Carroll Hospice
Ensuring Family Members Feel 'Safe, Comfortable and Loved'

Like many older adults, Rita Ford’s mother, Rita Priest, wanted to stay in her home for as long as possible, and her six children respected those wishes.

At age 93, Priest wasn’t ill, but she started to need assistance with daily living. Ford and one of her brothers took turns caring for her mother, who lived 40 minutes away. Then her mother started experiencing balance issues and falls. The family brought in an overnight agency to help with their mother’s care, and the siblings continued to care for their mother in shifts over the next four years.

“You just want to make your loved one feel safe, comfortable and loved,” says Ford.

At age 97, Ford’s mother moved in with her. It was an emotional time. “It was difficult for me to watch my mother give up her independence and lose her home,” Ford says.

While caring for her mother, Ford’s youngest brother learned he had cancer. When her brother passed away, her mother’s health rapidly declined. Providing care took a toll on Ford’s health. “Caregiving ages the caregiver,” she explains. “You put out energy without getting any energy back.”

Needing a break from the constant strain of caregiving, Ford utilized a respite care program for a week. After, her mother’s health declined until she ultimately needed hospice care; she passed away days after her 98th birthday.

Now, only months after her mother’s death, Ford is caring for her 91-year-old aunt with dementia. Ford relocated her aunt from Virginia to Westminster and visits her frequently. Ford continues to seek the support and assistance of the bereavement support services offered through Carroll Hospice, as well as the monthly caregiver support group offered by the Carroll County Bureau of Aging & Disabilities. Both are a place to share emotions and experiences and help with coping strategies.

Being a caregiver has strained Ford physically and emotionally. But, for her, she felt it was— and it continues to be—her responsibility to care for family who could no longer care for themselves.

“We were raised that you take care of your extended family,” says Ford. “That’s what you do.”