Hospice care: “So much more than I thought it would be” // I am thankful

Billy-IsaacsBilly Isaacs likes to reminisce about his wife, Geneva, and the memories they shared over the course of their 58-year marriage. What he doesn’t like to think about is how they would have fared without Reid Hospice during the last months of Geneva’s life.

“It would have been a disaster,” Billy said with a rueful smile. “The Reid Hospice staff took care of so many things for us. I am not sure I could have handled Geneva’s illness without their help.”

Billy and Geneva met soon after he returned from serving in the United States Air Force during the Korean War. They settled in Richmond, and worked for many years at Reid Hospital—Billy as a security guard and Geneva as a housekeeper.

In 2005, Geneva began showing signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Her memory declined over time, along with her ability to walk and take care of herself. By 2010, she was bedridden and on multiple medications to help manage her symptoms. Billy was taking care of her around the clock. One night, as he struggled to get her dressed for bed, Geneva slid to the floor. Knowing he couldn’t pick up Geneva himself, Billy simply slept on the floor with her. That’s when he knew it was time to call Reid Hospice for help.

“I was amazed by everything the hospice team could do for us,” recalled Billy, now 82. “A nurse came in once a week to check her vitals and tend to any medical problems, and an aide came two days a week to bathe Geneva and wash her hair. The chaplain checked in on me often to see how I was doing. And we even had a volunteer come by to play checkers with Geneva and read her the Bible. Everyone was just super great with me and Geneva.”

In August 2014, Billy needed to travel to Indianapolis with his daughter, Kim, on personal business. He took advantage of respite care, a hospice benefit that allowed him to check Geneva into the inpatient hospital unit overnight. While enroute to Indy, Billy received an urgent call from Reid. Geneva had taken a turn for the worse.

Billy and Kim returned to the hospital immediately, and for the next three days, Geneva’s condition declined. “The hospice folks asked if we wanted to take her home, but I felt safe with her where she was,” Billy said. “We were surrounded by hospice staff who really loved Geneva, including some of the people who had been taking care of her for so long.”

Geneva died peacefully on Friday, August 29. “Hospice is so much more than I thought it would be,” Billy said. “I expected it to be about helping people die, but really it’s about helping families enjoy the time they have left together. I will always remember how they helped me and Geneva.”