In November 2005, Kelley and Glenn Lyda moved their family from Canfield, Ohio, to Mooresville, partly for a professional opportunity for Glenn.
"But the real reason we moved was for a change for our family," Kelley Lyda said.
"My father, Richard Thullen, was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2000, and his health began to fail in 2004. "My parents moved in with our family in July 2004.
Thullen died that December.
"My father did not have a good experience with his last days of life ... ," Kelley Lyda said. "My three sons, Ryan and twins Mark and Aaron, watched their grandfather get weaker over time and experienced hospice care (in Ohio) for the first time," she said.
"Our family just needed to get away from those experiences, which were not good.
"My mother, Martha 'Mackey' Thullen, moved to Mooresville with us. Our move to Mooresville was a fresh start for all of us."
That all changed, though, in December 2005, when Kelley's mother was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer.
Kelley recalled that she then said, "I don't think our family can go through another hospice experience again."
But through her research, she found Gordon Hospice House, operated at 2347 Simonton Road, Statesville by Hospice & Palliative Care of Iredell County. After visiting the facility, Kelley realized her mother was going to experience a completely different, higher-quality end-of-life care.
State hospice rules differ
Hospice is regulated by the state and federal governments. Terri Phillips, president and CEO, said, "There are some differences state to state, however, and within the philosophy of care for each hospice program.
"Our mission is about providing quality care and focusing on the patient and family goals for living," Phillips said.
"Caring for the patient and family, through a holistic approach, provides physical, psychosocial and emotional care, as well as spiritual care," Phillips said. "These are the cornerstone of our goals...."
Karen Lawler is the director of development and community outreach for the Iredell hospice. Her role is to educate people about Iredell County's Hospice & Palliative Care.
"It takes very special people to work in hospice," she said, "and the people whom I represent make it easy for me to talk about hospice."
Care doesn't stop with death
Phillips said a patient must meet two criteria to receive hospice care.
"One is the physician certifying the patient has a life expectancy of six months or less, should the disease continue its course.... The other is the patient agreeing and consenting to the care.
"Our team works collaboratively to bring comfort and care to the patient and their family."
Lawler said, "Our hope is for improving the life in the time that is left. Sometimes hospice can provide interventions that may actually prolong a person's life." Also, about 10 percent of patients eventually are discharged from hospice services.
Phillips said Hospice & Palliative Care of Iredell County does not stop at the end of a person's life.
"We are there to care for the family through our bereavement program," she said. "In 2005, we started a program called Rainbow Kids that helps children through loss of a loved one.
"The Rainbow Kids Program is offered throughout Iredell County schools and is 100 percent community-funded."
Comfort in butterflies
November is National Hospice Month, and Hospice & Palliative Care of Iredell County takes this time to recognize those it has cared for since 1984.
On the third Sunday of every September, families of loved ones who have died come together to celebrate life. During the celebration, live monarch butterflies are unboxed and set free.
Butterflies symbolize life, and the Gordon Hospice House help families find closure to their loss of a family member.
In October 2008, Martha "Mackey" Thuller died of breast cancer. Kelley Lyda said, "My mother lost her life, but she found her dignity through our experiences with Gordon Hospice House."
The Lydas now live in Sherrills Ford. With the assistance of Hospice & Palliative Care of Iredell County, they rest in knowing the last days of Kelley's mom's life were under the care of people who care about the end of life.