Relatives of victim Audrey Booth described how they felt “emotionally ripped apart” by the offence.
Kevin Gogan forced open patio doors at the 79-year-old great grandmother’s house on Farm Hill Rise, Meanwood, Leeds, after she was admitted to hospital in January this year.
Gogan, 35, stole the highly sentimental jewellery along with more than a £1,000 worth of electrical items.
Mrs Booth’s daughter Lisa discovered her mother’s home had been broken into when she went to check on the property.
Gogan was arrested when he was recognised from CCTV footage as he carried the stolen items into the street on January 31.
Michael Smith, prosecuting, said Mrs Booth died on February 11.
The prosecutor read victim impact statements on behalf of Mrs Booth’s daughter.
They described how Mrs Booth knew Gogan and had often been kind to him, giving him food and paying him to carry out odd jobs for her.
Daughter Lisa Booth said: “To watch a parent passing is difficult enough.
“But to know that the person who stole her belongings was a neighbour who she fed and took care of makes it all the more harder.
“I cannot put in to words the pain and depression that is has brought.”
Another daughter, Tracy Moakes, said: “The defendant not only robbed mum of her possessions but also of her final wishes to pass jewellery on to family members.”
Gogan, of Farm Hill Rise, Meanwood, pleaded guilty to burglary.
He has previous convictions for robbery and burglary.
At the time of the offence he was the subject of a community order for stealing lawn mowers from Headingley cricket ground.
Anthony Sugare, mitigating, said Gogan committed the offence to feed his heroin addiction.
Mr Sugare said Gogan accepted he knew the house was unoccupied at the time but did not know that Mrs Booth was in hospital.
Gogan was jailed for 16 months.
Recorder Ian Harris said: “It is quite clear you have caused anguish to that family at the most dreadful time.”