Hospice Makes a Difference for Cancer Patient

Harold Parlier, 78, is living on borrowed time and grateful for every minute of it.

Last summer, he was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma that included several brain tumors. The prognosis gave him about four months to live, and Harold’s doctor referred him to Memorial Home Services – Hospice.

In November, as part of Memorial’s home hospice team, Fran Gifford, BSN, RN, began weekly check-ins with Harold and Jo, his wife of 57 years. She oversees symptom management, checks vitals, monitors and adjusts medications, obtains orders from his physician, cleans the port every month, checks for skin tags, discusses concerns and answers questions.

“We had never heard of those services,” Harold said. “But we wouldn’t be here without them. It’s unbelievable you can get these kinds of services. She’s given us our life back.”

Hospice services are available 24/7 and feature a team approach including:

  • A social worker to coordinate additional support services in the home if necessary, help facilitate end-of-life paperwork and contact hospice providers in other areas when patient travels to visit family or friends
  • An RN for regular weekly home visits
  • A hospice chaplain to provide spiritual and emotional support
  • Home Health aides to assist with daily care needs
  • Trained volunteers for companionship
  • Grief support for family and loved ones
  • Hospice physicians for expertise and guidance in the hospice plan of care

Harold was weak during Fran’s first visits. He slept most of the day, suffered from vision problems related to previous immunotherapy treatments and didn’t have energy for basic activities.

“After diagnosis, we had a lot of ‘feeling down’ time,” Harold’s wife Jo recalled. “You just kind of give up if you don’t see the daylight.”

Upon arrival, Fran adjusted several of Harold’s medications, which provided nearly immediate relief for several symptoms. He is the longest living patient on Fran’s rotation. She noted that too often people wait to request hospice services or don’t realize that Medicare covers nearly 100 percent of the cost.

Thanks to the home hospice team, Harold and Jo have a built-in support system to guide them through their journey.

“Hospice is a totally different frame of mind than any other healthcare regimen,” Fran said. “Our care addresses not just physical but also spiritual and emotional support. It helps to be able to share the load. Harold and Jo know they can call any time with questions.”

This summer, Harold and Jo walk three to four times a week at Jacksonville’s Community Park, play Scrabble and host family and friends in their home. Mostly they rely on their faith and enjoy every minute together.

“I turned everything over to Christ,” Harold said. “I’ve been so content, I can’t even believe it.”

Memorial Home Services – Hospice is not a place but rather a comprehensive and coordinated program that offers compassionate care to the terminally ill and their families. For more information, call 217-788-4663 or 800-582-8667.

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