By Siobhan F. Austin
When someone suggested to Sally Savage that she put her husband, Phil, on hospice, she was upset. “My heart dropped because I thought ‘well he’s not terminal.’”
“No, I’m just old,” quips Phil, with a wry smile.
“But Phil’s mind is fantastic, his body’s not so great,” Sally banters back, adding more seriously. “He’s not able to walk by himself anymore, he’s in a wheelchair.”
With the help of a longtime caregiver, Tina, who made a few phone calls, soon Sally and Phil were meeting with VNA Hospice staff at Cleveland Clinic Indian River Hospital “and they took over from there,” says Sally.
That was several months ago, and they couldn’t be more pleased. “We have been absolutely thrilled from day one with the care and the consistency of how they take care of Phil… Just everything about hospice I think I’ve changed my mind about, the care they can give, and it’s for everybody, everybody can use it,” says Sally.
And her patient agrees. “It’s been absolutely terrific,” says Phil. “They have been responsive, caring, gentle, lovely, anything I could possibly want. I can’t imagine anything better.”
Some of the services that he’s enjoyed includes two visits a week from a nurse who takes Phil’s vitals and checks on his medications. “She sees what I need and orders it over the phone, and within about two hours it’s at our front door,” he says, clearly pleased.
He’s also pleased with his VNA social worker who calls weekly to “ask if we are happy with everything.”
In addition to clinical help, Phil’s also taken advantage of other services like aromatherapy, visits from VNA’s chaplain, and music therapy, his favorite. “It’s delightful,” says Phil with a big smile. “The music therapist with her guitar is Grace Jones – no relation to the move star. She’s absolutely terrific, and we often have duets together and often I try to hoodwink her by coming up with songs from the 1920s – or the 1890s! – and she whips out her little phone and finds them. So that’s terrific, we’ve had a good time. And I’ve enjoyed them.”
Hospice has also helped Sally tremendously. “It made my life better…The best part for me is that we no longer have to leave this house to go to a doctor,” she says, noting that “the VNA Foundation (is) the place we’re going to support,” a decision that has Phil’s full support, evident as he gushes about the local nonprofit home health caregiver.
“They are doing a terrific job. I can’t imagine how it could be any nicer. It really eases my way into the next phase, as they say, of my life, and everything they do has been terrific, and I’m very grateful. Thank you,” he says humbly.