Team Ella

By: Dana Casadei

When a doctor suggested hospice for Rita Leonelli’s aunt-in-law Ella, she first thought that was like giving up on Ella. She quickly learned that wasn’t the case.

“I had some guilty feelings about putting her on hospice,” Rita said. “But once I kind of got what it was all about, then it was like a weight lifted. Something goes wrong...I have somebody to call. You have a huge support system.”

Ella’s previous support system (aka Rita and her husband Lance) may have been small, but it was mighty.

In 2012 the decision was made to put Ella in assisted living after she was diagnosed with dementia. At the end of 2012, Ella had a hospital stay that seemed to escalate her dementia, leading to lots of anxiety and confusion. That’s when Rita and Lance hired caregivers for Ella at her assisted living home because she couldn’t be alone. A year went by before Ella’s anxiety got worse and the combativeness started.

Rita Leonelli with a photo of her aunt-in-law Ella,
who used Angela Hospice care.
Rita said that the sweet Ella she’s known since 1989 turned into a woman that was throwing shoes and kicking her caregivers, among other things.

“Luckily, the caregivers that were with her had been with us awhile so they knew what a sweet, kind person she was,” Rita said.

Ella entered Angela Hospice care in March 2014 after some friends had told Rita and Lance what a wonderful experience they had with Angela Hospice.

“Her last year was really blessed,” Rita said. “She had regular visits with the nurse and social worker, and having that interaction with those people…she just became more social. She was doing really well. It was like, wow.”

The first thing the doctors did was get Ella’s anxiety under control, which Rita said lead to her being more like the lady she knew. She was still confused but the combativeness had stopped.

“She was very much like herself,” Rita said. “She was deteriorating health-wise but very happy.”

Two weeks before a re-evaluation to see if Ella still qualified for hospice, her heart rate dropped and then she started having seizures. Ella passed a few weeks later at age 97.

“Ella was kept so comfortable that last week,” Rita said. “It was such a peaceful passing.”

For years Ella had been a caregiver herself, taking care of her mother-in-law and sister-in-law. Rita said that Ella was so deserving of the wonderful care she got from Angela Hospice.

Before using Angela Hospice for Ella, Rita said that neither she nor her husband had any prior hospice experience, except when a doctor suggested it for her mother-in-law, who was very against the idea. Rita said her mother-in-law assumed that being put in hospice meant that people were giving up on her, much like Rita thought before using Angela Hospice.

Now when she thinks of hospice Rita thinks of the support system made up of the team of nurses, doctors, and social workers that cared for Ella.

“It felt like I was the only person they were helping,” Rita said. “I knew that wasn’t true but it felt that comfortable to have help come so quickly and to have the help know the case so well.

“We were Team Ella,” she laughed. “It just felt very personal. It was like there was this whole cheering section out there.”

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