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Hospice Testimonials

The following was written by James Delaney, son of Francis Delaney a Lee County Health Department Hospice patient, prior to his father's passing on February 24, 2011.  This is a testimonial he wished to share with the community.

It Takes a Family and Professional Assistance

Our father, Francis Delaney, will be 93 on March 10, 2011, and now requires 24/7 care.  He was always a very active, hard working man who supported his mother, his wife, and his four children.  He was always available to help other families and friends on electrical or building projects.

As our Dad has aged, all of this hard work has taken a toll on his body, especially his knees.  Over the years he has had both knees replaced, but age and arthritis continued to the point of incapacitating him.

After a meal of corned beef and cabbage last St. Patrick's Day, our Irish Catholic father fractured his left kneecap while being transferred from his car to his wheelchair.  This crisis led to a quick trip to the emergency room followed by surgery in Iowa City.  The goal was to restore mobility as best as possible.  Dad's surgeon was optimistic, and recommended that after discharge he be placed in a skilled care facility for at least 30 days.  This was not well received by our father.  His one and only goal, and desire, was to return to his home in Keokuk where he was born and had lived nearly his entire life.

Due to his strong feelings we naively decided that with a lot of family support we would be able to care for our Dad at home while his repaired knee healed.  After we transported him home we lasted one long sleepless night.  We quickly realized that we could not provide the physical care he needed while recovering from his surgery.  The following day, March 25, 2010, Dad was admitted to a local hospital in spite of his resistance, and on April 1, 2010 transferred to a local skilled care facility.  It was a daily challenge to reassure our Dad that eventually he would return to his beloved home.  Some individuals are just so attached to their home and family that they cannot emotionally tolerate the separation, and will literally, physically, and emotionally deteriorate until they are returned to their familiar surroundings.  Our nearly 93 year old Dad certainly fit into that category.

After a few days in skilled care it was time to go back to Iowa City for a follow-up appointment with his surgeon.  After x-rays it was quickly determined that they surgery had failed.  We realized at that point, that realistically our Dad would never be able to stand or walk again.

What Next?  What to Do?

First, it was back to the care facility in Keokuk, much to the dismay and resistance of our Dad.  In talking with our mother, and extended family, it was quickly determined that our father would never be able to tolerate long-term care away from his "Doll" (his nickname for his wife of 67 years) or his life-long home.  We also realized that in order to properly care for him at home we would need to prepare our home with a hospital bed, and all the other types of equipment that a skilled care facility has to care for a disabled elderly man.  This included a number of items to assist in transferring Dad from his bed to a wheelchair, lift chair, etc.  Finally, we brought a very old, but still functional, mobility van.  This allowed us to occasionally get Dad out of the house on Sundays, and take him to his beloved cabin in Illinois overlooking the Mississippi River.  Also, occasionally take him to visit his 96-year-old sister, and to some holiday family gatherings.

The entire family believed that since Dad had dedicated his life to his mother, wife, children, and extended family that he deserved to have a high quality of life for his remaining time on Earth.  He had the right to stay in his lifelong home, and not be confined to a life in an environment he was so unfamiliar and unhappy with.

Final Piece of the Puzzle

On April 9, 2010, Dad was brought home from his last placement.  This time the home was equipped with all the necessary specialized equipment to care for him.  The last component needed was locating professional agency that could provide our father with the skilled medical and physical care to assist our family, especially our mother, in meeting his day to day needs.  This originally involved a bed bath by an aide a couple of days a week, and some physical therapy - all supervised by an R.N..  As Dad's health deteriorated this quickly evolved to much more specialized care including nursing, bathing (6 days a week), social services, medication management, crisis intervention, physician follow-up, and even massage therapy.

We did not realize all of this was possible until our mother made a few calls, and fortunately was given the number to the Lee County Health Department.

Mother contacted the agency director who arranged an assessment of our father to see if he qualified for admittance into this hospice program, which he did.  Since then Lee County Health Department's hospice staff have literally become part of our extended family.  Their skilled, caring staff has uniformly become our main source of support.  Our father's bath aide comes into the home 6 mornings a week, and provides him with gentle, thorough care treating any types of sores he might have developed and making sure when she leaves that he is thoroughly clean, dressed, and on good days in his lift chair.

Lee County's R.N. assigned to our Dad checks on him at least two times per week, also when there is a crisis, which may be on the weekend or in the middle of the night.  The R.N. keeps the family doctor appraised on his condition, and will order the necessary supplies and equipment (ex: oxygen machine) as Dad's condition deteriorates.  The agency's social worker visits at least twice per month, or more as needed, as an additional support system to help our family through the grieving process.  Finally, both our father and mother (his primary caretaker) are eligible for a monthly massage.  This is especially helpful for our mother as her constant loving care of our Father has naturally taken a physical toll on her, especially her shoulders, as well as the emotional stress on her which she readily accepts as long as Dad can remain by her side.

Having Lee County Health Department involved with our family has been the essential element for being able to commit to providing our Dad with his most profound desire to spend the remainder of his life here in the only home he has ever known.  The same home where he was born, and where both his father and mother spent their last hours on Earth.

Do You Need Anything?

This is the one question our father asks every time one of his children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren comes to visit or help out.  Over the last two years when asked if he needed anything he said, "Yes, we need help."  This is the first time he ever admitted that.  Of course, he was referring to himself and our mother getting to a stage in their lives where they for the first time needed the family to help them.  Having grown up in a home where as young children we were cared for not only by our parents, but also our paternal grandmother, a sense of family was firmly established.  This was especially affirmed as out grandmother was stricken with cancer during our adolescent years, and we had to help care for her here in their home until her passed away.

Now, it is so rewarding to witness our parent's grandchildren, great-grandchildren, family and friends rally around them during this difficult time.  With the help of Lee County Health Department's Hospice staff, and the strong commitment of his family network, our father is able to have his wish fulfilled which is to spend his remaining days in his home with our mother, where we was born nearly 93 years prior, and where he and our mother molded and defined the meaning of "Marriage and Family!"

To see the strong arms of his grandchildren and their spouses hug him, and help him into bed at night, and his great-grandchildren right there to help tuck him in, crank his hospital bed up and give him a drink, and express their love of our parents is truly inspirational.