Bringing Shelby Home

Shelby Puller was always impeccably dressed and put together—nails done, hair just so.

“People thought she was my sister, she just looked that good,” says her daughter, Dawn Hapbell.

A mother, wife and homemaker who raised three children, Shelby was one who couldn’t sit still, and she kept a meticulous house. “She would change the living room furniture three times a week, moving it herself,” Dawn remembers.

Shelby loved her family, and she loved to travel, often visiting her sister in Florida to escape the cold weather here before moving to North Carolina permanently six years ago.

Dawn started to notice little changes when she’d talk to her mother on the phone. At first, it was difficulty remembering people’s names, including Dawn’s. Then her mother left her a message convinced that she was Dawn’s aunt. Concerned, Dawn traveled to North Carolina to visit her mother and take her for testing.

Dawn Hapbell cared for her mother, Shelby Puller, during her last months of life. Diagnosed with dementia, Shelby would often ask to see the teenage Dawn featured in this photograph.

Ultimately, a neurologist’s screening determined that Shelby had Lewy Body Dementia that was quickly progressing. Dawn brought her mother home to Hampstead to care for her. Because of the dementia, Shelby would become agitated, confused and upset. “Many nights we sat on the bathroom floor with the door locked because people were trying to get her,” Dawn remembers.

It was an exhausting responsibility, and Dawn went for days without sleep. “For five months, I slept on the couch because it was right under her bedroom. I was afraid of her trying to leave the house,” she says.

Two months after bringing her home, Shelby’s physician and Carroll Hospice’s medical director, John Middleton, M.D., suggested hospice care.

“I thought ‘Oh my God, my mother’s dying,’” Dawn remembers, “and he said ‘Hospice is more than that.’”

Shelby entered Dove House, Carroll Hospice’s inpatient facility, twice for respite care and to adjust her medications, then received hospice care at home.

While at Dove House, Shelby’s mobility made her a unique patient. Her disease made it difficult for her to feel settled, and walking the halls soothed her. In order to make sure her needs were fully met, the hospice team added staff and volunteers during her stays. “Hospice was a Godsend,” Dawn says. “I don’t know what I would have done without them. She really walked some paths in the short hallway there.”

As Shelby’s dementia progressed, she lost weight, and her memories started reverting to previous time periods in her life, to when she was raising her children, to when she met her husband, to her own childhood.

“Each day was a new day,” Dawn remembers. “She would wake up and had forgotten how to do something—how to put on her shoes, how to fix her hair, how to put her makeup on.”

Surrounded by her family, Shelby passed away in February, approximately five months after coming home to Maryland. In honor of the care that Shelby received, Dawn and her two brothers made a gift to Carroll Hospice and asked that donations be made to the organization in lieu of flowers. Dawn also started two Facebook fundraisers, one after Shelby’s death and the other in October, in honor of her mother’s birth month raising more than $2,000 for Carroll Hospice.

“Hospice offered all kinds of services—to come in and bathe her and to sit and spend time with her, but, for me, it was a bonding time,” Dawn remembers. “My mother always took care of us, it was my turn to take care of her.”

Originally published in DASH, Carroll Hospice’s community newsletter.

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