By DAVID BORAKS
Organizers of a proposed “comfort care home” in the Davidson-Cornelius area will host a community meeting Sept. 20 to explain and promote the project, which they say offers a new model of end of life care for our area.
For families of those nearing death, “comfort care” is an alternative to the hospital, hospice, a nursing home, or your own home – options that aren’t always good fit for some families. Since 2007, Serenity House, off I-77 Exit 33, in Mooresville has been the area’s only comfort care home and as demand for the service grows, organizers are trying to bring a “comfort care” home to this area.
The project is gathering support, but the nonprofit Carolina Comfort Coalition, parent of Serenity House, still needs a home or building in the area.
Comfort care homes like Serenity House aren’t medical facilities. They’re more like a home, with nursing care as needed, according to Cheryl Pletcher, a hospice nurse who helped found Serenity House. She’s a hospice nurse who says a comfort care takes into account the needs of caregivers, as well as patients.
“There’s a gap in the hospice system,” said Ms. Pletcher, executive director Carolina Comfort Coalition. “The hospice program was founded on the pillar of the family unit. That was 30 years ago, and families are very different.”
Today, she said, many families no longer have someone at home who can take care of a terminally ill person 24 hours a day. Often, the caregiver ends up being a spouse, after children move away. Comfort care users sometimes are blended families that want a separate location where their loved ones can die, but which still functions as a home would.
ONE MAN’S STORY
Serenity House already is serving families from throughout the area, and a second home would allow it to accept more local patients. Ms. Pletcher tells the story of one Davidson man whose family was caring for him as he died. He was moving among his children’s homes, so they could share the burden of care.
“The fellow was really too ill to be by himself. He was moving from house to house so they could take care of him,” she said. All of the children had used up all their leave time at the jobs and were taking time off without pay. They needed relief, but they didn’t want to give up the chance for him to die in a comfortable setting.
“He wanted to be with his family, but he didn’t want to be a burden,” Ms. Pletcher said. “The important thing was he didn’t want to leave the memory of passing away in any of his children’s homes.”
The man spent his final days at Serenity House.
WHAT IS A COMFORT CARE HOME?
The Sept. 20 meeting will give people in the community a chance to learn more about comfort care and how they can help Carolina Comfort Coalition meet its goal of adding a second house in the Lake Norman area.
One of the main differences between comfort care and other options is the length of stay. Comfort care is aimed in part at the needs of caregivers, so the average stay is three months, Ms. Pletcher said. At a hospital or a hospice house, a stay is just days.
“We have an extended window of time that they can say there,” Ms. Pletcher said. “We are not medical, we are a social model.”
Comfort care is “people taking care of each other in their time of need,” in a home or home-like setting.
The home is staffed by volunteers in 4-hour shifts, who become a sort of “foster family” around the clock for the terminally ill resident. Family are free to come and go as they would in a private home.
WANTED: A BUILDING
Comfort care is becoming more popular, and Serenity House currently has a lengthy waiting list. Most of its equipment, furniture and labor are donated, and its house – off I-77 Exit 33 in Mooresville – is leased for $1 a year from nearby Centre Presbyterian Church.
Organizers are hoping to find a house or building in Davidson or Cornelius that will allow them to add beds. They’ve looked at other facilities, and recently toured the former Davidson Clinic on South Main Street. But they deemed that too old and in need of repairs.
The ideal location would be a home with two bedrooms, available for a rent of $1 a year. They’re hoping someone will come forward and donate a home or building.
An organizing committee is being chaired by Amy Shue Isaacs of McIntosh Law Firm, who also is on the Carolina Comfort Coalition board. The committee met for the first time last month, and is seeking endorsements and support from the community as it works to establishing a second house in the area.
The effort has a $4,000 seed grant from the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte to help organize.
The coalition also will be raising money to help pay for the home, including at a fundraising day at Tenders restaurant in Cornelius in October.
WANT TO HELP?
The community meeting is Thursday, Sept. 20, at 7 p.m. at Homewood Suites, 125 Harbour Place Drive, off I-77 Exit 30. For more information, call 704-799-0392 or visit the Carolina Comfort Coalition website, www.carolinacomfortcoalition.org.
July 20, 2011, “Organizers pitch comfort care as a new end-of-life option.”