Celebrating the end of life: One Granny’s hospice journey

Caring for communities

Angela grew up with parents who worked second or third-shift at a factory, meaning that they weren’t around each night to pick her up from school and make her dinner.

She was never alone though, and that’s all because of her Granny.

“My Granny was like a second mother to me,” Angela said. “She moved in with our family when I was in the first grade and pretty much lived with me my whole life until I moved out, taking care of us in the evenings and overnight.”

Angela’s Granny always had the best attitude, even when she had to be moved to a skilled nursing facility in February 2020, the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the facility shut down and she was unable to receive visitors for a full year, Granny never once complained.

Granny smiles outside of her nursing facility in 2020 with a plastic screen separating her from having direct contact with her family.
Granny smiles as she visits with family during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“She always told me ‘I’m fine, you don’t have to worry about me.’ It’s where I get my glass half full attitude. Things happen – it’s about how we react to them and what we do to make it better. She taught me that.”

Starting her hospice journey at Enhabit

After being in the nursing home for almost two years, Angela’s Granny developed a cough that she couldn’t quite get rid of. Lung scans revealed multiple lesions, indicating cancer.

Instead of beginning chemotherapy at 91-years-old, Angela’s Granny elected no treatment.

Angela has spent her career working in home health and hospice. Despite her accrued knowledge, it was still hard to bring up the hospice conversation to her family. She also lived an hour and a half away and was depending on hospice to have more eyes on her Granny and ensure she was well taken care of.

“My Granny was very hesitant,” Angela said. “She would say ‘I don’t need hospice care because I am not dying.’ I had to sit her down and explain that hospice isn’t about dying. It’s about how good we can make it for you at the end of your life. Hospice is about living.”

Angela’s Granny agreed to begin hospice care and although she was reluctant at first, her attitude toward the Enhabit Home Health & Hospice team soon changed.

Improved quality of life

The Enhabit team gained her trust and friendship, according to Angela. One visit early on in her hospice journey, Angela was asking her Granny how things had been going.

“You’re not gonna believe it,” Angela’s Granny told her. “Those Enhabit girls come in and I get two showers a week.”

“To me, that was fabulous,” Angela said. “Something as little as two showers a week made such a difference in her last months of life.”

As her quality of life improved, Angela was able to spend a lot of time with her Granny. She visited her at the nursing facility about once a week and she always left with a new memory or story.

One time around Christmas when Angela was visiting her Granny, she walked in the doors and saw her Granny sitting in her wheelchair, dressed up in Mardi Gras beads and directing traffic in the hallways. She smiled to herself as she walked up to her Granny to find out what in the world was going on.

“Oh Granny!” Angela exclaimed and laughed. “Those beads are so nice. Where did you get them from?”

“Well, I just found these and I thought they looked good for Christmas,” Angela’s Granny said, smoothing the beads out against her brightly-colored sweatsuit.

“Well, you’re out in the hallway and it looks like you’re directing traffic?” Angela asked, poking fun at her Granny, whom she’d always known to be a tad bit bossy. “Did they put you in charge? Are you the hall monitor now?”

Angela’s Granny claimed she was just trying to help with all of the busyness of people visiting their family.

As Angela reflected back on the moment, she pointed out that this story was a great example of how her Granny felt good enough to be herself during her time on hospice. And that was because she had that extra level of attention and care.

Angela visits her Granny during her time in hospice, smiling as they match wearing pink shirts.

Granny’s hospice journey comes to an end

After a few months of her hospice journey, Angela’s Granny started to decline.

Angela was out of town when she received a panicked phone call from her uncle. He told her that the nurse called him and said it was a good idea to come see her now because they think she is dying.

Angela called Enhabit’s on-call phone number and someone called her back immediately. They told her that her Granny was declining rapidly. Angela told them they were on their way, but weren’t sure they would make it back in time to see her. Then, the Enhabit nurse asked a life-changing question.

“Do you want to talk to her?”

Last words

Angela jumped on the opportunity as the nurse laid the phone up to Granny’s ear. Although her Granny couldn’t speak, Angela was able to say her goodbyes.

“I was able to tell her I loved her and that I was okay,” Angela said. “I told her everything would be just fine and I would take care of my uncle – she didn’t have to worry.”

Angela’s Granny passed away shortly after their phone call, as if she was holding out to say goodbye to her beloved granddaughter.

“The Enhabit nurse offering to put the phone up to my Granny’s ear so that I could let her know that I loved her and was on my way – it meant more to me than I have words to describe,” Angela said. “My Granny was my person and I knew I wasn’t going to get there in time. But she heard me through the phone and she could pass away in peace.”

“The nurse’s compassion and her ability to think about the care she’s providing and what kind of impact it would have on me will never be forgotten,” Angela said. “I actually got to thank her face-to-face and tell her how much her kindness meant to me.”

The high-quality care Enhabit provided made all the difference in the last few months of Angela’s Granny’s life. They were able to catch symptoms early, help her to breathe better and manage her cough.

Granny poses in her hospice bed wearing a matching jumpsuit and pink lipstick

With her symptoms under control, Granny was able to be herself and wear her signature bright red or pink lipstick and a matching jumpsuit each and every day.

“That’s why I love hospice and why I believe in hospice,” Angela said. “The end of life should be celebrated just as much as the beginning and my experience with my Granny taught me to do that.”

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