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VNA debuts live-in hospice house in Claremont

The Visiting Nurses Association of Southern California celebrated its 61st anniversary late last week with a special gift for its clients. The present came in the form of a 6-bedroom, 3200-square foot home away from home. After a year of renovations, VNA debuted its brand-new hospice house, a live-in facility providing clients with focused end-of-life care without the sterile hospital setting.  

“Our hospice home has state-of-the art technology with all the comforts of home,” said Marsha Fox, VNA president and chief executive officer. “Caring for a loved one at home sometimes becomes too difficult for family members when symptoms like pain are out of control and the patient needs round-the-clock care. Here in our beautiful home, they will receive highly specialized care staffed by nurses and aids 24/7 along with visits from our hospice physicians and other hospice staff to oversee the patient’s comfort and care.”

The homey abode is not only a new leap for the Claremont nonprofit, it’s a significant new step in hospice care for the region. Though 400 hospice houses exist throughout the country, this will be the first home in the San Gabriel Valley.

“With our 3 primary services of private duty care, home health and hospice, the hospice home brings us full circle as a major healthcare provider in our community,” Ms. Fox said.

The cozy single-story home is nestled near the foothills on North Indian Hill Boulevard. Each of the house’s 6 rooms comes with a door leading outdoors so that the families and loved ones living within can enjoy the scenery. The inside looks nothing like it did a year ago, as it was completely gutted for the remodel. The previous homeowners, Paul and Nancy Stewart, were on hand at the reveal to point out what had been previously there. The couple noted they were pleasantly surprised with the changes.

“We can’t wait to bring the boys to see,” said Ms. Stewart of her 4 sons, who she raised with her husband in the family home for 22 years. She is delighted that her former home, where she spent so much of her time with her loved ones, will now be used for such a meaningful purpose.

“We were so pleased when the Visiting Nurses Association approached us on [buying this home],” Ms. Stewart continued. “We thoroughly believe in the VNA. We are 100 percent behind them on this project.”

“It’s repurposed for a wonderful cause,” her husband added.

The center of the home is outfitted with a nurse’s station, and a spacious kitchen and a series of living room nooks and bedrooms line the home’s perimeter. There is nothing sterile about it; each room is equipped with a flat-screen TV, beds fitted with colorful quilts and electronic reclining leather chairs. Oxygen tanks and any other equipment can be safely tucked away in drawers and away from sight.

“I first put myself in one of those beds. That’s where it starts,” said Wendy Frampton, interior designer of the VNA project, who has also designed similar homes in San Diego. “I then put myself in the position of one of the family members. I am trying to create a very welcoming ambiance. I am trying to create a big hug.”

The hospital portion will fill the center of the home with easy access to the surrounding rooms. Physicians and nurses will be available around-the-clock for both patients and their families, who will also have access to wireless Internet to communicate more easily with loved ones who are away. The house will provide a supportive environment where families can lean on others for support. Sue Nice and fellow volunteers Laverna Vaniman and Sharon Mekic look forward to the support they can provide to families within the comforts of this new setting.

“I want to work here!” Ms. Nice said, eliciting agreement and laughter from her friends. “Just to help be a support to the team and be there for the families. Just to show that you care.”

Ms. Nice became a volunteer with the VNA 4 years ago. After VNA provided her and her husband with needed support during his final days, she now dedicates her time to helping families going through similar situations. In helping at the VNA Hospice House, Ms. Nice will provide support to families in desperate need as those who come to the home are expected to live in the facility for only a matter of weeks.

“The VNA was so wonderful when I was losing my husband,” Ms. Nice said. “Now I want to help give back.”

Clients already under VNA’s care will have first priority, but Ms. Fox says service at the home will not be limited to those already receiving the nonprofit’s service.

“With the support of our community, this home will serve as a safe haven for those who don’t have a home or a loving family to take care of them in their final days,” Ms. Fox said. “Caring for the dying is our sacred responsibility.”

The VNA team looks forward to making good on that mission.

“It is such a pleasure to announce the completion of our renovation project on our 61st anniversary date and literally open the door to the next chapter of VNA’s legacy,” Ms. Fox said.

—Beth Hartnett

news@claremont-courier.com

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