One caregiver and her experience with hospice

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Karen Haupt shows a painting done by her late brother, David Gross, and a photograph of him. He was a patient of Southeast Hospice.
Fred Lynch

When Karen Haupt visited her brother in Kansas in the autumn of 2016, she knew something was very wrong.

David Gross had lost weight and was in poor health. She told him, "If you're not feeling better by Thanksgiving, you need to come live with me."

David grew up in Gordonville and graduated from Jackson High School. He moved away to attend art schools in Kansas City, Indiana and Maine. He had his own studio in Kansas where he taught art to senior citizens and residents of a rehabilitation center.

After 40 years of working as a fine artist, David came back home to Cape Girardeau with his sister. He was admitted to the hospital twice, where he learned cancer had taken hold in his lungs and liver.

In late December 2016, Karen signed David up for Southeast Hospice care in her home. She was taking care of her mother at the same time. She said being together in the same home after so many years was like a family reunion. "We got to reconnect as family in the months before he died," Karen said.

David did not want to pass away in a hospital or nursing home. He wanted the comforts of home and family as his health continued to decline. Southeast Hospice was able to accommodate his wishes.

Karen said that Southeast Hospice helped in many ways. "They didn't just help David -- they helped all of us. The patient comes first, but they treated us like their own family."

She had retired from 30 years in health care and "knew what was coming" in terms of David's impending death. However, she valued how the hospice team prepared her for what was ahead. She said, "It's different when it's your own family."

In the three months of hospice care, Karen slept in a recliner in the living room where they had moved David's bed. "He didn't want to be alone," she said.

The hospice staff helped David with his medication and feeding needs. "They took care of everything," Karen said.

David particularly enjoyed the pastoral aspect of hospice care. The pastor brought his guitar and played David's favorite songs, including "Amazing Grace." Karen referred to the pastor as "a jewel" to everyone, including her mother.

In March 2017, David passed away at the age of 71. Karen said she wasn't distraught when he died, because the hospice team had done such a good job of preparing her for his passing.

Karen feels fortunate to have had the opportunity to take care of David, and thankful for Southeast Hospice's help. She said, "It was so comforting to have them here with us."

The family is honoring David's wishes to set up a scholarship fund for art students in his memory. His paintings are available from the Hilliard Art Gallery in Kansas City. All proceeds from the sales will go into a trust for college students who need help with tuition and art supplies. You can view his nature-themed paintings at www.hilliardgallery.com/artwork/artists/david-gross/.