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Sy Zivan's Story

Discovering greater closeness between husband and wife, even at the time of death

“You cannot replicate the type of experience you get at an inpatient hospice facility,” said Sy Zivan, reflecting on his wife Karen’s recent stay at Lifetime Care’s Hildebrandt Hospice Care Center. “The Hildebrandt has such a concentration of trained, caring people. There are caring people elsewhere, but they don’t have the specialized training in caring for the patient and the family in the way that these people do.”

Family and friends traveled long distances to be with Karen and her family, including three

grandsons from Israel who read psalms at Karen’s bedside. “Not only were the people at the

Hildebrandt friendly, always making all of us feel at home, but they also recognized our

pain and consistently responded with comforting words and hugs.”

One day, two aides came out to the great room, where Sy had been waiting during Karen’s personal care and said, “Go in there and see how beautiful your wife looks.” He said, “I went back into her room and she looked so beautiful and she was smiling and I’ll never forget it.”

Learning that it’s never too late to talk and connect

As Karen’s condition worsened, nurses encouraged Sy to keep talking to her since the body retains the sense of hearing in its final moments of life. “She was lying on her back,“ he remembered. “That beautiful woman was no longer there, but she was still alive. I said to her, ‘Karen, I’m coming over to give you a big kiss on your lips.’ She turned her head and puckered her lips. She heard me. It gave me hope.” After Karen’s passing, he was able to sit quietly in the room with her, just husband and wife.

“In a situation where you’re almost monitoring the progress toward death, access to a facility and staff like those at the Hildebrandt is just so helpful in letting your loved one go peacefully,” Sy said. “We are the ones who go on living, and with the care that the Hildebrandt provided,

they gave hope to all of us.”

Kevin Datthyn’s Story

Home care brings comfort. Bereavement support creates peace.

Kevin Datthyn knew he was going to ask his girlfriend Mary to marry him after her birthday in January 2010. What he didn’t know was that her birthday would be overshadowed by a diagnosis of ovarian cancer. Despite this, Kevin proposed and Mary said yes. The wedding took place in December when Mary was cancer-free.

In 2014, the cancer returned and worsened. After a lengthy hospital stay in 2015, Mary and Kevin were introduced to Lifetime Care’s home care and pharmacy services. Thanks to this service, Mary was able to stay at home as long as possible. When it was time for hospice, she spent a month in the oncology unit of Rochester General Hospital. Lifetime Care nurse Shari Allen was a constant support.

“By being able to stay home longer, even though it would only be a day or two before we were back in the hospital, we always believed that we could get back home…and Lifetime Care helped us hold onto that hope,” said Kevin.

Learning that you’re not alone, and that your feelings are “normal”

When Kevin received a call from Lifetime Care about bereavement services a few weeks after Mary’s death, he was hesitant. “I met with Linda Eaton at the Newark campus. She told me I was ready because I could say Mary’s name,” he recalled.

Kevin attended support groups for six months. “I feel like my hope is lost, because I’ve lost Mary,” he said. “But the bereavement services have helped me figure out that I am not alone in feeling like this…right from my very first meeting with Linda. The first thing I learned in support group is that I’m normal. I figured out from the stories being told and our discussions how to just let my emotions flow. The second part for me is that I learned to cope. I’m still learning that. Lifetime Care was obviously the starting place and taught me that I could live within the grief.”

Living within the grief means fulfilling promises he made to Mary, like finishing the memory books she had started of their life together and keeping up her flower gardens. A plant grows for her in the Lifetime Care memory garden, a sign of Kevin’s love and a symbol of hope for others. 

Pat LaRocca’s Story

Realizing the true connection and value of hospice.

Pat LaRocca’s experience with a Lifetime Care volunteer changed her whole opinion of hospice. Volunteer Ron Trovato visited her husband, Edward “Ed” LaRocca at a local nursing home for about a year and a half before Ed’s death.

Ron built a rapport with Ed based on their shared history as military veterans. Ron would stop to see Ed before or after a vacation and on his way from work. “Before he’d go home, he’d stop at the nursing home,” Pat said. “He made my husband’s day every time he visited.”

Small gift. Big meaning.

With over 50 years in the trucking business, Ed’s conversations often centered on vehicles. One day, Ron brought Ed a toy pick-up truck, similar to one Ed once owned. “That truck meant more to Ed than anything his family had given him,” Pat recalled. “He guarded it with his life. When he passed, I made the undertaker put the truck in with him and…he still has it with him.”

The day Ed died, Ron was there. “I never saw a man cry as hard as Ron did,” Pat said. “Here’s a man who could be doing other things, but he didn’t want to leave the people who came to depend on him.”

The word “hospice” initially evoked a sense of sadness and fear for Pat. “When you hear hospice, you do think it’s the end,” she said. “Yet Ed lived for a whole year. I never realized that hospice was so good at a time like this. You think it’s a sad time, but it’s also happy in a way because you get to meet people like Ron. You don’t realize how much that means.”