LIHUE — In her final days, as Willa Reams was growing weaker, she was sleeping more and more with her mouth open.
She didn’t like it.
“She just felt that was so undignified,” said her daughter, Kathrin Reams.
It was her mother’s idea to use a stretchy piece of fabric to loop around her head and under her chin so her mouth would stay closed when she slept.
When she passed away from pancreatic cancer on Oct. 2, 2010, daughter Kathrin never forgot how peaceful and dignified her mother looked.
“After Mom died, my Dad removed the wrap and Mom’s jaw dropped wide open. Dad looked at me and said, ‘I should leave this on, eh?” Amidst my tears and fresh grief, I was awestruck by the simple solution to a post-death problem I had always encountered as a hospice nurse — the loss of dignity related to the inability to close the patient’s mouth after death.”
To honor her mother, and to help others maintain their dignity when they pass, Reams developed what she named “Willa Wrap,” after her mom.
It is an end-of-life chinwrap used to secure a closed mouth for your loved one after they have died.
Many elderly people, she said, die with their mouths open. “With the Willa Wrap back on, her Mom’s mouth remained closed, her expression peaceful and dignified,” Reams wrote.
Willa Wrap is her Mom’s legacy, she said, “one of the final gifts you can give your loved one, the gift of dignity.”
Reams, who worked at Kauai Hospice before recently moving to Colorado to focus on her new business venture, said around 75 people used Willa Wrap when she was on island.
She has invested nearly $30,000 in its development and marketing.
One Willa Wrap costs $20.
Kauai Hospice was the first hospice to use the Willa Wrap.
“They have embraced the innovative compassionate gesture and it has been wonderfully received by the families Kauai Hospice serves,” she wrote.
She recently launched Willa Wrap at a National Hospice and Palliative Care Conference in Kansas City, Mo. and plans to continue promoting it.
She believes it will benefit many families when their loved ones die.
“I think having this measure of control, being able to plan, is important,” she said.
“May you be comforted with the knowledge that you did everything you could to give the very best care,” Reams said.