Last spring, I received a voicemail from CW, a man who was in desperate need of help for his friend, Gail. When I returned the call, I learned that she had stage four ovarian cancer, had taken a sudden turn for the worse and could no longer care for herself. I could hear the despair in his voice and was hoping I would be able to help. I asked if he would like to set up a time for a tour to see if our home would be a good fit for his friend. “Actually, could you come and visit us at her condo? She wants to be part of the decision,” he said.
Going to a potential resident’s home, to see who they were before they needed our care, does not happen very often. When I arrived, sweet Gail was in a hospital bed in the middle of the living room, where furniture had been moved and stacked to make space. The coffee table was full of medications and folders about hospice care. Also, a commode stood in the circle of reach of the bed. As I scanned the room, I noted a typical home of an adventurous middle-aged gal. Great, high heel shoes were lined up by the door below purses hanging on the hook of the entry closet. There were pictures on the wall of a vibrant lady with picturesque landscapes behind her from all over the world. On top of her china hutch were racing helmets, and inside were trophies, racing numbers, and pictures of Gail full of joy holding trophies next to her motorcycle. It was hard to believe that the photographs were of the same gal who lay there looking weak and scared.
“Hi Gail, thank you for inviting me into your home. How may I help you today?” With a frail, yet warm smile, Gail grasped my hand like a lifeline, “No, thank you. We did not know whom to call, then the emergency room gave us your number.” As I sat near Gail’s bed, I learned that she lived alone. CW was a childhood friend that she named as her POA, and he wasn’t able to stay with her. Her cancer had progressed, and she was not able to be alone anymore. She struggled to safely make food for herself, manage all of her pills, and go to the restroom. I took out one of our books and did a virtual tour that described our homes, what we do, and how we care for our residents.
“I didn’t even know places like this existed, nor did I think I would need it at 71,” she sighed and winced. When I brought her water to her, she took a drink as a tear slid down her cheek. “When I got the cancer diagnosis, I thought I would beat it, but now realize that is not going to happen.” As she held my hand, she said “Your home seems like a good place for my last days.” I felt humbled and gently squeezed her hand. “Let me see what my team can do.”
After I excused myself and made a few calls, it was amazing how quickly The Geneva Suites’ team came together to make her transition into our care go smoothly. The nursing team, fantastic care partners, and everyone at the office went above and beyond to coordinate the move. We helped CW pack a few things for Gail, collected her medications, and a couple of pictures. CW and I were finishing the last of the paperwork, when he said “I can’t thank you enough; I didn’t know what all was involved with being a POA. To be honest, if I had known, I might not have agreed. The Geneva Suites is like an answer to a prayer I didn’t even know I had made.” With the coordination of hospice, we were able to move Gail into our home in less than 24 hours.
Many friends came to visit, and CW was there almost daily. One afternoon when I stopped in to see Gail, she said: “This is better than I imagined; I feel like I am at a resort.” We sat and talked about her life and some of her amazing trips. Gail was able to stay with us for about two weeks, and she quietly passed in her sleep.
This week I received a thank you note from CW.
I miss Gail every day. As you know, we had known each other since the first grade. Both being only children, we appreciated each other’s company. Our families often spent Thanksgiving together, so this time of year is especially hard.
Your home was a perfect place for Gail to end her journey. I tell everyone I can what a caring home and excellent staff you have.
Thank you and best wishes to your family. CW”
It’s not often that we know the impact we have. Thank you again to our team and to all that have a positive impact on seniors’ lives. You are making an incredible difference. Warmly yours ~ Marlena