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Lakewood Ranch woman talks of Tidewell Hospice's impact

Miriam Boots says her husband's final days were made more peaceful by the hospice's care and kindness.

The late Craig Boots of the Country Club was a former Navy pilot who flew planes off aircraft carriers.
The late Craig Boots of the Country Club was a former Navy pilot who flew planes off aircraft carriers.
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For a June 2021 story in the East County Observer, Country Club's Miriam Boots shared many of the intimate details of being the caregiver for her husband, Craig Boots, who was negotiating parkinsonism disorder.

She wanted to help others dealing with a similar situation. 

But eventually she faced an even tougher task.

Craig Boots, 77, died April 28.

As Miriam Boots began to plan a Celebration of Life 11 a.m. June 4 at Harvest Methodist Church in Lakewood Ranch, she started to think about all she and Craig had been through, and how those final weeks would have been unbearable if not for the support she received from Tidewell Hospice.

Miriam Boots was gracious enough to speak to me about that experience.

"I took care of him until I couldn't anymore," she said. "It is important to realize caregivers have got to take take of themselves, too. When I became ill, I realized we needed help."

Jay Heater: Side of Ranch
Jay Heater: Side of Ranch

She stopped to point out that before Tidewell Hospice became involved, she was getting excellent help from a professional caregiver, Kenyan Smith of Smith Essential Homecare. One of the tips in the previous article I wrote with Miriam Boots was to find trusted help to give yourself a break when you are acting as a caregiver. Through the Neuro Challenge Foundation, she connected with Smith, who became more important as time marched forward and Craig Boots became more ill.

"She just helped me with so many decisions and she became a personal friend," Miriam Boots said. "She helped us through the maze."

Coming off a hospital stay of her own, Miriam Boots, with guidance from Smith, arranged for her husband to receive care at Windsor Reflections. She didn't want to move her husband out of the home, "but deep down, I think Craig knew I couldn't do it anymore. I was tied to an oxygen machine."

She called the staff at Windsor Reflections "tremendous" and said, along with Smith, they helped her as Craig Boots began to fade.

"You need that kind of help, and Windsor helped us to know what to do when," Miriam Boots said. "Just as I was about to ask them about hospice, because I could see he was going downhill, they said to me, it's time.'"

Miriam Boots said she wants those going through a similar situation to know that Tidewell Hospice works with a facility such as Windsor Reflections or at your home, or at one of their facilities. In this case, Tidewell Hospice personnel came to Windsor Reflections to care for Craig Boots.

She said right away Tidewell brought a hospital bed to Windsor Reflections for her husband. They took over the administration of medications. They asked if she needed a chaplain, and when she told them her minister's name, they went to him and asked him to visit, which he did.

Craig and Miriam Boots at home in the Country Club.
Craig and Miriam Boots at home in the Country Club.

While Miriam Boots spent most of her time at Windsor Reflections, she said Tidewell Hospice kept her informed about his condition whenever she couldn't be there. 

A check on Tidewell Hospice's website provided this information about paying for hospice care.

"As a nonprofit hospice, our mission is to ensure that everyone in our community needing hospice care receives it. Our services are covered by Medicare, Medicaid, managed care, private health insurance and private pay. Through the community’s generous support to the Tidewell Foundation, we can help cover care and other essential needs for those having difficulty paying."

So a little bit about Craig Boots, who was diagnosed with parkinsonism in April 2020. He was born Nov. 4, 1944 in West Palm Beach. He eventually graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in engineering. A Lt. Commander, he became a U.S. Navy aviator and was a flight instructor as well as flying planes off aircraft carriers.

He put his engineering skills to use after the military, building agricultural machines, and medical and municipal waste disposal systems. He traveled the world to install those waste disposal systems.

He is survived by a son, Brian and his partner Julia Kunigan of Orlando. Miriam Boots asked that in lieu of flowers at the Celebration of Life service, that people donate to "a charity close to your heart or simply do something kind for someone else."

She never had to remind anyone at Windsor Reflections or Tidewell Hospice that there was a wonderful person inside the patient during his final days.

"Those people show such kindness to people who are so helpless," Miriam Boots said. "We don't pay them enough. Every time I saw them, I was sure to express thanks.

"I was looking to these people who had dealt with this before. Windsor people helped. Tidewell people helped. I took their advice."

Tidewell contacted her and asked if she needed counseling. They stayed in contact with her to make sure she was doing well.

"They do prepare you for the end," she said. "He was having a bad day on Good Friday, April 15. They told me that it looked like he was going downhill. He was in bed with labored breathing, but in the next few days, he was up walking again.

"The week prior to his death, he stopped eating and drinking. They told me, 'Nobody knows when, but it is coming. They told me make funeral arrangements. He died April 28."

She said the final week before her husband died, she was at Windsor day and night. She would play music for him, including the Navy Hymn (Eternal Father, Strong to Save), which he always had loved. Despite his state, she said she knew the music gave him joy.

Without the professional help, Miriam Boots said the time would have been much more stressful and she is convinced his passing wouldn't have been as peaceful.

In the days following her husband's death, Miriam Boots said she is coping. She said her wonderful neighborhood friends continue to uplift and support her. They will be at the Celebration of Life.

I asked for a bit about what she would say.

"I wrote out my piece," she said. "I will say that Craig was the most kind, intelligent, gentle man I ever knew. We were married a week short of 32 years, and it was a blessing. I loved every moment with this wonderful man, who never raised his voice to me. He worked hard and he always was calm."

So this chapter of her life has passed and she gives her advice to those experiencing something similar.

"Think the world of hospice," she said. "They walk along beside you. I followed their lead and they helped me with compassion."


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