January 24, 2022

A Hospice Journey During a Pandemic

Oftentimes, people describe hospice as a journey. For Linda and her family, the hospice journey was complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“My mother, Alice, moved from her home to Merrimack County Nursing Home on June 26, 2019,” Linda said. “When her dementia progressed, her care team recommended that she begin hospice care. I initially did not
want to move her to the hospice unit, but the staff told me that I may want to reconsider because she would receive specialized care and support from the hospice team. And that was true.”

Visitation Challenges
Before retiring, Alice was an elementary school teacher in Hackettstown, New Jersey. Following her retirement in 1987, Alice and her late husband, Bruce, bought a home in Contoocook to be near Linda. In 2015, at the
age of 92, Alice was diagnosed with dementia. Linda lived about a mile away and supported Alice by providing the majority of her care. In June 2019, Alice moved to Merrimack County Nursing Home to help meet her skilled care needs and moved to the hospice unit in November 2020. 

“COVID-19 presented new challenges for us because my mom was admitted to hospice at a time when long term care facilities closed to outside providers and visitors,” Linda said. “That was very, very difficult. I could not
be there to help her understand what was happening, to the extent that she could with her dementia.”

As soon as Granite VNA’s hospice staff were allowed back inside the facility, spiritual care counselor, Susan, checked-in on Alice regularly, and frequently called Linda to provide her with updates about her mother.

When Merrimack County Nursing Home initially opened back up to visitors, the visits took place outdoors.

“Visitors had to be masked and physically distanced,” Linda said. “It was really hard for my mom because it was very disorienting for her. Of course, that was hard on us, too.”

Open Communication
Linda appreciated that Granite VNA’s hospice team was always open, compassionate and informative. After Alice passed on August 5, 2021, Linda wrote a letter to Granite VNA to express her appreciation for the care her mother – and their family – received from the hospice team.

“Allison [Alice’s primary nurse] had just the right blend of compassion and professionalism as she examined my mom, provided her with care, communicated with me about my mom’s status, and sought my input on medical options and decisions,” she wrote.

“Kim [Alice’s licensed nursing assistant] lovingly attended to my mom’s care needs,” Linda added. “She patiently fed my mom, whose swallowing was impaired, so she required extra time during meals to ensure
that she got enough to eat. She made sure that my mom was clean and comfortable and took pride in making sure my mom was carefully dressed in coordinated outfits.”

Linda’s recent experience with Granite VNA hospice was not the first time she used the agency’s services for her mother’s care. Alice had previously received home care services.

“Every interaction I have had with Granite VNA has been extraordinarily positive because of the professionalism,” she said. “I could rely on the staff to explain what was happening, especially physical therapy, because I had to work with my mom on her exercises in between visits.”

The past two years have been extremely challenging for many, and Granite VNA’s commitment to our mission to provide care and comfort to the most vulnerable members of our communities has remained steadfast
– and has rarely been more crucial in our 122-year history. 

Read more stories in our Annual Report to Our Community