BY JENNIFER CROWLEY
Anyone driving down Scottsville-Chili Road over the last two years has undoubtedly noticed the transformation of land at the corner of North Road. Where once stood a Wells barn today stands a modern building, Patrick Place, the newest and tenth Comfort Care Home to serve people who are in the final stages of life.
Slated to open and accept patients starting this spring, Patrick Place has been a labor of love for nearly ten years. It was back in 2008 that a group of Catholic parishes, Five Saints West (5SW), comprised of St. Mary of the Assumption (Scottsville), St. Columba-St. Patrick (Caledonia), St. Vincent de Paul (Churchville) and St. Christopher in (North Chili) started discussions around the feasibility of a Comfort Home to serve towns south and west of Rochester. After completing the necessary due diligence around need and cost, the group, along with support from the Diocese, decided to move forward. And some eight years later, the 5SW vision is becoming a reality.
“It’s amazing how things have just fallen into place” were some of the first words that the home’s Director, Wendy Chapman RN, said to me. “Only weeks after I started here there was a knock at the door and it was a retired software engineer offering her services to implement our volunteer and donor tracking systems. Then in December, another knock, and now we have a cabinet maker building us a custom medication cabinet. And that’s just how it’s been, everything coming together,” said Chapman who assumed the role of director last June. Previously she worked for nearly 15 years as a hospice nurse in both Livingston and Monroe counties. Chapman additionally has several years’ experience as a hospice educator.
Known locally as Homes for the Dying, each two-bedroom Comfort Care Home works on the same model: no-cost end-of-life care provided in large part due to the enormous role of volunteers. “We currently have about 90 volunteers, most of them are being trained to be bedside care providers. They provide no hospice care and they have no medical background, they are there to provide physical care, companionship and family support,” Chapman explained.
When asked about common fears or misunderstandings people may have about the Comfort Home environment, she answered without hesitation, “That it’s depressing – because it’s actually life-affirming. For patients, it comes down to being the time and the place, the slowdown comes and brings on great insight and growth. Many volunteers find that being exposed to what is essentially a person’s reckoning can be very profound yet also calming.”
When Patrick Place opens it will be able to serve two patients at a time, each in a modern, spacious bedroom with an attached bathroom. Patients, who have three or fewer months to live, are encouraged to make it feel as home-like as possible; families are encouraged to be part of the process. A nurse on staff will tend to each patient’s medical needs while overarching hospice care will be provided through the appropriate agency.
Another misconception Chapman offered up on the topic of Comfort Care Homes is that they don’t reach a lot of people since they can only accommodate two patients at a time. “The truth is that hospice volunteers and subsequently, their personal networks, learn and grow deeply from the experience. From a community point of view, our Patrick Place team intend to provide public education sessions that will likely include topics such as difficult conversations, understanding advanced directives, or coping with grief during the holidays.”
As for the community’s impact on Patrick Place, Chapman says she has been wildly impressed with the support and interest thus far, two factors that make her feel confident that the non-profit home will become self-sustainable through fundraising activities and in-kind donations. A number of events are being planned for 2018 including a summer gala and a golf tournament; Chapman is actively seeking volunteers that have experience in development and promotions to aid those marketing efforts. Additionally, Patrick Place is still seeking an electric dryer and utility tub prior to its official opening.
The enthusiasm that Wendy Chapman has for Patrick Place is nearly infectious. While on a tour of the open basement, she was painting the future out using her hands. “This will eventually be a training room and over here a larger family bedroom and out back, we will be putting on a deck the length of the house so that patients can get outside for fresh air.” She concluded the vision by adding that the goal is to build the deck this summer with volunteer carpenters that have already stepped up, they just need to secure wood and materials.
“Who wants to ever talk about the fact that someone they love is dying? Yet death is a universal experience that has a design, over which none of us has any control. But knowledge and support can make it more meaningful because there truly is a richness to the end-of-life,” offered Chapman.
To learn more about Patrick Place including how to volunteer, donate items or enroll in a recurring donation program, visit www.patrickplace.org or call 585-889-0040.