By Annette Hinkle
Hospice care is a service many people don’t even think about.
Until they need it.
That’s the point at which hospice becomes indispensible — not only for a patient nearing the end of his or her life, but for families who must struggle with the inevitable and say goodbye.
While East End Hospice is based in Westhampton Beach and has had a strong presence on both the North and South Forks for 21 years, it doesn’t have an inpatient facility. Instead, the hospice’s staff of nurses and caregivers travel to hospitals and private homes throughout the area to provide comfort and support in the end stages of patients’ lives.
But that will soon change.
Come March, East End Hospice will break ground on an eight-bed facility to be built on six acres of waterfront property donated to the organization in the hamlet of Quiogue.
Designed by the Bridgehampton-based architectural firm Roger Ferris + Partners, LLC, the inpatient facility will take 12 to 16 months to complete and will cost $10 million (which includes a $2 million endowment). So far, East End Hospice has raised just over $5.4 million toward the project.
To that end, Ted Conklin, owner of The American Hotel in Sag Harbor, is now offering “Dinner for a Cause,” a nightly $40 prix fixe at the legendary Main Street eatery with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the project. For the next 11 weeks, $10 from each prix fixe dinner served at the hotel will go toward the hospice’s “Building the Dream” campaign and construction of the facility. The effort culminates in a March 24 concert at the hotel by jazz pianist Judy Carmichael.
Maggie Goldfarb, East End Hospice’s capital campaign coordinator, explained this partnership is just the latest in a long standing relationship between the hospice and Conklin’s family.
“Ted grew up in Westhampton Beach and his family has been involved with hospice for years and years,” said Goldfarb. “He told me this piece of land [where the facility will be built] is less than a mile from his childhood home.”
“There is a long and proud tradition of Quogue and Westhampton families supporting East End Hospice over the last couple of decades,” added Conklin. “I hope the hotel’s ‘Dinner for a Cause’ program this winter will help better communicate to residents in eastern Southampton and East Hampton towns the great works of hospice.”
The “Dinner for a Cause” campaign kicked-off officially last Friday with a cocktail party at the hotel and a presentation by architect Roger Ferris and Priscilla Ruffin, president of East End Hospice, who shared plans for the new 11,000 square foot facility.
It’s a facility that’s been a long time coming, and Goldfarb noted that while many dying patients prefer to spend their final days at home, it’s not always feasible for them to do so.
“There comes a time for patients where they have to be admitted into a hospital if they’re not being taken care of in the home,” explained Goldfarb. “And many times the patient doesn’t have a primary caregiver.”
It is in this instance, when dying at home is not an option, that a hospice facility is of vital importance — and a far more appropriate setting than a hospital.
“The difference between this facility and a hospital is it’s smaller and geared toward someone at the end of their life,” said Goldfarb. “If it’s a cancer patient, they’re not on chemo anymore. At this point, it’s just to make the person comfortable so they are dying with dignity.”
For that reason, hospice facilities are free of high-tech medical equipment and procedures typical of large hospitals.
“It’s at the point where the people get to acceptance — and that’s it,” added Goldfarb. “No treatment is offered, it’s all pain management.”
What hospice facilities do offer is comfort to both patients and families. Each of the eight rooms in the East End Hospice facility will overlook the water and in nice weather, beds can be rolled outside onto an adjoining terrace. More than half of the six acre property will be kept in its natural state as a conservation easement. There is also a nursing station, a medication room and a spa with a soaking tub for patients.
Unlike traditional hospitals, each room also has a transitional space where families can gather before going in to visit a patient. The rooms themselves are large enough to accommodate a pullout bed so family members can spend the night. Goldfarb added that the rooms will be wired with communication technologically to allow patients to use services like Skype to visit face to face with friends and family in other parts of the world.
“There is also a library, sun room, kitchen and bereavement areas for families to gather and talk or meet with social workers and therapists,” noted Goldfarb. “The whole idea is to make it family friendly. We want people to come in and visit with family members.”
“And it will prevent us from having people die in a hospital,” she added.
Medicare estimates the need for hospice services will increase annually by nine percent over the next two decades. With an aging population, Goldfarb noted inpatient hospice facilities like this one will be vital in years to come.
“We’ve seen an increasing need,” confirmed Goldfarb.
Which is why Conklin is hoping to raise awareness of East End Hospice, not only through the current fundraising efforts, but in years to come.
“We all know family or neighbors who have been assisted by the free services of hospice, and I urge everyone on the East End to be involved with East End Hospice’s growth and success,” says Conklin. “It is an organization that touches us all.”
The “Dinner For A Cause” $40 prix fixe is available from 5 to 6:30 p.m. nightly at The American Hotel (49 Main Street, Sag Harbor) through March 24. To reserve, call 725-3535. To learn more about East End Hospice, call 288-7080.