Renee Hahn and Tracey Birdsall - Midland, MI
"With their care, compassion and availability, it never felt like we were left without any resources."
Compassionate Care Helped Give Their Mother a Fulfilling End of Life
One of the greatest hopes for anyone facing end-of-life decisions is to be able to do the activities they enjoy and be with the people they love throughout their final days. For Renee Hahn and Tracey Birdsall's mother, Mary "Denise" Thompson, MidMichigan Home Care allowed that wish to come true.
Thompson married her husband, Milo, in 1953 and they celebrated 54 years of marriage before he died of lung cancer in 2017. A lifelong organist, Thompson was the church organist for Aldersgate United Methodist Church and Wilson-Miller Funeral Home until the week she entered hospice care in January of 2017.
Thompson was a unique case, being admitted into hospice twice. The first time, she had a serious issue with her lungs. Thompson struggled with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) and her health took a turn for the worse. After a trip to the Emergency Department in January 2017, she was sent home on hospice through MidMichigan Home Care.
"Hospice was amazing," Hahn said. Several of the staff members on her mother's care team had also cared for her father in 2007. Members of Thompson's care team included Jessica Wright, M.S.W., her social worker; Carol Bolander, R.N., her primary hospice nurse, who was also a longtime friend; and her nurse practitioner, Margaret O'Keeffe, F.N.P., M.S.N. Hahn recalled her interactions with Carol as "outstanding and compassionate – her visits left Mom encouraged and uplifted."
Amazingly, Thompson's health began to improve. Hahn and Birdsall coordinated her care together and worked to get Thompson into a rehabilitation program with the goal to walk again. She was discharged from hospice at that point.
Soon after completion of the rehab program, it became apparent that Thompson's respiratory system was still failing. She was re-admitted into hospice, where her team strived to ensure she would get the most enjoyment possible from her final days. "With the care, compassion and availability of hospice, it never felt like we were left without any resources," Birdsall said. She especially felt great comfort from the hospice phone support sticker at her mother's bedside. "Knowing I could call and speak with a hospice nurse 24/7 gave me peace of mind while caring for Mom," she said.
In particular, Hahn and Birdsall are grateful for the way that Tricia Werda, registered respiratory therapist, went above and beyond to support their mother's activities. Having extreme COPD, it was a challenge for Thompson to be mobile both inside and outside the home. Werda advocated for a portable battery for Thompson's BiPAP machine, which creates variable air pressure to assist breathing and keep the airways open. This battery made it possible for Thompson to leave home occasionally, and even dine out a few times.
"The portable battery literally transformed my mom's last year of life," Hahn said. When Thompson developed skin sores from the BiPap mask, Werda found nose pillows for her to use during the day. That relieved the sores, and also made it easier to talk, eat and drink while using the machine.
When she required greater care, Thompson moved to a facility with a skilled nursing unit for a couple of months. MidMichigan Home Care continued providing services there and coordinated with the on-site physicians and nurses to ensure she always had a caregiver on call and that she received her medications in a timely manner. "The steady communication, excellence of care and patient advocacy we received made this experience almost stress-free thanks to hospice," Hahn said. Remarkably, Thompson was still able to play the organ at the facility for two funerals – one just six weeks before she passed away.
Thompson's wish was to move to Woodland Hospice House for her final days, where she received round-the-clock care. She appreciated visits from Spiritual Care Specialist Chuck Hendrix, who attended to her needs as well as those of Hahn and her sister. "Woodland Hospice House was hands down a wonderful place to spend the final days," Hahn said. Thompson passed away in October 2018.
MidMichigan's hospice care did not stop at Thompson's passing. They continued to provide support services for Hahn and Birdsall, following up with calls, letters and information about grief counseling and support groups.
This past Christmas, Hahn purchased additional ornaments in her parents' names. "I believe Mom really did have the highest quality of life possible, thanks to hospice," said Hahn.
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.