Aimee Gustitis, R.N.

Jack Louden and his wife Dolores enjoyed many years of marriage including a family of eight children, who now have children and grandchildren of their own. Towards the end of her life, Dolores looked out for Jack as he was showing some signs of dementia, a condition formally diagnosed shortly after her passing. After 64 years of marriage, she departed on her heavenly journey. As the family grieved over the loss of their beloved matriarch, Jack’s dementia began to advance, requiring his placement in a Chester County memory care community. It is here that our caregiving story begins.

Today, the eight Louden siblings remain close. Following their parents’ example, they continue to celebrate the gift of family. The three sisters, Dee Burke, Terri Benedetti and Jennifer Jung, joyfully share the physical, emotional and spiritual support for their father. Because he resides in a community setting, their ability to visit and care for him has been significantly limited due to the COVID restrictions.

In an effort to find strength and support, the sisters turned to House Calls for Caregivers, a virtual arm of the Nourish for Caregivers ministry flourishing in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Nourish House Calls is an online support group designed to minister to those caring for aging or disabled loved ones.

It was Terri who first participated in the program after learning about it through her church. She went on to explain, “In the fall of 2019 under the direction of our pastor, Father Edward Bell, the Nourish For Caregivers ministry started at my parish, Nativity B.V.M. in Media. It was fortuitous in that it gave me a support system as a caregiver. Some of my parish friends attended who were also caring for their loved ones. Once COVID began, the virtual option was perfect in terms of timing for me for what I was going through with my aging father.”

Jennifer said the ministry provided a much-needed sense of community. “My husband often travels for work, so at times I feel isolated being home alone with my kids and worrying about my dad,” she said. “I am grateful for this program because it gives me a way to connect with both my sisters and other caregivers. It brings me peace and has made me more faith-filled.”

Dee described how the ministry entered the life of her family at a critical juncture. “My father was enrolled in hospice one month prior to the COVID shutdown. We are so fortunate to have learned about this benefit through Nourish. It gave me so much peace knowing that the hospice team, along with the dedicated staff at Dad’s facility, were looking after him in a special way. I really believe God had a hand in it.”

When the sisters were asked how Nourish and the COVID crisis specifically impacted their Catholic faith, Jennifer recounted how their family was gripped with fear after they learned their father was being treated for the virus. By God’s grace and through the work of his devoted healthcare team, he survived.

“God is always reminding us that he is divine and we are human and to keep your faith strong,” Jennifer said. “Why did my father survive? We may never know the answer, but my faith has definitely gotten stronger through COVID and Nourish. I now recite the ‘Surrender Novena’ each morning as a way to prayerfully relinquish the fears I have surrounding COVID and my father.”

Dee added, “Nourish has been a wonderful outlet for me. I have gained a lot of contentment from this ministry. I know our dad is in a good place. He is getting excellent care, he is safe and he is fed. God is looking out for him.”

The Louden sisters agree that caregiving can bring one to their knees. However, they take great comfort in their mother’s loving example as a faith-filled caregiver. Terri encourages those caring for aging or disabled loved ones to embrace the wisdom, knowledge and understanding that Nourish offers as a way to manage what often feels like an out-of-control time of life.

“Nourish House Calls provides a spiritual infusion of grace and strengthens my faith for sure,” said Teri. “The program almost feels like it’s a vessel into my father’s heart.”

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Aimee Gustitis, BSN, RN, JD is a registered nurse and caregiver consultant who for the past 10 years has worked in long-term care, home, hospice and hospital settings to help caregivers navigate both senior health care and school-based nursing care systems. She is also coordinator of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Nourish for Caregivers ministry, which is offered through the archdiocese’s Office for the New Evangelization. The Nourish ministry meets virtually and in person throughout the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. For more information visit http://www.phillyevang.org/nourish or contact Aimee Gustitis at aimee@goodcaregiver.net.