Welcome to House of Light, a blog produced and managed by the staff of Casa de la Luz Hospice. Casa de la Luz ("house of light" in Spanish) is a locally owned and operated hospice, serving the city and surrounding communities of Tucson, Arizona. Through this blog, we hope to offer education, information, and support about caregiving and hospice care to terminally ill patients and their loved ones. For more information, visit the contact us page.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Family Testimonial: Hospice Care Helped Us Say Goodbye

My mother-in-Law Mae Chimblo had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease since 1999 and had lived in several nursing homes since 2003.  Her daughter, my sister-in-law, Arlene, was also in the last stage of cancer.  My husband and I live in Tucson, and Mae and Arlene were living in Connecticut.  We knew Mae and Arlene needed our care and attention, and so we made arrangements to have both women moved to Tucson.

I tried to find a nursing home in Tucson where Mae could live for the rest of her days.  Arlene was going to live with my husband and me for as long as we could take care of her. The homes I called were not very interested in Mae because she was bed-ridden and unresponsive. We asked Mae’s doctor in Greenwich if she would be eligible for hospice care, and the doctor told us yes, she definitely would be.  On August 1, I found the telephone number for Casa de la Luz Hospice via an Internet search.  The first person I talked to was Sandy. She immediately asked pertinent questions and started contacting the nursing home in Connecticut and Mae’s doctor. I then talked to Bonnie at Kanmar Place (Casa’s residential hospice home), who gave us all the information we required as well as all the help and support we could possibly need. 

Within a week, on August 8, we were all in Tucson, and Mae was admitted into Kanmar Place. We were all so happy to see her there in such a beautiful setting and to know that she was received with love and professional care. Mae lived for 12 days and passed peacefully in comfort, respect and dignity. During her stay at Kanmar Place we could not have asked for better care. Every time we saw Mae she was clean, in a different color nightgown and had clean colorful sheets; nothing drab as we have all seen in hospitals and other nursing homes. Sometimes it is these little things that make a big difference. Arlene was also very happy and pleased to see her Mom in such a beautiful, caring place. Nothing was too much for any of the nurses, aides, and caregivers—they all have so much compassion. And even though it’s a hospice home, Kanmar Place is alive and happy when appropriate, not depressing or sad.

Arlene stayed with us in our home, and we decided she should sign up for home-based hospice care.  This way, she could live with us and still have the support of the Casa hospice team. On August 9, Jane, a nurse from Casa de la Luz, came to our home to assess Arlene. When Jane noticed the many medications Arlene was taking and heard Arlene still had a pain level of 8 to 9, she arranged for Arlene to be moved to Casa’s Inpatient Unit that day. There, Arlene was given a Dilaudid infusion pump and was observed for three days to get her pain down to a 1-3 level, which Arlene indicated she could live with. Dr. Kligman took great care of her.

In the next week we called on Casa de la Luz many times for deliveries of home equipment—walker, wheelchair, commode, hospital bed, etc., and also for emergencies when her pain level went up too high or when she had concerns. The responses to our requests were immediate, professional, and very satisfactory. We even let a Casa volunteer, Peggy, sit with Arlene for two hours when my husband and I went for our anniversary dinner. Our nurse Shirley was also very helpful and kind. The rest of the team: Pat, Coral, Lisa, Terry, Leslie, Fritzi, Mary, and our social worker Cynthia were also of great help to us.  We thank them very much.

On August 18 Arlene felt that it was now too much for us to help her at home because she could no longer use her legs. Even though we told her otherwise, she insisted on moving to a nursing home. We called Bonnie at Kanmar Place who told us there were no available rooms. Arlene, Rick and I felt that Kanmar was the only place Arlene should be. Bonnie then told us that Mae’s room could be the first one available. Miraculously, Mae died on August 20, so that her daughter Arlene could take her room on August 21. 

Arlene was very happy and relieved to be at Kanmar Place for the remainder of her days.  Just like Mae, she received excellent care and felt safe. Thank you to the caregivers at Kanmar. Bonnie has been kind and supportive to all of us, helping us through everything. Kathy took very good care of Arlene, making sure she never had any pain and was comfortable at all times. Martha, Dominga, Liz, Bella, Maria, Monica, the night nurses Linda and Gloria, and the weekend nurse Penny all were so helpful, kind, and professional. It was also an amazing experience for Arlene to have Ron give her cranial-sacral massages. The massage gave her the opportunity to relax within herself.  She also enjoyed the harp music played by a music practitioner who visits the home regularly.  Arlene died on August 27.

We will recommend Casa de la Luz Hospice to everyone needing this important end-of-life care.  Although we had to lose two loved ones in one week, we could not have had a better experience in the way we were able to say good-bye.  Thank you all so very much!

Rianne Chimblo
Rick and Rianne Chimblo, family members of two Casa de la Luz patients

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