The month of May, for many of us, is an opportunity to celebrate the women who raised us. For Deb Rain, it was an opportunity to reflect on the care she was able to provide to her mom, Betty Weddle, along with the team from Parkview Hospice, in her mother’s final, precious months.
A dim diagnosis
In 2020, Deb, who worked in the medical field, and her husband, Lee, were living in Las Vegas. Betty was in the family’s hometown, Van Wert, Ohio. “I would call and check in and visit with her,” Deb said. “My oldest daughter, Tracey, worked in the medical profession as well, and was taking Mom to her appointments.”
By June 2021, Deb and Lee had returned to the Midwest. “Mom wasn’t feeling well, and I took her in for bloodwork,” Deb recalled. “I brought her back to my house to stay for a day or two and I got a call from Tracey. She told me I needed to take Mom into the ER immediately because the doctor had called, and her sodium level was low.”
Betty was admitted to Parkview for six days. While she was there, an x-ray revealed a spot on her liver. “I told them, that spot had been there for almost 25 years. Her doctor hadn’t been concerned that it was cancer, but he was keeping an eye on it. On July 17, they did a PET scan and the diagnosis came back that she had stage 4 cancer. It had metastasized in five places–her spine, liver, right lung, lymph nodes behind her sternum and left bottom rib. She was 98 and there was no sense in doing chemotherapy or radiation. The treatments would kill her faster than the cancer would. There was no question, she was moving in with us. She was so apologetic, and I just told her, ‘You cared for me for 18 years, and now it’s my turn.’”
By December 2021, Betty’s oncologist was recommending hospice care, predicting she had maybe six months left, likely less. “I started checking around because I wasn’t familiar with the places in town,” Deb said. “I read all of the reviews, and most of the things people shared about Parkview were awesome, so I decided to give them a call.”
On December 26, Deb, Tracey and Betty met with a representative from Parkview Hospice to start their care journey. “We asked all of our questions and they set everything up.” Her nurse was Karen Vogt, RN, who saw Betty just once a week, initially. “She came and talked to Mom, took her vitals, and asked her how she was feeling and eating. They asked us if we wanted a nurse’s aide, but at that time, I was still able to help her with showers and getting to the restroom. She was still doing things on her own.”
But soon, Deb came back around to the benefits of an extra set of hands. “I told Mom they could come and help her, and I could do something else during that time.” When the original nurse’s aide assigned to Betty came down with COVID, the Parkview team sent her cousin, Cora Woodson, CNA, who would stay with Betty for the rest of her time under hospice care.
“Cora was so amazing with Mom,” Deb recalled. “She'd walk in and ask ‘Ms. Betty’ questions. She was so good at getting her talking about her life. After a while, Mom just looked at Cora and said, ‘I’m going to adopt you!’ I can't say enough good things about Cora–how caring and gentle and loving she was, every step of the way. She'd help Mom shower and then help her pick out something to wear. Just so careful and kind.”
By February 2022, Betty’s health had declined dramatically, and Karen was coming out to see her twice a week, and then, toward the end of the month, up to three times a week. “We got a hospital bed to make Mom more comfortable. She was in so much pain. Karen helped us with all of that. On February 22, we thought we were going to lose her. She became unresponsive, and I had to call the night nurse,” Deb said. This would happen three times over the course of Betty’s hospice care. “They were all incredible.”
Deb had been providing the majority of her mother’s care, outside of nurse and nurse’s aide visits, but in April, an early morning fall would change things. “It was 1 in the morning, and I was taking Mom to the bathroom when her feet just went out from under her,” Deb recalled. “I was holding her gate belt and somehow twisted myself around and hurt my back. I was in a lot of pain. When Karen came, she took care of Mom’s arm, which was skinned up pretty badly. The area was just raw. Mom was starting to fill with pockets of fluid. I was also in a lot of pain. Karen told me, ‘You’ve done such an incredible job. It’s our turn to help you now.’ And they really did. Karen and Linda Conklin, RN, who would come when Karen couldn’t, they were just amazing.”
Making it to a milestone
That spring, Betty was in a constant state of discomfort. Deb moved her bed into the living room, closer to her bedroom, and hooked up a baby monitor so that she could hear her mother. She gave her jingle bells when her voice left her. But there was a very special occasion fast approaching, and the family had plans to celebrate.
“She made it past the six months they’d given her, and her 100th birthday was on May 8, 2022. For her 99th birthday, my daughters planned a party at a local Mexican restaurant. They sang to her, and she did her first shot of tequila. She didn’t even make a face! We all got such a kick out of it. So, for her 100th, my son said he was going to get her some really good tequila, and he did. I invited her care team–Karen, Linda, Anna Nolan (her social services specialist), Cora and Karen Kosberg, the hospice chaplain. I told them they didn’t have to stay, but we’d love to have them come join us for a piece of cake. It was intimate, just family. By then, she was taking pain medication every two hours, and was pretty out of it. But she made it to 100. That was her goal. Our family did a shot for her.”
A peaceful goodbye
Deb and her mother had developed a routine, and, as her mother’s primary caregiver, Deb knew to cherish the precious exchanges at Betty’s bedside, particularly toward the end.
“Her voice was starting to get weak,” Deb said. “She’d tell me she was ready to go home. I would ask her if she spoke to my dad, who passed when I was nine, or her second husband, who died in 2016. She would tell me she did. I’d ask if she spoke with my brother, who passed away in 2013, and she would say yes. Then I would tell her that they would come get her when it was her time, but that wasn’t quite yet, and she’d go to sleep. There were times I think it scared her. I would just sit there and hold her hand, and eventually her eyes would get heavy.”
On the night of May 18, Deb could sense that something was different. “I knew she was going to leave us,” Deb recalled. “So, I moved my recliner up next to her bed. Our rescue dog, Coda, had become quite attached to Mom. He never wanted to leave her. That morning, he had a grooming appointment, and I told Lee to go ahead and take him. I was going to make some calls.”
Deb called her daughter, Tracey. She called her mom’s pastor from Ohio, who came to give her last rites. She called Betty’s brother. She called Parkview Hospice and Linda told her she was on her way. Cora called and asked if she could still come by, and Deb told her that yes, of course she could. Cora helped Linda make Betty as comfortable as possible.
“Cora gave me a big hug before she went,” Deb said. “Linda left about 11:25 that morning, and I sat down with Mom. I told her that it was OK to go–that we were all going to be fine. She passed away at 12:26 p.m. on May 19. Katie Laub, RN, came and pronounced her and gave her a bath. She dressed her in a nightgown made by hospice volunteers. It was pink, purple and yellow with butterflies. Mom would never wear it because she said it was too pretty. Karen the chaplain came and stayed for a while. I didn’t mourn for my mother, really. She lived a long, wonderful life. She was well loved.”
That love included her four-legged family member. “When Lee came back with Coda, he looked all over for Grandma, but couldn’t find her. Dogs mourn, and he wouldn’t eat or take his medications. We found out that he had renal failure. We told him, ‘It’s OK, Code. Grandma’s waiting for you.’ He passed away on July 13, just a few months after Mom.”
The value of extra support
“I tell anyone who asks to use Parkview Hospice. They were excellent. If I had questions, I called. I would talk to Anna, and she would make sure that everything was taken care of,” Deb said. “Every single person we worked with so caring. Toward the end, we had nurses coming seven days a week. Sometimes Cora would just come and hold Mom’s hand. But it wasn’t just about what they did for her; they gave me fantastic support and encouragement!”
Looking back now, Deb wouldn’t have had things any other way. “It was so much work, and completely exhausting. But we were beyond blessed to have her here in our home for last year of her life. And Parkview Hospice helped make that possible.”