Helping patients and their families: One caregiver’s story
The caregiving team at Centrica Care Navigators isn’t just there to make sure medicine is taken; the team are patient advocates, too. Kim Cummings, a long-time resident of Kalamazoo and former professor at Kalamazoo College, was caregiver for his wife Mimi alongside a group of Centrica Care Navigators specialists. He credits their compassion and skill for making her time in hospice care more comfortable, not only for Mimi, but for Kim and their adult children as well.
“There was a level of expertise that gave us confidence,” Cummings says. “We felt the whole family would be able to manage the (end-of-life) process.”
Including the family
Kim and Mimi moved into Friendship Village in Kalamazoo in 2018, when he was 78 years old. When they first moved in, they learned that Centrica Care Navigators offered care services to people living in Friendship Village.
But Kim says they were like a lot of other people their age: They knew a little about hospice — that it’s for end-of-life care and that it assists people in being more comfortable during the dying process. What Kim and Mimi didn’t know was what Centrica Care Navigators could offer.
“They helped us anticipate the end as it was coming,” he says. “The children wanted to be here when she died, and it was helpful to know where she was in the process. When her death came, it did not come as so much of a shock as it could have been.”
Supporting the patient’s wishes
Cummings says Mimi appreciated her care team, especially her case manager and the aides who took the time to listen to her, and to make sure she was included in conversations about her care.
When Mimi recognized that she was dying, she deliberately chose to withdraw from food. Cummings and Mimi’s Centrica Care Navigators team followed her wishes, working to provide quality care for her. An aide at the facility, not knowing that she was withdrawing from food, one day served a meal and encouraged her to eat.
Mimi’s case manager talked with facility staff about her choice, and food wasn’t mentioned again. Instead, the team taught Cummings how to use gel swabs to reduce dry mouth, and showed him other simple ways to make her comfortable.
When replacing her old mattress was suggested to Mimi, she claimed she didn’t want a new one, so nobody would have to move her body or change out the mattress. As Kim says, she didn’t want to “cause any trouble.”
Her care team pointed out how simple it would be to swap mattresses for her. After lifting her up, taking out the old mattress, and putting the new one on her bed, Kim says Mimi agreed that it was the right move to take.
“She happily accepted a new, state-of-the-art mattress,” he says. “(The team) knew that it was important for the patient’s comfort.”
At one point, Mimi also mentioned that her feet were hurting, but, just like with her new mattress, she said she didn’t think it was enough of an issue to worry anyone. The care team listened to her, but also saw that there was an easy way to make her feel better: Mimi needed to have her nails trimmed and have someone apply lotion to her feet.
“They were very consistent in asking for her decision (but) knew when to take her inclinations with a grain of salt,” he says.
Finances were not a concern either. Because Centrica Care Navigators accepts all patients, regardless of their ability to pay, Cummings says he and his family learned quickly that they didn’t have to try and figure out how to pay for Mimi’s care. Instead, they could concentrate on spending quality time with her.
“I know it’s a thing a lot of people have to be worried about, but we understood the expenses would all be handled,” he says. “It’s something we never even bothered about.”
“Shape the conditions”
While Kim says many people in his age group have a basic understanding of hospice, they don’t always want to think about it, or realize the compassionate care they can receive.
“In order to die the way we wish to die, we need to think about the ways we can shape the conditions under which we die,” he says. “Our experience with hospice was superb. It enabled the family to go through a potentially wrenching process peacefully and comfortably.”
Learn more by exploring our website or calling Centrica Care Navigators at 269.345.0273.