husband During His Final Days

Photo of Bonnie Sitter, holding a picture of her late husband, received care with MidMichigan Home Care.

Thanks to help from MidMichigan Home Care, Bonnie Sitter was able to keep her husband, Ralph, comfortable at home through the end of his illness.

Bonnie and Ralph Sitter grew up in the Detroit area. One Sunday, Ralph noticed Bonnie at church and said, “Shazam!” They almost made it to their 66th wedding anniversary before Ralph passed away at age 95.

Bonnie has been a musician for a long time. She played the piano and performed at concerts in the area, and a large part of her success came from her husband’s support. She said he was always accommodating of her rehearsal schedule. “I’ve had a good life because my husband was very supportive,” she said.

Later, however, Bonnie’s primary role changed to that of her husband’s caretaker. Ralph was diagnosed with prostate cancer in his early 90’s, and began declining in health because of it. His medical needs eventually required around-the-clock care from his wife.

Bonnie soon realized that she would need extra help providing all of the care that Ralph needed. In her mid-80’s herself, it was difficult for her to take care of her husband on her own. When she reached out for help, MidMichigan Home Care stepped in to help keep Ralph as comfortable as possible as his illness progressed. “You used to not call hospice until the very end,” Bonnie said. “Now that’s all changed.”

MidMichigan Home Care started sending over nurses, social workers and other care providers right away. “The nurses were very nice,” Bonnie said. A nurse came by every few days to check Ralph’s blood pressure and other vitals, to talk about his medications, and to provide a helping hand when needed.

If they needed additional help between visits, Bonnie could call MidMichigan Home Care at any time and they would send someone over.

The Sitters also received expert technical help getting medical equipment set up in the home. “I was pleased with the equipment,” Bonnie said. This allowed Ralph to receive top-of-the-line health care right at home without having to go to the hospital or other specialized facility.

Amazingly, Ralph made it through end-stage prostate cancer without being in much pain at all. Unfortunately, he developed a serious kidney blockage. A nurse discovered that they were unable to insert a catheter, and immediately took Ralph to the hospital. Though they did what they could, he passed away shortly thereafter.

The care that Bonnie received from MidMichigan Home Care did not end with Ralph’s death, however. Staff came by a couple of days later to collect the medical equipment from the house and to check on how Bonnie herself was doing. They kept in touch with her over the months afterwards, providing her with resources for grief support and other types of self-care.

One of the things that MidMichigan Home Care sent Bonnie to commemorate her late husband’s life that she was particularly touched by was a decorative butterfly. “I do love the little butterflies they send out,” she said. “I have it on my wall right now.”

With their support, Bonnie has been able to see to her own emotional and physical needs. She has been playing the piano again, has gotten involved with activities at her church, and goes to chair yoga twice a week. “I really need to keep busy doing things,” she said.

Through it all, Bonnie was very thankful for the support she received from MidMichigan Health. She was especially glad that Ralph was able to stay at home with her during his final days. “I loved the service,” she said. “I was very happy.”

MidMichigan Home Care provides a variety of health-related products and services that help individuals remain independent at home. Home care can help patients avoid admission to a hospital or nursing home, providing care in the comfort of their homes. Those who would like more information about MidMichigan Home Care may visit www.midmichigan.org/homecare.