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Evelyn Shank

Reid Hospice Care Gives Patients, Families Peace of Mind

Thelma Harlan was a tough, independent lady who was happy to live alone in an isolated farmhouse even after her husband died in 2000. It wasn’t until she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in December 2008, at the age of 87, that she needed to rely on the support of her loving family.

But as Thelma’s condition worsened, caring for her began to take a toll. “It was difficult for me to see Thelma suffering and worn out, and I felt very isolated as her primary caregiver,” says Thelma’s younger sister, Evelyn Shank. “Soon after she discontinued her chemotherapy treatments, Thelma’s doctor told us that we probably ought to start thinking about hospice care. Thelma said she wasn’t ready. But I told her ‘I am!’

Hospice care keeps terminally ill patients as comfortable as possible while caring for their physical, emotional and spiritual needs. A Reid Hospice nurse visited Thelma weekly at first, and more often when Thelma needed additional care. An aide from hospice came three days a week to help Thelma shower and tend to other tasks, and another home health care agency provided professionals to stay with Thelma around the clock. Family members stopped by to visit, do yard work and care for Thelma’s house, and one of them always spent the night.

“We really surrounded Thelma with support, and I just can’t say enough about the hospice program at Reid, its nurses and other staff members,” Evelyn says. “The medical care they provided was wonderful, and they also tended to Thelma’s spiritual and social needs. I knew I could call the nurse any time with questions. Hospice care gave both of us peace of mind.”

The weekend before Thelma passed away, the hospice nurse told Evelyn it was time to prepare. On September 22, 2009, Thelma died very peacefully in her sleep.

“We all miss Thelma dearly, and I still think I ought to call her every morning and every night, just as I did for many years,” Evelyn says. “I hope that if I ever face what Thelma had to go through, I can use hospice, too,” Evelyn adds. “It’s as much for the family as it is for the patient.”


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