Gene & Phyllis Hochwalt Gene Hochwalt

First post: May 30, 2019 Latest post: May 14, 2023
Welcome to our CaringBridge site. We’re using the site to help connect our network of family and friends to information about Phyllis and Gene. I wanted to update our “story” getting to hospice care in February 2021 for Phyllis and her eventual passing on March 3, 2021. We will continue to update the site as we take care of Gene.  Way back in July of 2016, Phyllis received a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. Even before the formal diagnosis, we began to perceive that all was not right. Mom and dad were living in a condo a short distance from Joe and Debbie, but it became clear to Gene and Phyllis that a “retirement community” with the availability of support services would be best. After an opportunity fell through at a facility fairly close-by to the condo, we found a lovely apartment at Narrow’s Glen in Tacoma. It was near mom’s brother, Fred, and also in Tacoma – where she grew up. They moved in April of 2016. It was difficult from the start as mom’s Alzheimer’s began to manifest. She would “elope” and not respond to efforts on the part of care staff to redirect. That summer was difficult with many incidents, culminating at a two week stay at Madigan hospital as we hoped for an admission to a mental health facility to help stabilize her situation. That didn’t come and with a not-so-subtle note from the retirement facility, Jeannie and Joe embarked on a search for a new place in October of 2016.  After a day of touring retirement communities and adult family homes, Aegis of Bellevue had a suitable apartment and were willing to take on our situation. They provided wonderful care. Mom and dad were now living close to Jeannie and she was able to visit more readily. Joe was able to get away easily from work by transit and visit during the week as well. And while the disease still caused issues, Aegis continued to help her and the family and we ultimately got mom some good treatment and stabilized. In 2017, we moved mom to memory care and dad remained in a small apartment. Phyllis’ condition continued to gradually deteriorate, but she was well cared for. The family had several lovely holiday gatherings there. The Aegis operation provides excellent care – at a pretty steep price. In the summer of 2018, we knew that financially, a less expensive alternative was needed. Aegis does NOT take Medicaid. Through Debbie’s coworker we learned of a well-regarded adult family home near Joe and Debbie’s home in Auburn. We were impressed right away when we visited. With the help of Jeannie’s husband, Jeff, and Joe & Debbie’s kids, we moved Gene and Phyllis to “Angel Haven Estates” just before Thanksgiving of 2018. Unlike Aegis where mom was behind a locked door, Gene and Phyllis were together most of the time, just with separate rooms to sleep. The model that both Aegis and Angel Haven use for providing medical care is to use providers that essentially make house calls. That helps tremendously with communicating medical orders to care staff – not to mention eases the burden on family who no longer need to go to every appointment! The visiting services did a great job keeping mom’s anxiety at bay and keeping both of them healthy. We saw marked improvement in dad’s edema.  In May of 2019, mom developed jaundice over the long holiday weekend. After a long stay in the ER, imaging showed what appeared to be a mass on her pancreas. We were told to assume the worst, and the family opted to not do further – and invasive – testing. We DID move forward with a stent to help drain the bile. That procedure was a success and she returned to Angel Haven under the care of hospice. But Phyllis is made of hardy stock. And she bounced back. So, what we thought was cancer wasn’t. She moved off of hospice continued to do well. Mom and dad enjoyed sitting on what became to be known as “their couch” holding hands and dozing after lunch. In December of 2020, it was very apparent that mom was losing weight even though she ate fairly well. She had some falling episodes attributable to low oxygen – one resulting in a day-long visit to the ER to stitch up a gash on her head. A referral was made to hospice and in January, mom’s care was shifted to hospice care. Mom’s ability to vocalize continued to diminish over the past few years. We periodically got a few words, but it always seemed to be a struggle for her. At that December ER visit, she was able to tell Joe that she was hurting…and when Joe mentioned bringing by maple bars, she clearly said that she “loved maple bars.” On the 10th of February,  the hospice nurse called to say that Phyllis looked to be "transitioning." Within a couple days, she - once again - seemed to rally.  We had some wonderful moments in that rally. Finally, on March 3, the hospice team again advised that mom was beginning to transition, and indeed she was. Jeannie and Joe were by her side for her last breaths.  Mom's passing was peaceful and ended nearly 5 years struggling with Alzheimer's. Her fun-loving nature will be missed. Gene is working through his "sweetie" of 70 years' passing. We'll chronicle his journey here now.

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