Feeding Her Heart and Soul

In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, like many, a family member of one of our patients has not been able to see her 89-year-old mother, who lives in a skilled care facility, for many months. When her mother started receiving hospice care this past summer, she had suffered a stroke and lost her ability to speak. Weeks later, the patient regained her ability to speak, and Hospice & Community Care RN Ibrahim was able to facilitate a tearful phone conversation between mother and daughter, who had thought she might never hear her mom’s voice again. When she regained the ability to speak, one of the first things out of her mouth was that she wanted some spaghetti with meatballs from her favorite local Italian restaurant.

Our patient’s parents had come to Pennsylvania from Italy before she was born. They were a very close family, and not surprisingly, Italian cooking was at the heart of their family life. The patient’s mother made a delectable spaghetti sauce, and when she died there was an emptiness in both the hearts and stomachs of the family. Then one day our patient’s brother discovered a little Italian restaurant in Landisville that made sauce that seemed to taste just like their mother’s. It became a family tradition to eat this special spaghetti and meatballs on birthdays and other special occasions. Eating it seemed to make the memories of the patient’s parents come alive again.  *This* is the sauce that was our patient’s Hospice hope and wish.

Our team worked to make this wish a reality, but there were some obstacles to overcome. First, our patient had problems swallowing, so the spaghetti would need to be pureed for her to safely eat it.  Second, food delivered by family had to be held in quarantine by the skilled care facility for 48 hours before it could be delivered to their loved one. Christmas time had always been a bittersweet time for our patient’s family, holding birthdays and anniversaries of deaths. This year during the pandemic, it was especially hard for the family not to celebrate the Italian way by cooking for their matriarch or bringing her any of her favorite foods at Christmas as they had in the past.

But with the persistence of our patient’s family and Hospice team, Ibrahim was able to collaborate with her skilled care staff so that she finally got the spaghetti dinner she had been craving for so long. Her daughter said that morning: “I couldn’t sleep last night. I was like a little kid on Christmas morning because I was so excited for this day. This is the best gift that mom could have because it is bringing a part of her mom and her daddy to her.” For the staff at Hospice & Community Care, it is a privilege to help in small ways to bring families together and bring small measures of joy — and spaghetti — even during this often painful time.