After Grace, 98, was hospitalized for pneumonia in 2022, her daughter, Gail, started researching hospice and home care providers. This wasn’t new territory for her. A decade earlier, she had looked into home care agencies when her father’s health started failing. Her sister, Geri, who lived with their parents in the Twin Cities, was able to help out in the mornings and at night, but she still worked outside the home several afternoons a week.
Although Gail had read good reviews about these agencies, the reality didn’t come close. “They’d often cancel at the last minute, or they’d come late with no warning, and if I was traveling, Geri would have to miss work to stay home,” she said.
Another frustration was the staff. “We found that the caregivers spent most of their time either looking at their phones, chatting with friends, or watching TV,” she said. “Even worse, one of the caregivers ignored the fact that her father had dementia, and at his request, gave him an ice-cold shower.
Circle of support
After their father died in 2015, Gail was determined not to repeat that experience. Instead, the two sisters, with help from friends and Gail’s daughter-in-law, cobbled together a support system to keep Grace at home. “That was a goal for us, but there was a lot of uncertainty around her health,” Gail said, adding that her mother is blind and has diabetes and congestive heart failure. “I worried that we might miss something: Was she in pain? Should we go to the emergency room? Were we making the right decisions?”
It was Grace’s hospitalization in December 2022 that prompted Gail to search for hospice. “I thought of hospice as the end of the road, so I kept putting it off,” she said. “But I knew I wasn’t doing my best for my mom, and that was more important than whatever I was afraid to face.” Most of all, she and Geri wanted to feel more confident about their mother’s care.
After researching several hospice providers, Gail chose Lifespark, in large part because they came highly recommended by her son-in-law, Christopher, a health care executive in palliative and hospice care.
Soon after she brought in Lifespark Hospice, she knew she’d made the right decision. “Mom was on a medication for a UTI [urinary tract infection], but it didn’t seem to be working. I didn’t know if I should take her to the emergency room, so I called Lifespark,” she said. “Even though it was late at night, a hospice nurse showed up and was so kind and helpful, and the next day, Mom got a new prescription for a stronger antibiotic that resolved the issue.”
If it hadn’t been for Lifespark, Gail said that she and her mother would have waited at the emergency room for hours. Stressful for anyone, but especially tough on a 98-year-old with a UTI, she added. “Lifespark’s access, responsiveness, and communication have given us the confidence we were looking for.”
In addition to responding to urgent concerns, Grace’s hospice nurse comes out weekly to check in with her and take her vitals. “She communicates with us beautifully through text and phone calls and is available for any questions that we have,” Gail said. “She also picks up my mom’s meds and refills the organizer—things I was responsible for, and now I don’t have to worry.”
Although the family could take advantage of other Lifespark Hospice services, like massage, music therapy, and spiritual support, so far, Grace hasn’t been interested. “She’s still a very independent woman who knows what she wants and what she doesn’t,” Gail said.
Caregivers she trusts
Based on her positive experience with Lifespark Hospice, Gail decided to hire Lifespark Community Home Care. “They guaranteed that every shift would be staffed, so I felt confident that someone would be there,” she said. That has proven to be true. “It’s by far the best home care experience we’ve ever had.”
“I believe Lifespark made the effort to choose caregivers they thought would fit well with my mom. Even if they don’t share her spiritual beliefs, they help her enjoy her home and encourage her to do the things she likes to do, like playing Gospel music and listening to sermons,” she said.
Relief for the family
While taking care of her mother was never a burden, Gail says, the constant uncertainty weighed on her. “Now it’s like a heavy backpack that’s been lifted,” she said. “Lifespark is a blessing for family caregivers.”