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Patrice's Story

Dr. Vincent Nguyen and the CARES program make a special impact on the final stages of a mother’s life.

Over the last several years, Patrice Courteau loved, supported and cared for her mother Patricia through all stages of Alzheimer’s Disease. Hoag had played an important role throughout both of their lives—Patrice grew up volunteering at Hoag as a Candystriper throughout High School and Patricia worked for many years at California Orthopedic Practice preparing presentations for Hoag doctors. So, it was no surprise that Hoag came through during this most difficult time.

Patrice had promised her mother that she would honor her wishes of not ending her days in a hospital setting. “It had been the request of both of my parents to be able to pass from this life in the comfort and security of their own home, which was built in Newport Beach by my great Uncle in 1949, and is still our home today,” recalls Patrice.

However, on November 15, 2017, in the midst of a very stressful misunderstanding with a hired daytime caregiver, Patrice’s mother ended up in the emergency department (ED) at Hoag Hospital Newport Beach. It’s a day that Patrice still says she will never forget.

After several chaotic, taxing hours in the ED, Vincent Nguyen, M.D., director of Hoag’s CARES Program, entered the room. “When Dr. Nguyen joined us, his kind, therapeutic and patient-centered manner joined us as well,” says Patrice. “He first greeted my mother gracefully, and then, with such dignity, explained the Palliative CARES Program and offered the opportunity for my mother to experience it, if I felt it would be right for her.”

Hoag CARES, a comprehensive and specialized palliative care program, uses a multidisciplinary approach to provide holistic care and to lighten the burden for patients and their families. The CARES team focuses on the prevention, assessment, and treatment of pain and other symptoms, while providing health care planning and counsel on symptom management.

A Tranquil and Serene Transition

During the next two days, Patricia was beautifully cared for at Hoag Hospital Newport Beach by Dr. Nguyen and the CARES program. “My mother’s passing and transition was tranquil and serene. The respect for her was everything I had hoped to create for her if we’d been home,” explains Patrice. “The nursing staff was patient and kind. They willingly shared their knowledge and why they had chosen the work they do daily.”

As a therapist, Patrice was grateful for the kindness of Dr. Nguyen and the nursing staff who educated her on the process of transition. As a daughter, she was grateful for the quality of care her mother received.

“My mother was treated with such respect and loving care.  It was a gift to me to be able to experience this level of care for my mom while I was also processing her final hours,” says Patrice. “Had I known that Hoag had a program like this in advance of the end stages of my mother's Alzheimer's diagnosis, I would have been even better prepared. I would like to help others know that Hoag offers this program.”

Her Mission for the Future

Patrice now sees it as her mission (and a way to honor her mother’s memory) to help educate the community about the Hoag Palliative CARES program. “I believe that knowing and understanding what’s available and how to discuss and plan for all the steps of end of life will reduce the fear and trepidation that patients and families experience. As human beings, the unknown creates so much more fear and thus avoidance of planning ahead for the end of life,” explains Patrice.

“If I can use my experience and share with others what I was able to provide for my mother because of the experience of meeting Dr. Nguyen, I believe other individuals and families will be better served.”

Because of what she’s learned, Patrice had added the Hoag CARES program to her own end of life directives in her trust. “Hoag is where I’d like to receive end of life care when my time comes.”

For more information on the Palliative CARES program, please contact Angelina Morano at Angelina.Morano@Hoag.org or 949-764-7221.

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