ARCH “Family Center” addition planned for Helen Porter Rehabilitation & Nursing (HPHRC). - Porter Medical Center
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ARCH “Family Center” addition planned for Helen Porter Rehabilitation & Nursing (HPHRC).

MIDDLEBURY–Building upon a collaboration which has already resulted in the creation of three “home-like” end-of-life rooms for area residents, Helen Porter Rehabilitation & Nursing (HPHRC) and Addison Respite Care Home (ARCH) have agreed to move forward with another community service project— the construction of a new “Family Center” addition at Helen Porter. This project, which will be funded via a local fund-raising effort, will establish a new entrance, waiting area, kitchenette, bathroom and two private meeting rooms for families to use as they support a loved one residing in an ARCH Room.

ARCH’s vision, to expand end-of-life care options for patients who can no longer remain at home, began as a community initiative in 2004. The mission of this non-profit organization is to; “establish a home for the terminally ill, providing quality of life and support for families regardless of their ability to pay.” The ARCH rooms offer a local alternative of care similar to that provided at the Vermont Respite Home located in Williston.

The partnership between ARCH and HPHRC was forged in 2010 and with the help of a $25,000 donation from the Middlebury Lions Club, the first ARCH room was established in 2011 on Otter Creek Place at HPHRC. The Green Mountain Room, dedicated to the Middlebury Lions Club, was followed, in 2012, by The Champlain Room which was thoughtfully dedicated to former ARCH Board member Milo Schaefer. A third ARCH room was created to serve the particular aspects of care required by those residing on the Memory Care Neighborhood at HPHRC. Because this room was suggested by the loving staff of HPHRC care providers, this Addison Room was dedicated, in their name, in 2013.

Each room is furnished and decorated with a focus that acknowledges it as a patient’s residence during their final months, weeks, days or even hours. The staff, caring for these patients and their families, is specifically trained for the unique needs that come with the challenges and gifts that occur during the dying process.

Many of our residents, friends and neighbors have now experienced the personalized and compassionate care that is being delivered in the three ARCH rooms notes Daphne Jensen, Chair of the ARCH Board and longtime Hospice Volunteer.

She added: “Many testimonials and notes of gratitude have been received, including these words from a Bristol family— “It is with heartfelt thanks that my Mom had the opportunity to share her final journey with family and friends in an ARCH room. Her special loving caregivers continued to enjoy life with her in a warm and comfortable new room, which she loved! And, as her passing neared, her room became a “home away from home” for family, friends and caregivers, too. We feel so fortunate to have had the ARCH experience- a thoughtful space, an incredible staff whose care and love could not have been more supportive, and regular “courtesy carts” filled with treats to share with visitors…a final oasis for residents and their families. Addison County is so lucky that this service is available to all.”

“ Our community members deserve the best care possible during this poignant time”, Jensen notes. Another family expressed this hope in their appreciation, “On behalf of our mother, we cannot thank you enough for the extraordinary care Mom received in the Rehabilitation wing and in the ARCH room. Not only did Mom receive excellent attention, the staff brought our family food, drinks, pillows and hugs in the middle of the night. Thank you for making Mom feel so loved.”

Attentive to the ongoing needs of these patients and families, both HPHRC and ARCH have recognized the lack of space and privacy for the family members and friends present to the dying of a loved one. The importance and need of a “Family Center” is a logical addition that can no longer be postponed.

While planning for the Family Center continues, a second project is underway between ARCH and Porter Hospital to create an ARCH room on the Medical/Surgical floor of the hospital. While most people choose to die at home, very often this is not an option for those facing their final journey at Porter Hospital. The Porter staff, in recognition of the comfort that an ARCH room can provide their patients, attending family and friends, has approached ARCH to build a room there before the end of 2014.

It is hoped that these projects will demonstrate that ARCH, Porter Hospital and

HPHRC are very committed to the expansion of end-of-life care here in Addison County. “The ARCH Family Center and Porter Hospital ARCH room projects are meaningful elements of our community’s awareness to the love and attention we must give to those on their end-of-life journey,” said PMC President, James L. Daily. “We are very proud of our collaboration with ARCH at both Helen Porter and Porter Hospital to build upon the continuum of care available to our patients and residents.”

ARCH continues to identify the ongoing needs of Addison County relating to end-of-life care. Beyond the bricks and mortar, there should be a continued effort in education and conversation as it relates to death and dying. ARCH has partnered with other organizations to help bring forward issues surrounding Palliative Care and Hospice Care. Indeed, more can be done in preparation.

With Porter Hospital, HPHRC, Addison County Home Health & Hospice (ACHHH), Hospice Volunteer Services (HVS) and ARCH, community education and conversations around many aspects of end-of-life have been encouraged. Community presentations by Denys Cope, author of Dying a Natural Passage; Stephen Kiernan, author of Last Rights; and Dr. Ira Byock, author of The Best Care Possible and most recently the play Vesta have furthered the effort.

This year the theme for the collaboration of these five organizations is “Start the Conversation”. It encourages people to talk about death and dying, and complete their Advance Directives. The group is presenting at service organizations, faith communities and local exhibitions such as the Sustainability Expo. A free social event was held in May at 51 Main. Titled “Let’s Talk” and facilitated by Dr. Diana Barnard, the event incorporated several “skit-lets” which presented typical conversations between friends and family members about death and dying. There was food and a cash bar, in an atmosphere that was comfortable and informal for conversation. The latest paper resources for “Starting the Conversation” and Advance Directives were available, as well as people resources for particular questions—legal, medical, spiritual. The feedback from this event was very enthusiastic, so the group will provide this opportunity in other towns, with the next “Let’s Talk” at the Shoreham Inn, in October.