Comfort through Continuum of Care: the Wright family’s hospice journey

Ann Wright was, in the words of her son Peter Vorbrich, the consummate full-time mom. “She ran the family schedule, knew when we needed to eat to accommodate activities and kept all the plates spinning,” remembers Peter. “She baked so much that, as kids, we viewed ‘store bought’ cookies and bread almost as treats. She chaperoned trips, ran the Little League newsletter printing press and was deeply involved in our lives. She was always there to listen sympathetically to our disappointments and celebrate our successes.”

Ann made things easier and special for her children. When Ann’s life neared its end, her children did the same for her.

Ann was diagnosed with cancer in June of 2012. She underwent major surgery that summer and had several rounds of chemo over several years, switching from one drug regimen to another as the previous one became increasingly ineffective or caused worsening side effects.  In 2018, after discussions with her oncologist, Ann decided to stop receiving further chemo, as the treatments became more difficult to tolerate and increasingly ineffective. 

It was at this time that Ann began receiving in-home hospice care from EveryStep. “She was assigned a hospice team and had recurring visits from those team members,” says Peter.  “I recall mom saying her oncologist told her she would likely live beyond Christmas, but not likely a year. So being the battler she was, she lived through Christmas twice more.” In late March 2020 she became increasingly frail and confused and moved to EveryStep Kavanagh House in Des Moines. 

“Hospice nurses and staff are a gift from God,” says Peter. “The care they provided mom made us feel like she was the most important person they had ever cared for. We know they care for everyone this way, but the way they made her feel special (and made us feel good about how good they made her feel) is almost magical. The nurses were also great at helping us stay informed about what happening and what we should expect in the coming days.”

The COVID-19 pandemic required special precautions during Ann’s stay in EveryStep Hospice, but Peter says COVID provided an unexpected benefit – the blessing of unscheduled time. “Our calendars were suddenly devoid of conflicts. If she had died a year earlier, our family would not have been able to be so continuously present in her final weeks and would not have been present for each other either.” 

Ann needed continuous nursing care in the final weeks of her life and EveryStep staff made the transition from in-home hospice care to full-time care easier. “The support [EveryStep] Hospice provided to her in the months before she moved to Kavanagh House helped her be ready for the end of her life. That was a blessing to her and to us,” says Peter. Ann passed away on Mother’s Day – May 10, 2020.

Peter says the staff at Kavanagh House made her comfortable in her final days. “Her experience at Kavanagh House was a continuation of the hospice experience she already knew and allowed her and her family to focus on being together and loving each other in those last precious days.”