Julie Faulkner honors family every day . . . especially the last day.
As her parents Phil and Mary Jane Butler aged and their health declined, Julie – with her sister Cheryl and husband Steve – combined three households into one to care for them at home. In their “Under One Roof” home in Farmington, they chose NH+C over and over to see Phil and Mary Jane through emergencies, through recoveries, through their final days.
Then, because of the culture of care at NH+C, Julie and Steve chose Northfield for themselves.
Her father Phil was diagnosed in 2015 with asbestosis, a lung disease traced back to his service as a boiler tender on Navy ships in World War II. Julie, a geriatric nurse, had the skills to care at home for him and Mary Jane, who had a history of strokes. So they all moved in together. “We basically set up a nursing home for two people with the equipment and everything we needed,” Julie says. “Mom and Dad’s big concern was that they didn’t want to be a burden to us. For me, it would be a privilege to be with them each day.”
Then in 2017, Mary Jane got sick when her medication changed. For three days, she was agitated and delusional. Julie was worried; she called 911. The EMTs asked, ‘Where do you want us to take her?’ I looked at my sister and said, ‘Northfield. I want her to go to Northfield Hospital.’
“If Mom had to be hospitalized, I didn’t want her too far from Dad. It was most important to keep them close to each other, and it would be easier for us as a family to shoot down the road to Northfield.”
The Emergency Department team “was exceptional. They were all so good with her when she was so agitated,” and when Mary Jane was admitted to the hospital, the Medical/Surgical staff gave one-on-one care all night, Julie says. “My mom had been a Labor & Delivery nurse; that night, an OB nurse from the Birth Center stayed with her and they shared stories and drew pictures. It was just the sweetest thing. I wanted to cry with relief for my parents’ care. This was just where we needed to be at this point.”
An MRI showed Mary Jane had had a frontal lobe stroke; she needed in-patient rehabilitation. Julie was surprised to learn that there’s a Long Term Care Center right at Northfield Hospital: “I went just to walk through, and I knew right away that I wanted Mom there.” The care team was concerned about Mary Jane’s nighttime agitation; “I said, ‘I’ll stay with her, every night.’ I pretty much moved in to the Long Term Care Center, and I never ever felt like I was imposing on anyone.”
It was a convenient 20-minute drive from Farmington; Phil visited weekly. Phil and Mary Jane celebrated their 66th anniversary . . . their last . . . in the Long Term Care Center.
While Mary Jane’s health improved, Phil’s declined. A high fever sent him to the Emergency Department. As Dr. David Ries talked with Phil, “I suddenly saw my dad as an old man at the end of life,” Julie says. Phil wanted to be at home; the doctor helped equip Julie to provide hospice-level care at home. “Then he put the medical aside and just sat on the bed with my dad and talked with him about his life. It was so respectful,” Julie whispers. “He gave my dad hope, and it was everything my dad needed.”
To Julie, that’s NH+C’s culture: “They understand that healing is about whole people, not only about the medical care of a person’s condition.”
After a month with many visits from family and friends, Phil died at home holding Mary Jane’s hand. “How lucky we were that Mom was so strong mentally and physically when Dad needed her,” Julie says.
A year later, when Mary Jane became unresponsive, there was another trip to the Emergency Department. Hospitalist Tom Holt, MD “was an angel,” Julie says. After a night of tests and treatment, “I said ‘Please, Mom needs to go home.’ I wanted our last goodbye to Mom to be in her home, in her own bed.”
NH+C social workers worked hard to get Mary Jane home that day. “It was so important to me, and they made it happen. Mom was right where she needed to be,” Julie says.
Mary Jane died the next morning; her family was with her, at home.
Throughout the experience, Julie benefitted from the Northfield Grief Coalition’s support group and events. “I was so grateful to receive that comfort and solace, during and following the deaths of my parents,” Julie says.
Since then, Julie and Steve have moved to Northfield. “The sense of community at Northfield Hospital + Clinics – the tender care, and personal connections – gave us a sense of what the whole Northfield community is like. We want that kind of culture, and care, for ourselves.”
Now she’s the patient, Julie says during a clinic visit: “I’ve come full circle,” she laughs. “It’s like being in a Hallmark movie, seeing the people who cared for Mom and Dad.
“I like that.”
Learn more about the Long Term Care.