Howard and Sheri Evans dated nearly 10 years before marrying in 2003. They had only been married six years when his declining health changed their lives. Howard’s illness was not a surprise; he says he was diagnosed with COPD in the mid-1990s.
Howard continued to be active after his diagnosis. He’d golf regularly with a buddy and participated in a bowling league. Howard’s current health and physical limitations prevent his participation. Howard says his diagnosis includes emphysema and arthritis, and he has been oxygen dependant for five years. In the later part of 2011, his health began deteriorating more significantly and Sheri became his caregiver.
At the time, Sheri was working part-time post-retirement. Due to Howard’s failing health, she had to quit working. “I couldn’t go to work when Howard was having severe breathing problems. That meant I’d be late and then worry about him the entire time I was gone. It was better for everyone that I quit and stay close to home.”
Howard was hospitalized repeatedly, lost 50 pounds in only months, and his legs swelled so much he could barely walk. By January 2012, the doctors suggested Yolo Hospice. “This is not my life, but it is the life I have,” said Howard. “If I could choose, I’d still be bowling and gambling in Vegas and golfing regularly. Still, I have a life and plan to get as much out of it as I can.”
Yolo Hospice began caring for Howard in February 2012. As the Yolo Hospice team does for all patients, they immediately evaluated how to enable Howard to participate and actively direct his life to the best of his ability. Yolo Hospice helped him do that by being there for him and Sheri, providing comfort for the body, mind and spirit, through appropriate medications, emotional support and spiritual counseling. A Yolo Hospice nurse visits regularly to monitor Howard’s health, and to give Sheri support and information on caring for him. A social worker and spiritual care counselor visit to support them emotionally and spiritually. The other members of the Yolo Hospice team (volunteer, hospice aide and grief specialist) are ready when they are needed. “We have a unique closeness with the Yolo Hospice team. It is a great feeling to know that someone cares for you. It is a relaxing, comforting feeling,” said Howard.
The changes to their lives are obvious when you visit. Oxygen tubing runs securely from the concentrator to Howard allowing him to move from living room, to the desk, to the kitchen without hauling the oxygen canister with him. There is a day bed in the living room where Sheri sleeps to be near Howard who sleeps in a recliner in the middle of the room. “It makes me feel like we’re living in half the house, but it works for us,” said Sheri.
“My ability to do anything is down. I can’t lift. I need oxygen all the time and can’t walk very far. But, with Yolo Hospice care, I know someone has our back and that they will care for and support my wife,” said Howard.
Sheri is always smiling despite the changes. She used to go to Castro Valley overnight regularly for shopping expeditions with her best friend. She’s not doing that anymore because she can’t leave Howard alone.
“I need to be close to Howard when he wakes from a nap or sleep, he can literally be choking. In the mornings, with the medications from hospice, we work to clear his airway so he can breathe comfortably again. Sometimes, he wears himself out, and he’ll need assistance or medications that are on the other end of the house,” said Sheri.
Howard keeps pushing himself. He likes to be involved in conversation, but when he is not directly involved his eyes close and he drifts into a light sleep where he sits. He has trouble walking, but he can’t seem to sit still. He walks or stands, but when he does he must lean on the backs of chairs, counter tops and walls. Despite his valiant attempts to keep moving, he doesn’t leave the house without using a motorized chair, leaving the house happens less and less often.
Sheri’s son is getting married this fall. She is hoping Howard is well enough to attend with her. A recent shopping trip to get prepared for the wedding didn’t work out well when Howard needed to return home early into the trip.
“It is such a comfort to know that I can call Yolo Hospice and get a hold of somebody, I know someone is there for me 24/7,” said Sheri.
Yolo Hospice is there for the patient and loved one. If you think you might need hospice, Yolo Hospice is able to answer your questions and available as a resource to you. Please call 530-758-5566 to talk about Yolo Hospice services today.