New Caregiver Program - The Back Story

UMA Senior College to Benefit Palliative Caregivers

Gene Moreau’s wife Pat died peacefully on Oct. 27, 2017, after a long illness at her home with her loving family at her side. Gene had made many friends at Senior College, and several of us attended Pat’s funeral. There we learned that they’d had one of those marriages that newlyweds aspire to, but often find difficult to achieve.

Given their close, loving marriage of sixty-two years, you may wonder how Gene and Pat were able to manage the stress and other issues related to a terminal illness. In this difficult time, they turned to the trained professionals and volunteers of MaineGeneral Hospice. This team works with the patients and their families to establish a plan of care, provides a 24/7 on-call nurse for questions or urgent needs, and offers emotional support to both the patient and their families.

One aspect of Hospice’s support that benefitted Gene was their insistence that he take some time for himself, time to recharge, so to speak. It was not always easy for Gene to leave Pat behind, but it’s clear that these moments of respite helped him to destress a bit and return to Pat with renewed strength.

How did Hospice arrange for some time for these outings? One of the many helpers who came to the home was a social worker, Gina Mosca. She asked Pat if there was anything special she’d like for them to do together—work on a hobby, perhaps. Pat responded that she’d love to make a scrapbook. And that’s just what they did. During our interview, Gene shared the finished scrapbook with me, and it turned out to be a photo album tracing the family’s history—her grandparents, their childhoods, high school, their children, every house they ever lived in, and their many pets along the way… It’s clearly typical of Pat that she used these cherished hours, not just for herself, but to create a marvelous gift for Gene and their family.

Gene has clearly not gotten over the loss of his beloved Pat, but he has come to reflect on the importance of the time that Gina Mosca and others from MaineGeneral Hospice spent with her. Their presence in the home provided him with an additional giftthe opportunity to relax a bit, to visit with friends, and to take care of errands. Initially, Gene was very reluctant to leave the house, but in hindsight, he has come to understand the value of this time away.

Gene mulled this over, thinking about how he could help others who were facing the loss of a loved one. Remembering how much he’d appreciated Senior College classes and friends during his time of need, he searched for a way to provide easy access to Senior College for caregivers who might need some encouragement to take advantage of our offerings. He wanted them to understand that it’s not only OK but also necessary to get away, even for just a few hours during the week. Gene worked with the Board of Directors and Heather Desjardins (the liaison for HomeCare and Hospice) to explore the logistics and feasibility of such an endeavor. In the end, they came up with an informal alliance between Senior College and Hospice. Hospice will identify caregivers who may benefit from participating in Senior College and, as it did for Gene, will attempt to coordinate Hospice home visits with the caregiver’s class schedule. Senior College, in turn, will provide membership and classes at no charge. 

SOTHIS IS WHERE YOU CAN HELP! If you know of a primary caregiver who might benefit from the camaraderie and lifelong learning at Senior College, please urge him or her to contact the Senior College office at (207) 621-3551 or email and ask about the caregiver program.  For more information about MaineGeneral Hospice, click here.

The author, Ann Sullivan, has been active in Senior College since 2011.
She serves on the publicity committee and is editor of the Illuminator, the Senior College newsletter.

UMASC Brown Bag Lecture Series

Tuesday, February 11

12-1:30pm • Klahr Center

MaineGeneral Home Care 
and Hospice

Heather Desjardins

Heather Desjardins, Occup.Therapist and Liaison at MaineGeneral Home Care and Hospice will help students understand what the program is all about, including eligibility, services available and how to be referred.

Hospice will identify caregivers who may benefit from participating in Senior College … and will attempt to coordinate home visits with the caregiver’s class schedule.
Senior College, in turn, will provide membership and classes at no charge.