Hospice Care Makes Life Easier for the Sick and Their Caregivers

Facilities like Adult Care of Chester County and Crossroads Hospice in Plymouth Meeting help patients and their families live in comfort and security for the duration of an individual's life.

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“As difficult as the end of her life was, I would do it all over again if I could have more time with her,” says Chester Rozmarynowski. “Every single day, I miss my wife.”

Loretta Rozmarynowski passed away in August 2012 at age 80, the last decade of her life ravaged by Alzheimer’s. Twelve years earlier, at a restaurant in Media, Loretta excused herself to go to the ladies’ room. When she didn’t come back, Chester went looking for her. His wife was outside, waiting for a taxi that wasn’t called, expecting to go home to an address she couldn’t remember.

What followed was years of doctors’ appointments, medications, night wanderings, and increasingly frequent mental lapses. By 2004, Loretta’s body was falling apart. Because she could no longer manage steps, the couple moved to a one-floor home near Coatesville. By 2009, she was confined to a wheelchair.

The physical symptoms of Alzheimer’s were nothing compared to the behavioral changes that rendered Loretta paranoid and argumentative. Then, that yielded to something worse: silence. Slowly, then quickly, the ability to communicate eluded Loretta. Mute and inert, she was completely dependent on her husband. Her mind gone, he cared for her body.

In the summer of 2011, Loretta further declined. The staff at Adult Care of Chester County, where she spent a few hours of every weekday, suggested an evaluation for hospice. “The hospice people said she should’ve been there a long time ago,” says Chester.

This is a common situation. “People put off thinking about hospice mostly because they have a misperception of what it is,” says Amy Tucci, president and CEO of the nonprofit Hospice Foundation of America. “When caregivers and patients learn the facts, they usually wish they’d done it sooner.”

According to Tucci, hospice is just as much about living as it is about dying. “It’s not: How do you want to die?” she says. “It’s: How do you want to live the end of your life?”

Medicare, most of Medicaid and many private insurance companies will cover the cost of hospice. “The personnel—doctors, nurses, social workers—and the medical equipment, supplies and medications are covered,” says Gloria Allon, executive director of the Plymouth Meeting-based Crossroads Hospice, which worked with the Rozmarynowskis.

Hospice care can begin immediately after the doctor, patient or medical proxy decides it’s the right option. Services are available in homes and hospitals, plus long-term-care and in-patient facilities. “Once the medical order is signed, we have someone at the patient’s home within hours,” says Heidi J. Owen, hospice services director for Neighborhood Health, part of the Chester County Hospital and Health System.

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