John Crist: Hospice Home
John Crist, president and CEO of CP Federal Credit Union in Jackson, has a special place in his heart for the Henry Ford Allegiance Hospice Home. He spent countless hours there, visiting his wife, Cheryl. “I am very grateful to the amazing, caring staff, and especially to the medical director, Dr. Marvin Fields,” John said.
Cheryl and John were married for 45 years. Sadly, Cheryl passed away in August 2012. In his own words, John shares their story:
"In 2001 Cheryl learned she had Huntington’s disease. An insidious illness without a cure, it gradually destroys your ability to walk, talk and eat. The same disease had claimed the lives of her dad and older brother.
"Early on, I cared for Cheryl myself. Within three years, she was confined to a wheelchair and needed more assistance. She began going to Henry Ford Allegiance Hospice Home for respite care at this time. This allowed her to receive 24/7 care on a short-term basis, like when I went on business trips. We also hired private care providers to stay with her during the day. But when I had to work late, Cheryl would be on her own for awhile. That scared me.
"Around 6:30 one night, I called Cheryl to check in. She said everything was fine. When I got home, I found out she had fallen and had been lying on the floor for two hours. She didn’t want to upset me by revealing that on the phone. I choked back tears, learning of her selflessness. From then on, I could never rest easy when Cheryl was home alone. When I was there, though, I spent all my time caring for her. Feeding her, changing her catheter, administering oxygen — I loved her so much, but handling all these responsibilities was overwhelming.
"At Cheryl’s urging, we looked into full-time care at Hospice Home. I had resisted the idea but eventually saw it was the best way to preserve her dignity and maximize her quality of life. Soon after she entered Hospice Home, I knew we had made the right decision. The staff gave my wife the attentive, loving care she deserved. Besides tending to her medical needs, Cheryl’s nurses worked tirelessly to make her comfortable and soothe her when she was down. And somehow, they always managed to get a laugh out of her. In time, we thought of them as family.
"Cheryl spent her final two-and-a-half years at Hospice Home. Thanks to the special people there, I was able to relax and become her husband again, not her caregiver. We could actually enjoy our time together, which matters so much when every day is precious. I can’t possibly put into words what that meant to us."
John thanks Dr. Fields for being “absolutely great at keeping us informed. He and his staff are very attuned to each patient and very good at recognizing the stages of illness—so they can tell us just what to expect and when. Our whole family was treated with the kindness, courtesy, warmth and professionalism that hospice care is all about, and Cheryl loved the personal attention she received.”
Cheryl’s experience at Henry Ford Allegiance Hospice Home has made John a great advocate and supporter, both personally and through his company. He even gives mini tours of the Henry Ford Allegiance facility on his own. John’s hope is that more families will begin to understand that “engaging hospice care is not about giving up hope. There is such relief and support for the patient and the whole family.”