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My Client Friend Died Today

Updated on December 26, 2019
Perspycacious profile image

Demas is a professional author and freelancer. He published and edited two newspapers. His most recent book is HAIKU AMERICAN STYLE.

A Volunteer's Badge

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How it all began...


Not unlike other clients I have been assigned by the Senior Corps' Senior Companion Office, John was given a limited life expectancy, and his wife Carol was his 24/7 caregiver. My assignment was to give John and Carol eight hours each week divided into four hours on Tuesdays and a second four hours on Thursdays.

My assignment sheet revealed that John was dealing with Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, diabetes, and heart problems. I learned later that he had a Do Not Resuscitate order, a copy of which I carried with me for the months when I was with him.

Carol and John had been interviewed by the Senior Companion Program in June of 2017 and were accepted into the program then. I was assigned as John's companion shortly thereafter.

John passed away the day after Christmas 2019. I last spent time with him on Tuesday, Christmas Eve. On the prior Thursday visit I had brought along a meal of vegetable beef stew and a tossed salad from the nearby senior center. He was not able to feed himself but he ate the full meal. Part way through the meal he cried silently for perhaps three or four minutes. I could only guess at the reason, but my guess was that he realized he would be passing away soon.

When I first started visiting John, we typically went to that senior center and played Bingo on Tuesdays, staying to eat lunch together there. Several times he also attempted to play some pool with two or three of us, but that was not easy for him. Gradually I had to help him more and more at Bingo, and cutting up his foods at lunch.

On my Thursday visits we read or watched television, and I stopped by the senior center to pick up our three dollar lunches. Mine were reimbursed by the Senior Program, as were my mileage expenses, and I was given a stipend of $2.65 per hour.

Carol used my companionship with John to do their shopping, obtain her own medical and dental care, participate in her own church services, and even go to the hair dresser or get a pedicure. My time with John also gave her time to visit her friends. On the rare occasions when I was out of town or had in-service training, I tried to compensate with times when I was not serving my four other clients.

John also had in home hospice care providers, Community Nursing physical therapists, and a nursing student who lived in the neighborhood and came voluntarily to help Carol clean and change John as he declined in his ability to move around and assist Carol in his own care.

John had been an internationally respected engineer, and he and Carol had traveled widely. They had on occasion even lived overseas for brief periods of time when he was involved in various projects. Their living room was decorated with some of their souvenirs from those excursions.

John and Carol had raised a large family and one of their grown sons was a professional who worked out of their home and was available to assist Carol and his father when the son was at home.

Carol was alone when John passed away, but his rapid decline on Christmas Eve had given her a medical alert that he was "transitioning." He was only bed ridden those last few days.

While John was able to read aloud from his scriptures haltingly toward the end, the thing Carol missed the most over the period of his gradual decline were the good conversations they had been accustomed to having. Toward the end John was physically present, but his normal participation in discussions had already ended. Even then, his decline was far more gradual than those experienced by others with his conditions.

On my last visit today Carol informed me that John had passed away earlier in the day. A niece and her husband, and a hospice nurse were there. I said my own goodbyes to John, and Carol went into the bedroom alone to say her personal goodbye to John before the morticians arrived, a man and woman who would arrange to take John's body to the mortuary.

John had transitioned.

I called my Senior Companion administrator and informed them of John's passing, and of my availability to assist another 24/7 caregiver.

_______

Note: The names John and Carol are names the author has arbitrarily given to identify the very real husband and wife in this article. Any resemblance to another John and Carol is purely coincidental. If you can volunteer a minimum of 20 hours per week, you are encouraged to contact the author for details on joining the Senior Corps. Use the Contact Author link above. Comments here are also welcome.



© 2019 Demas W Jasper

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    • profile image

      Carol 

      2 months ago

      Thank you Demas I don't know how I could have survived without you you were a big help to me thank you Carol

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 

      3 months ago from Fresno CA

      I'm sorry for your loss. The joys and the heartbreak of working with seniors are just that. I remember when I was teaching watercolor classes, I had quite a few faithful seniors come to my classes. One day one of my faithfuls didn't come because she was ill. The next week when I came they told me about her funeral and I was crushed, first because she had passed and no one told me, and second, because they had a funeral for her and I wasn't invited. It's a hard thing.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Rachelle Williams profile image

      Rachelle Williams 

      3 months ago from Tempe, AZ

      Thank you so much for sharing your touching story about the engineer and his wife and family. I'm sorry for the loss of your client friend, and I hope your hub might help shine a light on the Senior Corps program.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      3 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      The program that you describe sounds wonderful. Though your article shows that it can involve sadness, it must be very helpful for people as well. Thank you for sharing the information about the program.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      3 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Bless you and your companion family. I have been putting off a companion lunch program for a year. Bad on me. Thanks for the pump up. You have motivated me. That the best love.

    • Perspycacious profile imageAUTHOR

      Demas W Jasper 

      3 months ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      Not only can an eligible volunteer companion form new friendships and provide sorely needed assistance to other seniors, their modest stipend is not taxed, and in many cases provides the extra funds to meet some of their own needs. As suggested, use the Contact Author link above for Senior Corps contact information and details.

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