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Hospice team’s attention to all the “little things” makes an enormous difference to retired priest, family during last months together

Diane Savarese, MD, will never forget the day her uncle, retired Catholic Priest Father Robert Gariepy, was transferred from a hospital to the Rose Monahan Hospice Home in Worcester.

“The visible look of relief on his face was just absolutely amazing,” said Diane, an oncologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

At age 91, Father Gariepy was hospitalized last August for severe anemia and a suspected gastrointestinal bleed. He struggled with delirium, a common complication for elders during hospitalization. Diane is her uncle’s health care proxy, and had a heart-to-heart talk with him during a period of lucidity about his wishes.

“Your job as a health care proxy is not to do what you think ought to be done or what everyone else wants to be done, but what the individual patient wants to be done when they can’t speak for themselves,” said Diane. “He made it very clear that he didn’t want to go to rehab, and he clearly couldn’t go back (home). He didn’t want any more CAT scans. He didn’t want any more hospitalizations. He was ready to die,” she shared.

Diane was well aware of the Rose Monahan Hospice Home. She was practicing at UMass Memorial when the residence opened in Worcester 25 years ago to provide end-of-life care in homelike surroundings. She remembered a number of her patients “got really excellent care there. The families that I dealt with just raved about the care.”

The residence was a perfect match for Father Gariepy, and he moved there in September. The agitation he experienced in the hospital was gone when he realized that his wishes would be fulfilled in his new home. 

The staff kept Diane well informed about any changes in Father Gariepy’s condition, and she appreciated their attention to details that promote patients’ dignity and comfort. Diane remembered the homemade Christmas Eve dinner brought to her uncle’s room. During another visit, Diane appreciated the time a certified nursing assistant spent combing Father Gariepy’s hair so he would look his best at lunch.

“Those are the little things that just set them apart from any of the other places where he could be getting care,” said Diane.

A particularly meaningful time was a pinning ceremony organized by the Monahan staff to honor Father Gariepy’s service in the United States Army. The Rose Monahan Hospice Home and VNA Care are part of We Honor Veterans, a program of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs to honor veterans when they reach the end of life. Father Gariepy served for 20 years, with 18 of those as a chaplain, and retired on May 1, 1985, with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

During the ceremony, the Gariepy family’s two other veterans took lead roles. Father Gariepy’s brother Roland put an American flag pin on him and niece Janice Drass presented him with a certificate for his dedicated service. The family placed a patriotic quilt on him made by one of VNA Care’s volunteers, and those gathered watched a slideshow of Father Gariepy’s Army days created by Diane.

“I can’t say enough about the care he’s received there,” said Diane. “Everybody’s been terrific. It’s been a wonderful experience.”

Father Gariepy passed away peacefully at the Rose Monahan Hospice Home. Our hospice team was honored to care for him and his family.

This article first appeared in the Spring 2022 edition of Caring Matters. 

Pictured: Father Robert Gariepy was joined by (from back) his sister, Jeannine Farina; his brother, Roland Gariepy; and his niece, Diane Savarese, MD, for the pinning ceremony.  

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