The late Nettie Cooper pictured with husband, Nelson Cooper. Picture by Tim Sayer.
PINEHURST – Thanksgiving and Christmas will be significant for the family of the late Nettie Cooper. The beloved wife of 70 years, mother and grandmother died somewhat unexpectedly this past winter. She was 88. Though the upcoming holidays will be the first big family events since then, her family is finding long-term comfort in a group of people they met just days before her death.
“My mom was in the hospital at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital in February of 2018 with a variety of health conditions,” says her son, Lewis Cooper of Southern Pines.
Somewhat quickly, dementia made her very uncomfortable physically and emotionally.
“At a much needed time, the physicians and staff at Moore Regional were fantastic, working to care for my mom and also to help my dad and our entire family understand what was going on,” he adds.
A handful of specialists worked diligently to provide the necessary care to meet Mrs. Cooper’s impending health needs. They tried many different types of medicines to control her dementia and other serious health issues, but it soon became clear that she needed a different type of care.
“My mom’s care team requested a family conference, and informed us all just how ill my mom was,” Lewis says.
The care team proceeded to tell the family about the services of FirstHealth Hospice & Palliative Care, and specifically, the FirstHealth Hospice campus just a few miles down the road from Moore Regional Hospital. The Moore Regional staff had already determined there was a room available for Mrs. Cooper at the hospice house.
“Her care team presented it to us in a way that we knew FirstHealth Hospice was the very best option for my mom,” says Lewis. “I’ve known several FirstHealth physicians and nursing staff for years, many of whom were involved in my mom’s care team, and those relationships had a calming effect on me and my entire family.”
The family’s decision to transfer Mrs. Cooper to FirstHealth Hospice was unanimous. And though it was difficult, that decision soon proved to be the best—both for her and her family.
The staff at the FirstHealth Hospice House focuses on keeping people comfortable during serious illnesses as well as at the end of life. And their care for the Coopers was especially comforting, Lewis says.
“Most of my family members had not been through anything like this before,” he says. “We didn’t know what was involved in end of life care. It was an eye-opening experience.”
The team at FirstHealth Hospice has special training, so they can help both the patient and their loved ones during difficult times. Staff met with the Cooper family at the hospital to describe hospice care and the services Mrs. Cooper would need. The family also visited the hospice house as part of their decision-making, and met with the team there.
“We had long conversations with the Cooper family,” says Jenny Snead, R.N., BSN, associate director of FirstHealth Hospice & Palliative Care. “Most people who come to us don’t really know what hospice care is like. But when they visit, they find a calm, serene place where our staff is very skilled in one-on-one support.”
“It helped a lot that, right when I walked in, I saw two or three people I’ve known for years,” Lewis says.
Along with the physician, the team includes registered nurses, social workers, certified nursing assistants, a chaplain and volunteers.
“In addition to regular training, each member of our staff completes a three-month orientation,” Snead says. “It’s important that each of us understands how all of our services intertwine. That knowledge puts each staff member in the best position to provide the maximum level of care of all types to the people we serve.”
For Mrs. Cooper, the move from the hospital to the hospice house went very smoothly, Lewis says, and the family appreciated the training and compassion they saw during this transition.
Looking back, Lewis says they definitely made the right decision to have the hospice team care for his mother. In fact, he says, he is not sure what other choice they would have had if this service was not available locally.
They are especially grateful to staff for their success in keeping Mrs. Cooper comfortable.
“The care could not have been any better,” Lewis says. “And for any needs or concerns that we as a family had, they quickly addressed them.”
The staff also helped family to adjust to the sudden change in their loved one’s condition compared to just a week earlier.
“My mom arrived at the house on a Tuesday and by Friday, she was gone,” he says. “Because of their care of her and our family, her passing could not have been any better.”
With Mrs. Cooper’s death, the staff began the next phase of care, one that the family did not expect. As part of their services, hospice staff takes specific steps to comfort the family and help them with grieving. This care might involve regular phone calls or letters from the staff and volunteers. Staff can also connect people with therapists for one-on-one or group therapy.
“This ‘bereavement care’ is another service we offer that many families are surprised about,” Snead says. “Everyone responds differently when someone is sick or dying. We can help people begin grieving even before a death, and we can continue it for 13 months after, to help loved ones get through all the major events. It’s an important part of what we do.”
Immediately after Mrs. Cooper’s death, staff began making regular calls to her husband, Nelson, and other relatives. Today, nearly a year later, that care continues.
“They keep in contact with us to this day,” Lewis says. And he especially appreciates the care they’ve shown his father.
“As a family member of someone so sick, there’s only so much you can do,” Lewis says. “I thank God we have the care at Moore Regional Hospital and especially at the FirstHealth Hospice House. FirstHealth as a whole has so much to offer. The staff gave us so many expressions of both care and love. That definitely helps with our healing.”
As part of the FirstHealth of the Carolinas network, FirstHealth Hospice & Palliative Care is a resource for the community in the areas of education, bereavement and adjustment to loss. FirstHealth Hospice & Palliative Care is not-for-profit and is the only hospice associated with FirstHealth of the Carolinas.
November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month and hospice and palliative care programs across the country are reaching out to help people understand all that hospice and palliative care offer. Throughout the month of November, FirstHealth Hospice & Palliative Care will work to better help the communities they serve understand how important hospice and palliative care can be, and encourage community members to know their options for end of life care.
For more information on services provided, visit www.firsthealth.org/hospice or call (910) 715-6000.
The FirstHealth Hospice House is located at 251 Campground Road just minutes from Moore Regional Hospital.