Home is Where the Heart Is
They say home is where the heart is. For the Sherrick family, that was definitely the case when Ellen Moss Sherrick resided in The Residence of Arbor Hospice.
For four years, Ellen battled lymphoma, confronting 11 reoccurrences, four years of intense therapy, spinal chemotherapy and bone marrow transplants. Treatments succeeded for brief periods of time, and then the cancer would appear in a different location. When her oncologist finally said they were losing the battle, Ellen and her husband Daniel, turned to Arbor Hospice.
When Ellen moved into The Residence in September 2010, doctors said she had just three weeks to live. Eight months later, Ellen died, surrounded by her husband, mother and three young children in their home-base, The Residence of Arbor Hospice.
In those eight months, Daniel and their children became mainstays at The Residence. They got to know the nurses, aides and other staff. When the children would arrive, the staff, who grew accustomed to asking the children about school and soccer.
“We felt very welcomed and at home at Arbor Hospice,” Daniel said. “We essentially lived at The Residence on the weekends; it was our home-base. We went to soccer practice from The Residence; we had the babysitter, neighbors, teachers, family and friends around there all the time. We had Thanksgiving and birthday parties in the dining room. In the winter, we went sledding outside and had hot chocolate inside with Ellen. It was an environment that made it easy for us to integrate it into our life.”
The children, now twelve-year-old Sarah and eleven-year-olds Nicky and Ben, felt comfortable enough to run up and down the hallway to their mother’s room, hike around the pond, spend hours on the swing-set outside or hide in the children’s playroom.
“The kids spent a lot of time in the children’s playroom,” Daniel said. “They did their homework in there. It was the perfect sanctuary when they were scared or needed to get away for awhile.”
Keeping their routine as much as possible, the Sherrick family integrated their lives with Arbor Hospice in more ways than one. In addition to visiting with mom, the children spent lots of time with Arbor Hospice grief support coordinator Gail Haynes. Gail took into account where the kids were each day, allowing them to set their own pace, initiate conversation and grieve in their own way.
“Gail was terrific, very respectful of the children’s needs,” Daniel said. “They were allowed to be eight and nine-year-olds, giving them a balance between confronting their mom’s illness and being a kid.”
Following Ellen’s death, Gail’s presence continued. She visited the Sherrick home to spend time with the children, and maintain the continuity of care established when the family was at The Residence. Gail let the kids tell stories about Ellen to keep their memories alive, while providing comfort and space when needed.
“It was extremely helpful to have that continued support, particularly someone who knew what we were going through. Gail knew Ellen and she knew us.”
Looking back, Daniel realizes how important it was for his children to be so embraced by Arbor Hospice.
“My kids watched their mother battle cancer for four years. This was a defining period in their lives and as difficult as it was, it couldn’t have been handled any better. Arbor Hospice provided excellent care for my wife, giving her more time with our kids, and my kids got to be kids.”
The Residence of Arbor Hospice is home to more than 1,800 patients and their families each year. Although the facility, on eight acres with 26 private rooms, is equipped to function like an intensive care unit of a hospital, it feels like home. For an online tour of The Residence, go to www.arborhospice.org/we-can-help/the-residence-of-arbor-hospice.
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