August 16, 2017

Hospice Testimonial: VITAS Helps Jacquelyn Durant Jenkins Care for 2 Loved Ones

Her mother and husband on hospice, VITAS by her side

Caring for a loved one with a life-threatening illness can be stressful and demanding. Caring for two seriously ill loved ones at the same time must feel nearly impossible at times. And when one is your 105-year-old mother? The difficulties just hit a whole new level.

Jacquelyn Durant Jenkins faced that challenge with VITAS by her side. When her mother, Elizabeth Durant, developed a lingering infection in 2014, Jacquelyn brought Elizabeth home to live with her. Soon after, her husband suffered a debilitating stroke.

“He had a double stroke in the back of both sides of his head. He couldn't do anything for himself, but I had him home,” Jacquelyn says. “My mama had an infection and her equilibrium was off, and so she had a couple of falls. I had to take her in with me.”

Daily support, plus medical care day or night

Speaking from Deland, Florida, where her family has lived for generations, Jacquelyn recalls some advice she received from a friend to look into VITAS hospice services. After her mother's physician and VITAS agreed that her mother and husband's conditions were terminal, Jacquelyn was able to receive the support she needed to care for them.

A VITAS admissions nurse visited Jacquelyn and her 2 patients the next morning. She explained the hospice services that would be available to the family and discussed the supplies and home medical equipment VITAS would provide.

Later that day, VITAS installed hospital beds, a Hoyer lift to get Jacquelyn’s husband in and out of bed, a walker for Elizabeth and other supplies.

“They tended to both my husband and my mother,” Jacquelyn says. “I had an aide who came every day. At night, if my husband got sick, all I had to do was call. VITAS would answer my call and send a nurse out, if that’s what was needed, no matter what time of night it was.”

Two more years of hospice

Jacquelyn’s husband died several months later at age 73. VITAS continued to care for Elizabeth for another 2 years. She died in late 2016, just shy of her 108th birthday.

“I miss her a lot,” says Jacquelyn. “One night I was putting her to bed and she said, I want to tell you something. She said, You're doing a good job taking care of me, and I want you to know that I appreciate it.”

More about Elizabeth Durant, who lived to be 107

Elizabeth Durant was born on Lisbon Parkway in Deland and lived in the same home until she was 105, when she moved in with Jacquelyn, her only child. Elizabeth was remarkably healthy, took no medications and, except for Jacquelyn’s birth, was not hospitalized until she was 100.

“She was very active at 105. She would be in her yard mowing, raking, cutting stuff down, doing whatever she wanted to do,” says Jacquelyn.

They joined the gym

Jacquelyn wanted to keep her mother active as long as she was able. She and Elizabeth took Silver Sneakers exercise classes at the local YMCA.

“There was my mother in Silver Sneakers at age 106! She and I both went, and they enjoyed her so much,” she recalls. “Everybody would practically stop doing the exercise just to watch her. She'd be sitting there moving her little legs and moving her arms.”

The family was active at First Baptist Church in Deland, where Jacquelyn’s husband served as a deacon and she and her mother sang in the choir. The church celebrated its 101st anniversary by asking members to raise and donate $101. Elizabeth joined right in, selling flavored ice cups and potato pies. She raised more than $7,000.

Like a neon sign

Elizabeth loved children and had a good way with them, says Jacquelyn. Her mother volunteered in the grandparent program at a local child care center.

“Whenever a baby came around her, she just lit up like a neon sign,” says Jacquelyn. “There was a child who cried a lot. She was the only person who could calm him down. So that year they gave her a trophy for calming him down. She loved working and doing things for people.”


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