Testimonials, Volunteers, Memory Bears

Daughter’s Thank-You Notes Describe How Hospice Supports the Patient & Family

February 25, 2020

Until family members have experienced hospice care firsthand, they sometimes struggle to understand fully what VITAS means by its pledge to provide compassionate physical and psychosocial support to patients and their families.  

Linda Weeks, whose mother was a VITAS patient in Pensacola, Florida, saw over the course of nine months how VITAS fulfills that pledge through our hospice care teams and a variety of volunteers.

Hospice: Support for Patients and Families

Linda Weeks holds two Memory Bears that a VITAS volunteer crafted from her mother's clothing

Linda Weeks, whose mother was a VITAS patient, holds two Memory Bears that a VITAS volunteer crafted for her family.

“Dear Marla,” begins Linda’s recent thank-you note to Marla Hecht, VITAS volunteer services manager in Pensacola. “It was so nice to meet you when you brought (your volunteer) Tara to mom’s house for her first—and only—massage. I am so grateful that my mom had that positive experience before she passed.”

Linda’s mother, Era, enrolled in hospice with VITAS in March 2019.

As Era’s health worsened later that year, Marla arranged for Tara, a VITAS massage volunteer, to provide Era her first-ever relaxing massage to address pain and provide comfort.

Because of the connection that Linda and Tara made during that first visit, Tara also provided a massage to Linda as part of VITAS’ ongoing family bereavement services after Era passed away peacefully in November.

Linda’s letters and feedback to VITAS highlight the positive impact of the hospice profession’s focus on individualized care plans for patients and individualized emotional support for their families. The care team’s singular focus is on providing comfort, embracing joy and making the most of the time that remains.

‘Everyone at VITAS Went Above and Beyond’

“When my mother became ill, I was as at my wit’s end and feeling very lost and distraught,” says Linda, a retired Pensacola teacher. “I had previous experiences with hospice providers that I was very dissatisfied with, but I was determined my mom was going to have the best care she could have. Not only was VITAS the answer for us, VITAS was the right answer. 

“Everyone at VITAS went above and beyond to help,” Linda says in describing what inspired her to write the two thank-you notes to the Pensacola team. “Everyone at VITAS was on target, and they knew what to target. The VITAS professionals who cared for my mom complemented each other perfectly, from the level of care they provided to their expertise in communication. They sincerely made a real difference.”

Linda's note to Marla

Linda Weeks, whose mother was a VITAS patient in Pensacola, wrote a thank-you note from the heart to VITAS Volunteer Manager Marla Hecht.

Memories for a Lifetime

Linda’s second note carried her thanks for Laura, a VITAS sewing volunteer who created two Memory Bears for Linda and her brother. Memory Bears are sewn from a hospice patient’s clothing as permanent mementos and sources of comfort to their families. 

“The two Memory Bears you created from my mother’s clothes are priceless,” Linda wrote. “Not only did you include all of the features we requested, but you also did so with amazing detail! I love the way you combined the materials and colors – from mom’s favorite ‘red’ as the ears and soles of feet, to the seersucker legs and skirt. And especially the way you used the zippers of her robes for the top…they still function! 

“What a joy your talent has given me. My brother will get the blue one, and I know he will love it, also. Your kindness restores my faith in humanity.”

Linda's note to Laura, a Memory Bear volunteer

Linda also wrote a thank-you to Laura, the sewing volunteer who created two Memory Bears from her mother’s clothing.

Linda’s advice to caregivers and family members undergoing similar challenges with end-of-life care: “If you’re at wit’s end and feeling lost, get quality help. Call VITAS.”

Marla appreciates the affirming feedback she receives from family members who praise key members of their loved one’s hospice care team.  

“When I received the beautiful card from Linda, it made me so proud of my volunteers,” she says. “We work together as a team to provide loving support. Our volunteers’ time and talent are from the heart, and being able to share Linda’s appreciation is priceless.”