Ask JourneyCare Bereavement Counselor Liz Richmond to describe her brother and she will tell you: “Everybody knows Fred.”
An adventurer at heart, Fred Deitsch’s 67 years of life have included stints in rodeos, working in Texas oil fields and service with the U.S. Marine Corps in the Vietnam War. No matter where he goes, Liz says, Fred is the character who wins people’s hearts.
But Liz and her older brother Phil received stunning news about Fred’s health about 10 years ago, when he was in his late 50s: Fred was diagnosed with dementia.
After being cared for by Veterans Affairs hospitals in Texas for many years, Fred required more care and Liz moved him to Winchester House in Libertyville for around-the-clock attention. There, Fred remained the star of the show, making friends with all of the staff even when he lost his ability to speak clearly.
Last year, however, Fred’s condition declined. He became disoriented regularly, had trouble with daily activities, and began losing weight. Once Fred’s doctor said he was ready for hospice, Liz naturally chose JourneyCare, which also maintains a partnership with Winchester House.
“Because of my professional experience, I knew it was important to choose hospice as soon as it was recommended by the doctor, since it improves quality of life for the patient and supports the
family members as well,” Liz said. “So often we see patients choosing hospice with only days to live, when we could do so much to give them the best quality of life for so much longer.”
In addition to the care he was receiving at Winchester House, Fred also had support from his JourneyCare team that includes a nurse, certified nursing assistants, a social worker and volunteers. He even received a visit from Volunteer Carol Swinford and her miniature therapy horse, Hawk.
“Once Fred was in hospice care, he snapped back just like that,” Liz said. “Because of this care, so much has improved. With all of this remarkable care from hospice and Winchester House, Fred is treated with complete dignity and respect, which is something he never had before in his life.”
With that idea of dignity in mind, Liz’s coworker Linda Rockwell, JourneyCare’s Manager of Veterans Programs, chose to organize a veteran pinning for Fred. Veteran pinning ceremonies are one of several services offered by JourneyCare’s We Honor Veterans program. The program recognizes current and former military members for their service and assists them in accessing their benefits. Program staff members are specially trained to work with veterans living with war-related post-traumatic stress syndrome, which frequently surfaces near end of life.
As part of the pinning, Rockwell enlisted JourneyCare Volunteer Rick Davis – who also served in the U.S. Marines – to be part of the ceremony, while also organizing military music to be played and completing certificates of honor. Liz and Fred’s brother, Phil, even flew in from out-of-state for the occasion.
Because Phil is also a U.S. Marine veteran, Rockwell organized a surprise – brothers Fred and Phil received their pins together to honor their service to our country.
To support the family, Fred’s JourneyCare Volunteer Laurie Waldron and her husband attended, along with JourneyCare Social Worker Barbara Mistele, Registered Nurse Kate Rodell and Winchester House staff and residents.
“Fred stuck out his chest so proudly and, when they saluted, he gave such a snappy salute in return,” Liz said. “It really was such a wonderful experience for our family.”