Social hospice homes filling the gap in end-of-life care

When dying at home is not an option, social model hospice homes provide relief to this growing population of individuals. Many times, loved ones are not able to care for dying people on their own, many individuals have no one to fill that role and there are times that family members need a break from providing around-the-clock care for those at the end of their life. Social model hospice homes provide an answer to this growing need. They fill a critical gap which is unmet by state and government funding or private insurance by providing loving care for the dying in the last month of life. While the guest’s hospice program provides necessary medical management, these community-supported homes are an extension of the guest’s home, providing 24-hour physical, spiritual and emotional support to the dying individual and their immediate circle.

These community-supported homes are few and far between; less than 50 such homes exist in the US. Luckily three of them are in northeast Oklahoma: Clarehouse and Porta Caeli House in Tulsa and The Journey Home in Bartlesville. These not-for-profit homes provide a place for the dying person to live out their final days at no cost; the homes are supported entirely by individual donors, corporations and foundation grants. They enable individuals to have a quality dying experience without incurring further financial burden.

Guests come to these homes in the last days to weeks of life, ensuring dignity and comfort during the dying process, all while helping them make the most of their final journey. The staff and volunteers in each of these homes give guests a peaceful place and support their families during this difficult time. Care includes personal hygiene, assistance with activities of daily living, and meals.  Under the supervision of licensed hospice agencies, these homes give medications as a family member would within their own home. Because these homes are an extension of persons home, guests are cared for as though they are family. These homes provide crisis relief for caregivers who are unable to manage on their own during those last, intense, and demanding days of caring for a dying loved one. Through volunteers and paid staff, these homes offer additional support to their guests and families, which can include pet therapy, music visitors, massage therapy, haircuts, pastoral care, memorial tokens and more. Each home offers large, private bedrooms, sleeping arrangements for a loved one, gathering spaces, meal hospitality, chapels and outdoor gardens.

Clarehouse is the veteran home in the group, with 13 years of providing care for dying people in need. Their reputation for excellence and their commitment to being a best practice organization has made them a strong community partner across the continuum of care in this region. With their commitment to the growth of this compassionate approach to care, Clarehouse actively shares results and experience to foster the model and offers site visits and mentoring to developing projects across the state and nation. Clarehouse started with humble beginnings by opening to the community out of an apartment and now has grown into a 10-bedroom home in south Tulsa.

The Journey Home in Bartlesville is the result of a business plan that led to the development of a steering committee consisting mostly of medical professionals.  A small house was leased, albeit in terrible shape, but the committee and other hospice volunteers shouldered the job of installing a wheelchair ramp, painting the house inside and out, landscaping, furnishing and decorating the rooms. Now, three and a half years later, The Journey Home has served more than 300 patients and their families, and is operating at 98% to 100% occupancy. Thus, the board is actively looking to build a home that will reach even more people in the community.  They would like to have six bedrooms with lots of bathrooms and plenty of space for families to enjoy the last window of time with the guest.

Since opening in January 2017, Porta Caeli House has served more than 130 guests and their families. Porta Caeli House was born from the change in mission of the former St. Joseph Residence, a home for those dying of AIDS. After a successful fundraising campaign was added to existing funds from St. Joseph Residence, the 12-bedroom home was built on North Harvard. While operating within the guidelines of the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, they are open to all faiths and backgrounds. Just like the other two homes with dedicated staff and volunteers, Porta Caeli House is providing 24-hour, compassionate end-of-life care to guests and families from all walks of life.

Ultimately, the primary purpose of social model hospice homes is to show compassion, comfort, dignity and fellowship to people in their last days of life. The support of the community is vital for the operation of these homes. For more information on how you can help, go to the following websites: