Upon arriving in Woodland at the home of Manuel and Maria Chavarria, you immediately notice a neon green sign on their front door. The sign’s black, hand-lettering specifies, “No smoking, wash and sanitize your hands, visit between 12 and 7pm, supervise your children—keep the noise level at a minimum, minimize ins and outs.” The sign’s purpose is revealed when you learn that Maria Chavarria is a hospice patient.
“We put the sign up when Mom came home from the hospital on hospice care,” said Angel Nunez. “This way everyone knows what’s needed and it allows us to get more rest during the day when we’ve been up all night taking care of Mom.”
Caring for Mom represents a role reversal for this family of 11 children. In 1960, Manuel and Maria were married in Texas. He already had five children through a previous marriage. Together they had five more children and adopted Angel.
Manuel began working on farms at age 17, becoming skilled at everything, from planting and harvesting to operating and repairing farm equipment. He’s worked for some of the largest agribusiness operations in Yolo and Solano Counties. While raising their children, Maria worked at home and did some seasonal farm work.
Angel remembers early mornings spent with her mother preparing handmade tortillas for her father’s lunch. He’d often leave before dawn and return long after dark covered from head to toe in dust so caked on, it was difficult to see his features.
Despite limited resources, Manuel and Maria did very well together. They bought a home in Woodland, successfully raised all 11 children and enjoy being proud grandparents.
Maria is a hospice patient due to debility, a diagnosis meaning more than one aspect of her health is declining. In 2006, she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma (cancer of blood plasma cells) which has no cure, but she received treatments to keep the cancer under control. More recently, Maria was diagnosed with pneumonia and developed sepsis, an infection that compromises the entire body, and then led to meningitis. After three hospitalizations and multiple courses of antibiotics, the doctors told the family there was nothing more they could do and suggested hospice.
It was difficult for the family to accept that there were no more treatment options to improve Maria’s health. Angel had never heard of hospice before. She appreciated learning that hospice offers another kind of care for her family—support for the loved ones and pain management for her mother. The family held a meeting. Manuel Sr. thoughtfully considered what he would want if he were the patient. The family spoke with doctors again and then called Yolo Hospice.
[pullquote2 quotes=”true” align=”right” cite=”Angel Nunez, Yolo Hospice patient family member”]Hospice really is helpful. I really like Roby, the hospice aide. She’s so gentle and talks to Mom as she works whether Mom is asleep or not.[/pullquote2]
Currently, Angel and her sister-in-law, Kristy, serve as Maria’s primary caregivers. Christy and Gilbert live in Alaska, but are in Woodland for a month to help. Most of the children, including twin granddaughters, are also helping. They cook, check-in, give respite, and take Manuel out for errands he needs to run. Even with extended family sharing the effort, caregiving is both loving and stressful. It happens around the clock and requires providing very personal care. Yolo Hospice provides additional resources and support.
“Hospice really is helpful. I really like Roby, the hospice aide,” said Angel. “She’s so gentle and talks to Mom as she works whether Mom is asleep or not. Mom is very comfortable with her and loves it when Roby bathes her. Jan, our nurse, offers great support and does just what she says she’ll do. Stephanie the social worker is also very good; she has helpful ideas for us. And the visit from the hospice chaplain was welcome.”
[pullquote2 quotes=”true” align=”center” cite=”Jan McMahon, Yolo Hospice RN”]There is a lot to be said for the human spirit and its ability to heal.[/pullquote2]
Now Manuel makes the tortillas, but after four weeks of Yolo Hospice care, Maria is doing better than when she was brought home from the hospital. “Maria is feisty,” said Jan McMahon, Yolo Hospice RN. “There is a lot to be said for the human spirit and its ability to heal.”
Maria represents a very fortunate exception to the 40% of hospice patients who are served only seven days or less. Yolo Hospice works tirelessly to educate the community that eligible patients who accept hospice service months before they reach end of life, enable hospice to deliver the most effective care and maximize the benefits for patients and loved ones. In fact, research has shown that hospice care can lengthen the remaining time for some patients. Yolo Hospice believes the care and support we offer to the patient and loved ones always brings emotional and physical comfort.
For more information about Yolo Hospice services, please call 530.758.5566.