Irises for Alice

“An extended family and dedicated hospice staff surround a 93-year old with loving care”

Alice has four grandchildren, 11 great grandchildren, and 10 “great-greats.”  Two of Alice’s great grandsons, Bryce and Maceo, visit every day after school.  Alice fell in January 2010, possibly because of a stroke, and was admitted to a rehabilitation center. Her symptoms included a marked weight loss, progressive weakness, and changes in her mental status. In February, Alice was referred to Visiting Nurse and Hospice Services (VNHS) for hospice care.  Roberta Flores, RN, a VNHS certified hospice nurse, visits twice a week to monitor Alice’s condition. She takes her blood pressure, listens to her lungs, and measures the circumference of her arm to track weight loss.  “Because this condition is progressive, my main role is to keep Alice comfortable,” says Roberta. “I ask how she’s eating and sleeping, and whether there is any discomfort.” She maintains communication with Alice’s physician, and will call the doctor if medications are needed or if she feels they need to be adjusted. 

Certified Home Health Aides Elma Moxley and Debbie Tomlin visit several days each week to provide personal care. They assist Alice with hand, arm and leg exercises recommended by the physical therapist to counteract the pain of rheumatoid arthritis. A hospice social worker and a spiritual counselor are also members of the team. Roberta has been a hospice nurse for 17 of her 24 years in nursing. When she tried hospice, “I realized I had found my niche,” she says. “We look at hospice as an opportunity to help families cope with the progression of their loved one’s illness and we take a positive approach. If there is a change in the patient’s status, I will take the family or other caregiver aside and explain what’s happening and why.” “Going the extra mile” is second nature for the hospice team, and even simple gestures are appreciated. Roberta and Alice had talked about planting flowers, and on a recent day the nurse arrived with irises from her garden.  Alice beamed. “Those are the best times,” says Roberta, “when you leave a patient’s home thinking, ‘I really helped them today.’”

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