Parental Journal 77 from Planet Elderly – Five Days of Hospice

Saturday, September 24, 2016 – early morning

My wonderful dad, Victor Anthony Leogrande, peacefully passed away on the morning of Thursday, September 22 after receiving five days of hospice care.   It filled my heart with joy and gratitude that Mom and I were with him and she held his hand as he died.

Call from Nurse Sherry

Last weekend I received a call from Nurse Sherry at Victory Lakes.  She told me the doctor had ordered hospice care and that they would be contacting me.  I was planning to return to Illinois on the 21st, but told Sherry I would return on Monday the 19th.  “Good,” she said.

Nurse Sherry told me the doctor had spoken with Mom and she told him she did not want Dad to be sent to the hospital.  I learned later that staff members in Dad’s wing were quite surprised at Mom’s response.  I know we had talked about this possibility and maybe the key message of our talks remained with her.  We did not want Dad hooked up to machines and he would not have wanted that either.

Dad had had a rough couple of weeks with lots of agitation.  He had also stopped eating and drinking.  Clearly he was suffering and the goal became comfort care.  All regular meds were ceased and comfort meds were to be administered as needed.

mom-sept-21-2015-vigil-with-dad

A Restless Night and an Early Visit

When I returned to Illinois on the 19th, Mom was sleeping.  I told her I’d like to go visit Dad.  She got dressed and we went.  His physical decline was markedly fast.  He was bedridden now and was quite withered.

Mom held his hand, kissed his cheek, and spoke to him often.  She told him he was her life…that she loved him…and that he was a wonderful husband.  I held his other hand at times; at other times I stroked his head.  I thanked him for being such a wonderful father…for taking  good care of Mom and me;  I told him I loved him and that everything “is okay.”

The night before he died, neither Mom nor I slept well.  We were both restless and up early.  We felt the need to be with him earlier than usual, so we drove to see him a bit after 7 a.m. thinking we would do a morning, midday, and evening visit.  We sat with him at about 7:30 a.m. and he took his final breaths at about 8:15 a.m.  The hospice nurse from Journey Care was there and gently told us that he was actively dying.  Finally she said, “I think he’s gone.”

We stayed close to him while nursing staff continued to check his vitals.  We watched his color change and felt his skin cool.  Mom kissed him one last time and we left the room while staff checked him over and called the funeral home.

gail-at-victory-lakes-062515  Gail, one of Dad’s caretakers.

The Village of Victory Lakes has a wonderful tradition.  When someone has died and is ready to be transported out of the facility, a special blanket is draped over the deceased and family members plus any staff who are free join together in a procession to escort the resident outside.  A few remarks are shared and a prayers are said.  In our case, one of Dad’s main caretakers, Gail, led the little service.  Hugs and prayers are shared with family members and the resident is escorted away.  Emotional and physical support remains for family members.

Mom said, “It was like a little funeral procession.”   It was.  It was so meaningful to have so many of us escort Dad from his “home” of the past year and a half to the fresh air of the first day of autumn.

For me, this was the beginning of real grieving and tears.  Mom has been grieving and crying since February of 2015.  I cannot begin to imagine what it is like to be finally parted from someone you have been married to for almost 60 years.  It has been a wonder to witness.

We have arranged to have Dad cremated and will have a small memorial service on Sunday, October 2 from 1 to 2 p.m.

Dad’s obituary as it will appear on Strang Funeral Home’s website:

Victor Anthony Leogrande, 94, a resident of Grayslake, passed away Thursday, September 22, 2016 at The Village of Victory Lakes in Lindenhurst where he received wonderful care. He was born July 1, 1922 in Syracuse, NY.  Victor was a World War II veteran having served with the US Army.  He was a lifelong employee of Walgreens and a loving husband and father.  Victor is survived by his devoted wife of 60 years, Pearl, his daughter Jeanette Mummert, his grandson Adam Victor Shearin, and his great-grandchildren La’Eabha Shearin, Pax Shearin, and Kaylin Shearin.  He was preceded in death by his parents, and his brother John Leogrande.  A memorial service is scheduled for Sunday, October 2, 2016 from 1:00 to 2:00 pm at Strang Funeral Chapel & Crematorium 410 E. Belvidere Rd. Grayslake, IL 60030. In honor of Victor’s service to our country during World War II, please feel free to make a donation to The Wounded Warrior Project.  For more information please contact (847) 223-8122 or log onto http://www.strangfuneral.org.

About jjmummert

Just another voice in the wilderness from someone who's lived on this planet for over 60 years and faces permanent residency on Planet Elderly. Update: As of March 2, 2017, I turned 70. I'm now an official resident of Planet Elderly. Dad passed away September 22, 2016. I view the Parental Journal entries as part therapy, part family history, sort of a case study of what our family experiences with one parent in a memory care unit, another living independently with short-term memory loss, and me, the only child daughter who lives 400 miles away. It's quite an adventure. Recommended readings for others who have loved ones who live with some form of dementia: The 36-Hour Day, The Myth of Alzheimer's - What You Aren't Being Told About Today's Most Dreaded Diagnosis, Alzheimer's Early Stages.
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