A small circle provided tender care at the end of life . . . and afterwards.
Mary Freiermuth, Eileen Nitz and Tamara Beebe didn’t set out to care for the patient’s husband. It unfolded naturally as the two nursing assistants cared for his wife.
NH+C honors select employees each year as part of our Do The Next Right Thing initiative that empowers every individual on staff to help provide the best experience possible for patients, guests, and each other. We're proud to honor Mary, Eileen and social worker Tamara for their tender care for a patient and her husband at the end of life, and afterwards.
The elderly patient was admitted to Med/Surg, weak and on oxygen. Her husband had been her caregiver for years. They had no children, and he was alone at her bedside.
“You usually have other family members there, or friends,” Mary says. “He was by himself, so I talked with him. I asked him about their marriage. It was a love story, almost like a fairy tale.”
Mary and Eileen alternated staying in the room with him throughout his wife’s final hours.
“When she passed away, he was in shock,” Mary recalls. “He said that he didn’t know what to do, who to call, or even how to call a funeral home. He wondered what he would do for dinner, and how would he sleep that night, all by himself? It was so sad.”
Healthcare teams are used to seeing family and friends create a circle of support when a loved one dies. Mary, Eileen and social worker Tamara stepped in to create that circle, providing practical and emotional care for this devoted husband.
He stayed with his wife for hours after her passing. “He didn’t want anyone called right away because he was so shocked with grief,” Tamara says.
Mary and Eileen made sure he had someone with him when he wanted that, and had privacy when he preferred it.
They brought him two meals: One for now, and one to have at home later.
The next day, Tamara called him at home. “I talked with him about the funeral arrangements, if he had questions about it, who he had for support,” she says. Tamara made a referral to Senior Linkage Line, whose team reached out to him to make sure he had food, and help at home, and the resources he needed.
“I was just doing my job,” Tamara says. “This is what we do all the time.”
Mary says this kind of tender, compassionate care is a hallmark of NH+C: “Most of the workers here are doing a really great job,” caring for patients – and each other. “I really feel the sense of teamwork here on Med/Surg.”
It feels natural to help a patient who doesn’t have his own circle of support, in a culture where colleagues give that kind of support to each other.
What advice do they have for colleagues who want to do their own jobs with such compassion?
“Meet people where they are,” Tamara says. “Treat people the way you want to be treated, even if they’re difficult or grieving. Whatever their emotions are, don’t take it personally.”
Because care goes beyond the bedside . . . and sometimes, beyond the patient.