Anyone who knew Max Hoffman remembers he was always up to something. Max was a busy man with more than a few hobbies throughout his life, usually revolving around family and helping others.
Iris, Max’s wife, will always remember how their love story began.
“We went to the same high school,” Iris recalls. “I was attracted to Max because of his fun, outgoing personality and his caring and giving character. He was also very striking with his wavy hair.”
The two quickly became classic high school sweethearts. After they graduated from Lititz High School in 1955, Max went into the Navy, and Iris studied education. They got married after she graduated, and they were together for 59 years before Max passed away in March 2018.
Max had been diagnosed with vascular dementia, which was accelerated by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). As Max’s dementia progressed, Iris could no longer care for him at home, even with the support she was receiving from her family.
“Entering him into memory care was one of the most difficult decisions of my life,” she said.
After Max experienced several hospitalizations, Iris realized they would both benefit from hospice care.
“I wanted to have a consistent person who he would recognize, because of his dementia,” Iris said.
Although their lives had changed since Max’s diagnosis, and their situation wasn’t ideal, Iris found great help through hospice care. Staff helped them through the decline in Max’s health, and Iris found solace in hospice’s recommended caregiver support groups.
Iris remembers hospice being there every step of the way. She also remembers special moments Hospice staff helped create.
“The nurses’ aides were very caring and attentive,” Iris said. “One of them was able to connect with Max through their shared love of music. They both loved classic rock like Bob Dylan, Neil Young and the Grateful Dead. They were also both Steelers fans.
“He enjoyed oil painting as a hobby, so we put some of his paintings in his room to make it feel more like home. He liked to paint scenery – outdoor scenery with old barns.”
Hospice staff even helped create a special day for Iris and Max to celebrate their 59th wedding anniversary.
“They got us a meal from our favorite restaurant for our wedding anniversary,” Iris said. “They got balloons, and someone even baked a cake, and we ate in the private dining room.”
The food, purchased by Hospice for their anniversary, was from the same Italian restaurant that Max and Iris would visit each year to celebrate their anniversary. Hospice helped them celebrate this tradition one last time.
Throughout their marriage, Max and Iris traveled quite often on fishing and beach trips to Canada and Virginia. Up north, they would rent out a cabin and take their three kids along for the trip.
“Max loved to fish, so I learned to fish over the years, as well. We would also go down to vacation in Virginia and catch flounder,” she said.
In retirement, they traveled to Florida for two weeks each spring and would go to spring training baseball games.
They were both lifelong fans of baseball and football, traveling to Maryland to watch their favorite sports teams, the Baltimore Orioles and the Baltimore Colts.
Max was an avid volunteer with Meals on Wheels and often ran races for charity events, a passion he took up in his 30s.
Through Hospice’s veteran recognition program, Max was honored and presented with a patriotic handmade throw blanket and a certificate for his service by a Hospice staff member.
Looking back, Iris believes she made the right decision about involving hospice care. “I think when we realized that he wasn’t going to get better, it was the right time,” she said. “They fulfilled all of his needs.”
Fortunately, Hospice extended its support system to Iris, as she worked through the loss of her husband.
“After he passed, I received great support for grieving,” she recalls. “Heidi [Young, bereavement coordinator] came two or three times to my home, and I got letters every month. They realize that each grieving process is different and allow each person to process it in their own way.”
Reflecting on her journey through hospice, Iris has one piece of advice for those who may be considering hospice care for a family member.
“Don’t wait too long,” she says. “They’re available as soon as you feel they’re needed.”