JoAnn’s Story

I am sharing my story with you in the hope you will make a gift today and support Ionia Area Hospice, an amazing hospice that cared for my mom after I transferred her from a different hospice.

A 5-foot 1-inch “fireball” is how many people described my mother, JoAnn Begick. She was a real estate agent, a business owner, a social butterfly. She was stubborn and independent. She loved to plan parties and events and had many decades-old close friends. She loved her family and grandchildren. She was my best friend.

Mom adored the Kentucky Derby and had attended the race in person 29 times. She was affectionately known as, “Derby JoJo.”

I was out of town when mom told me during a phone call, she had a headache after taking a fall. My brother and my husband took her to the hospital to be checked for a head injury. She came home with a diagnosis of dementia.

After her diagnosis, we tried to put safeguards in place. But, after a scary incident when she was accidentally locked out of her home, it was clear that she needed 24-hour care.

The first facility we chose was not a good fit for mom. We found another facility and she was much happier. I visited her at least once a week. She enjoyed the activities and made friends with other residents.

When the COVID-19 lockdown hit, I was not allowed to visit her. Like so many others, she was pretty much isolated in her room. We tried to video chat, but she was unable to understand the technology or respond to us. I missed her so much and was very worried about her.

The facility staff spoke to me about adding hospice care and what it could do to help my mom. They told me about an agency that came regularly to the building. The big selling point – I would be able to visit mom IN PERSON when she had hospice care. I signed the papers almost immediately.

When I was saw mom again, I was stunned to see how much she had changed. She didn’t respond to her own name when I spoke to her, and she was sleeping almost all of the time. When she was awake, it was clear she no longer knew who I was. It was painful to see her this way and to realize how much time together we lost. I didn’t understand why the hospice agency didn’t tell me about her condition. I started to ask a lot of questions about the kind of hospice care she was getting.

Not happy with the way the way things were being handled by the current hospice agency, I called a friend to get suggestions for other hospice agencies. She recommended Ionia Area Hospice and reminded me that we both had a mutual acquaintance who worked there. Despite being after work hours, our friend called me back within minutes. She told me Ionia Area Hospice would take good care of mom AND me. She was right. I got a call from the Ionia Area Hospice nurse the next morning.

Our first meeting with Ionia Area Hospice was amazing! The nurse began visiting mom at the facility and for the first time, I got regular updates about her condition. The nurse listened to my concerns, and I felt heard and believed.

However, mom’s final journey had already begun, and my family and I made the decision to move her to Stoneleigh Residence.

The atmosphere at Stoneleigh Residence was so peaceful and serene. I was able to move into her room with her. I brought my computer and worked at the table during the day and stayed overnight, sleeping on the pull-out couch in her room. It warmed my heart to see how attentive the staff at Stoneleigh were to mom’s every need. She was finally getting the care she should have had from the beginning. I was happy just to be able to spend time with her again.

Mom was showing several symptoms of pain and the hospice doctor spoke candidly to us during a family meeting. He answered all our questions and tried to prepare us for what was coming. He even gave us his personal cell phone number and said to call him at any time.

I said goodbye to my mom and best friend on March 31, 2021.

We planned mom’s memorial for the first Saturday in May – Derby Day! We held a Derby­themed event with guests wearing their best “Derby” attire. We decorated with Derby-themed items and plenty of roses. We gathered to watch the race and toasted mom with mint juleps. It was a magical afternoon. I know she would have loved it.

I am so grateful to Ionia Area Hospice & Stoneleigh Residence for helping us care for mom the right way. Transferring mom to Ionia Area Hospice and moving her to Stoneleigh Residence was one of the best decisions I ever made.

I know you believe and support hospice care for reasons of your own. My reason will always be my 5-foot 1-inch “fireball” mom and best friend. Please join me this season, by supporting Ionia Area Hospice & Stoneleigh Residence that worked so hard to give mom and our family the kind of end-of-life experience everyone deserves.

Gratefully yours,

Denise Cole