End of life care can be frustrating and draining, both emotionally and financially, for family members as they try to keep their loved ones comfortable after receiving a terminal prognosis.
The Carolina Comfort Coalition opened its first Serenity House, a comfort-care home, in 2007 to meet the needs of those who have little time left.
Cheryl Pletcher, executive director and founder of Carolina Comfort Coalition, was greeting old friends and making new ones as visitors browsed the yard and bake sale at the Mooresville Serenity house Aug. 28. The charity is not part of a government-funded program, but Hospice refers families in need of their help.
Pletcher was surprised, when she moved to Mooresville from New York state in 2000, that there were no comfort-care homes in North Carolina. She said in her home state there was a comfort care home in every town.
Starting with seven volunteers, who were also New York transplants and had worked at comfort-care homes before moving here, Pletcher asked for support from the community in 2006, and the community responded. Centre Presbyterian Church offered the use of their parsonage for $1 per year rent, while other local businesses and residents started donating money, time or goods.
Pletcher said that they found the need so great that they opened a second Serenity House in nearby Huntersville, with a mortgage, in 2014. “Between 2007 and 2011, we had to turn away 300 families,” she said.
With a staff of 70 volunteers, Pletcher has one full-time employee besides herself and hires part-time nurses to fill in overnight for the 24-hour care that is required. “It takes $24,000 a month to support both houses, and the community has been generous. We do good work, and people recognize what we do,” she said.
The service is free to the families, and each house has two bedrooms for those who need the help. Each residence is decorated with a cozy, home-style environment, and the grounds have been landscaped by local gardening clubs.
Other than the hospital beds in the bedrooms, there is no hint of what happens there.
Some of the volunteers are retired nurses, like Pletcher, but many are ordinary people from the community, providing the compassionate care. “This is people taking care of people in their time of need,” said Pletcher.
Hospice usually refers patients with a prognosis of three months or fewer to live, but Pletcher said the usual stay averages about one month. Some patients have recovered to go home or to a long-care facility, but that is not the normal outcome.
The sale raised about $3,000 while increasing visibility of the organization in the community. Their next fundraiser will be the Black and White Night on Oct. 2 at the Charles Mack Citizen Center in Mooresville.
Pletcher said they serve between 24 and 28 families per year, and their 200th patient died the night before the yard sale. “I think this is what God meant for us to do. Take care of each other,” she said.
“If you can’t stay in your own home, this is the next best thing,” she said.
Marty Price is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org
For information about the Carolina Comfort Coalition and the Serenity House go to: http://carolinacomfortcoalition.org.