March 26, 2015
Teamwork Allows Elderly Pair To Remain At Home, Together
By Katelyn Phillips
Taylorsville, IN (AP) A couple never separated for more than eight consecutive days in their 70-year marriage are working to make sure they can stay together until death ultimately separates them.
James ``Raymond’’ Rooks said he knew from the moment he saw Velma Francis that he would never leave her side—for richer or poorer, or in sickness or health.
The lovebirds said their vows Dec. 23, 1944, and have kept true to them.
Eight years after their marriage, the Rookses moved from a small city in Kentucky to Edinburgh. After another 12 years, they moved a few miles away to Taylorsville, their home now for 50 years.
They lived on Raymond’s income from Arvin Industries in Columbus. Velma worked as a homemaker, raising their four children.
Raymond, 87, and Velma, 86, have managed to stay in the familiar surroundings of their home despite difficult times this past year, thanks to care provided by family members who live nearby and the traveling staff of Our Hospice of South Central Indiana in Columbus.
The Rooks at home (c) The Republic
It’s a place they cherish.
The walls are covered with framed memories—not just of their children, but also nine grandchildren, 20 great-grandchildren and a 2-year-old great-great-granddaughter.
Two of the four Rooks children live locally, while all four continue to visit their parents often.
``The oldest grandchild, let’s see here, that’s Amy and she was born March 13 in 1967,’’ Raymond cites from memory, with Velma’s help.
If their memory fails them, Raymond and Velma keep a birthday ``cheat sheet’’ pinned among the picture frames in their living room, just in case.
``Yes, March 13—you’re exactly right!’’ said Nathan Greene, the Rookses’ chaplain, as he checks the sheet.
Greene is a member of the interdisciplinary hospice team assigned to care for Raymond and Velma in their home.
Raymond lives with emphysema, heart problems and dysphagia—a difficulty swallowing, while Velma experiences various side effects from electrolyte imbalance in her brain, The Republic reported.
Last August, the children researched at-home care options as it became difficult to balance their work and the declining health of their parents. Coming to terms with ongoing palliative care was difficult for Raymond and called for an end-of-life care conversation initiated by his children.
The couple chose Our Hospice of South Central Indiana Inc., the nonprofit, community-based service providing palliative care to individuals with advanced illnesses.
Because their youngest daughter, Cathy Simmons, lives just around the corner, she is able to act as a primary caregiver for her parents, with hospice staffers checking in five days a week.
Now the couple said they can’t imagine being without their trained hospice team.
Of the 180 patients served by Our Hospice, the majority are cared for in their homes. Although staying together is a priority for the Rookses, staying in their home is also essential to their quality of life.
``It’s wonderful that they come in and do all the testing, all the blood work,’’ Raymond said. ``It’d be altogether different if they weren’t around. We’d get by, but it’d be hard.’’
Social worker Heather Means explained that the visit schedule is determined by patients’ needs and requests. Five hospice specialists visit them each week.
The home health aide visits five days a week. The nurse visits two or three times a week. And the social worker, chaplain and a volunteer each go once.
``They love everybody,’’ Means said of the Rookses. ``They are so appreciative of the services and really trust us. They make our job easy.’’
The length of each visit depends on the patients’ health and mood. If Raymond or Velma is struggling, physically or emotionally, the visits can last up to an hour or longer. Various activities, chores, and medical therapy are performed during each visit: blood work, health assessment, spiritual reflection, homemaking tasks and life-review conversations.
``Their goal is to stay home and to stay together; we talk about how we can continue to maintain that,’’ Means said. ``We’ll also talk about their feelings as far as how their independence has decreased and changes in their physical abilities.’’
On a day that featured a houseful of hospice helpers, Raymond made a point to say thanks to each.
``They’ve been wonderful to take care of us,’’ Raymond said as he points each out, going around the room. ``They come in and bathe us, wash the dishes, do everything.’’
Registered nurse Theresa Ford is director of Clinical Services at Our Hospice. She emphasizes why the interdisciplinary team of specialists is the core to meeting patient goals while managing their pain and comfort.
``That’s really what hospice is about—making them peaceful so they can truly enjoy each other in the time they have left,’’ she said. ``We work really hard to promote what hospice is, that it’s really not a scary place.’’
The dedicated staff makes it possible to provide the 24-hour on-call services, said Ford, a benefit the Rookses have used before, once at 3a.m.
Another advantage to choosing hospice care is the payment options that are available. Medicare, Medicaid, veterans benefits and private insurance cover most services provided. If a certain type of service is not covered, Our Hospice uses funds donated through memorial and private donations and foundations and grants.
Such a practice allows Our Hospice to provide care for all patients in 15 counties, no matter their ability to pay, said Suzie Singer, manager of planning and marketing.
With a long life behind them, Raymond and Velma don’t have many regrets. They’ve loved each other since day one and felt it was all they needed.
Raymond laid eyes on his future wife in 1944 at Freedom Church of God in their hometown of Columbia, Kentucky. Details from that day were retold as if they happened yesterday.
Raymond’s mother, Myrtie Bryant-Rooks, had recently died, bringing the small community together for her funeral at the church on March 12 that year. That’s when he spotted Velma.
``I had never seen her before,’’ Raymond remembers, as he reached for Velma’s fragile hand. ``I thought she was the prettiest thing I ever seen. I’m serious. I think it was love at first sight.’’
After meeting each other the following Sunday in church, Velma remembers the handsome boy that talked a lot. He would go on and on while she just listened, Velma said.
``I guess you could say I made the first move,’’ Raymond said as Velma playfully patted his knee.
Velma remembers sneaking around to see Raymond: writing letters, fibbing about where she was going and hiding mementos so their love for each other wouldn’t be discovered and thwarted.
``My mother found a letter from him. That’s how she found out that we planned to marry Valentine’s Day,’’ Velma said.
In an effort to fool her disappointed mother, Raymond and Velma moved the wedding up to Dec. 23 and they married at ages 16 and 17.
It took some time for Velma’s mother to give her blessing, Raymond said, but in the end she treated him like a son.
``Make sure you love who you’re gettin’,’’ Raymond advised when asked to offer marriage advice. ``Be certain of it. When problems come along solve ‘em, don’t run from ‘em.’’
Velma nods and says they make an effort to never go to bed mad at each other.
``You never know what can happen in the night,’’ she said.
This Week In The Civil War: Lincoln Visits Grant In Virginia
This Week in the Civil War - This series marking the 150th anniversary of the Civil War draws primarily from wartime dispatches credited to The Associated Press or other accounts distributed through the AP and other historical sources.
Editors Note Primary sources for the series are historic newspaper databases and other archival records.
By The Associated Press
This Week in The Civil War for Sunday, March 22: Lincoln visits Grant at his Virginia headquarters.
President Abraham Lincoln, his Union forces nearing victory after years of bloody conflict, visited the military headquarters of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at City Point, Virginia, this week 150 years ago in the Civil War. City Point—where the James and Appomattox Rivers meet—proved to be a strategic spot where Grant had his headquarters for months while leading the siege of Petersburg, Virginia.
Lincoln, arriving aboard the River Queen at City Point, was briefed by Grant and other Union military leaders about efforts to bring about an end to the war.
The site, several miles from the Petersburg siege lines, afforded the Union forces easy supply lines to the front. Fighting continued nearby in Virginia during the week.
Grant reported in a statement to the Secretary of War that his forces had taken hundreds of Confederates prisoner after they attacked his forces in the state, adding the Union repulsed the attack ``with great loss to the enemy.’’