A former patient improved in Suncoast Hospice care

LaShante Keys

By LaShante Keys, Empath Health Community Partnership Specialist

ST. PETERSBURG — It’s an honor to meet amazing elders in our community. They are an inspiration!

At age 104, Lovie “Aunt Love” Peterson, is a special lady to celebrate. She lives in the home of her niece, Gwen Dixon, and her husband, Herb Dixon. The family had been together for more than 50 years when Dixon gave birth to her daughter, and Peterson stepped in to help out with care.

“Aunt Love quit her job so she could take care of her. I’m glad I can do something to say thanks. She’s a dream to care for. She’s completely dependent on me but not burdensome. Everybody loves her. She’s unassuming; she enjoys life. She was cooking, cleaning, tending to the yard and sewing up until last year,” Dixon shared.

Turning to Suncoast Hospice

Peterson’s health worsened last summer, and the family had to make decisions about her care. During a visit to her primary care physician last August, her blood work indicated kidney failure.

A kidney specialist determined she had end-stage kidney disease. When her health declined and she lost weight, the doctor asked if they wanted to start dialysis, but the family refused because of her age.

The doctor recommended Suncoast Hospice, and she was admitted into care. Like some hospice patients, she “graduated” and was discharged because her condition improved.

Hospice care focuses on comfort and support for patients and their families. Services may include expert medical treatment, nursing and personal care, medications, medical supplies and equipment, specialized therapies, emotional and spiritual counseling, social work and grief support, volunteer assistance and more.

Loving care and comfort

Dixon was impressed with the nature and attention of the Suncoast Hospice team.

“My mom (Peterson’s sister) was in hospice. That’s when I got to know hospice as a caring and loving organization. The people who cared for Aunt Love were sincere and genuine. They all were outstanding and friendly. She got the love. They were like our blood relatives. You can’t buy that kind of care,” said Dixon.

The team’s aide, Angela “Angie” Cummings, made a particularly strong connection with Peterson and the family. She’s a certified nursing assistant who has provided personal care for Suncoast Hospice patients for 11 years.

“Angie was her caregiver,” Dixon expressed. “She would come in and get her up and dressed, comb her hair and fix her breakfast. It was a special relationship that was based on love and affection.”

Cummings cherishes the bond and time together with Peterson.

“I used to mess around with Ms. Lovie saying, ‘I’m going to take you home with me.’ She was so sweet. She was like family. We would always joke and play. We had a ball. It wasn’t like she was 104.”

The two exchanged many life stories during bath time. Cummings would inquire about life when Peterson was young, and the centenarian would ask about Cummings’ children.

“I told her I like working in the yard and she liked that too. The family is wonderful. I treat my patients like they are my own family. I love what I do,” she said.

Nowadays, Dixon’s niece comes over to the house to assist with care, and the family is finding other Empath Health services to continue the loving care and comfort. Peterson continues to enjoy life, especially when she’s able to use her newly-repaired sewing machine.

Dixon remains grateful for Suncoast Hospice and hopes others will become aware of its services.

“Hospice is not about trying to save you, it’s about providing care and comfort,” said Dixon. “They did that without interruption. There was nothing that we needed that we didn’t get. It’s wonderful. I owe hospice so much. I hope it survives forever.”

Suncoast Hospice is here for you. To learn more, visit SuncoastHospice.org or call (727) 467-7423.

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