LatinaLista — In the Latino culture, the notion that any member of our families would die alone is such a foreign concept that we don’t give it a second thought. Unfortunately, when it comes to terminally ill, indigent people, who have no extended family, the prospect of dying alone isn’t just inevitable, it’s likely that it will happen and not in the best of places.
Two women in Ventura County, California saw firsthand how end-of-life patients, who were in their last months of living, and had no money to afford good care, were either dying alone or in horrible conditions or both. The women decided to do something about it.
Teresa Wolf, a registered nurse, and Ruth Klein, also a nurse, joined forces and formed Our Community House of Hope (OCHH).
The mission of OCHH is “to establish and operate a loving end-of-life care home for people in the community; to provide quality care and access to hospice services at no cost to their residents and their families; and to develop an educational center for end-of-life care issues.”
The women saw the need for such a hospice when they realized how many of the elderly can’t afford quality care in their last days:
For people 65 and older, Medicare will pay for medication and for a hospice nurse to visit a dying patient twice a week or so. Private health insurance does the same. But neither insurance will pay for round-the-clock caregivers or a place to live for a homeless terminally ill patient, someone who is often on heavy medication and unable to care for themselves.
The women started OCHH in 2055 but are just now realizing their dream of a physical place. Next month, they will officially open a four-bedroom hospice in Thousand Oaks, California where they can service four end-of-life patients.
However, their work is far from done. Citing the extreme need among the elderly in their area, of whom 20 percent live below the poverty line, the women are already looking ahead to where else they can expand their vision.
In the meantime, there are still some items on their “wish list” for the new hospice that they need and will continue fundraising up till the doors open.
“Where does the alone, isolated or needy person go to die? What resources do they have available to them when they are no longer capable of caring for themselves and their family is either unable or unwilling to do so? What obligation does a community have to care for the basic human needs of its dying members? Finding a bed for a needy dying person in a skilled nursing facility is challenging at best and sometimes impossible. Current government programs fall far short of meeting the current needs.” – Bonnie Olson, CEO Buena Vista Hospice, Inc.