Today in Westport, approximately 25 men and women could benefit from hospice care.
Suffering from terminal illnesses, in the final weeks of their lives, they also face the reality that their relatives are too elderly — or too far away — to provide the care they need.
Three of those patients are younger than 50. To spare their young children awful memories, they do not want to die at home.
Yet options are limited. For many years, Branford was the only dedicated hospice in Connecticut. The concept has siince spread to hospitals and institutions. But there is still no small, neighborhood, residential hospice in Fairfield County.
Soon, there may be.
A group of dedicated volunteers — hospice nurses, elder care workers, attorneys, architects and others — announce today on “06880” a plan for Fairfield County Hospice House.
If all goes well, they hope to open a year from now. The site is 427 Roxbury Road in Stamford, just 1/5 mile from Merritt Parkway Exit 33.
Westporters Larry Weisman and Lynda Tucker are 2 of the prime forces behind the project.
Tucker ran a children’s hospice in Cincinnati before moving here 12 years ago. Several years ago, she devised a plan for a 4-bed hospice in an existing house on the Baron’s South property.
It did not work out. But as a hospice nurse who sees 75 or 80 patients a year in Westport alone, she knew there is an enormous need for such a facility. Several other highly motivated women believed in the mission too.
Weisman — a Westport attorney — provided many hours of pro bono work. Fairfield County Hospice House became a 501(c)(3) corporation.
The group got a big break when they learned of the 1.3-acre Stamford property. It lay vacant for years, after a community center burned to the ground. A deed restriction limits is use to a non-profit. The nearly-defunct organization that owned the land was happy to give it to FCHH. They even threw in $82,000 that remained in their dormant bank account.
Attorney Richard Redniss went to work on zoning issues. Wesley Stout Associates provided architectural and site drawings, also pro bono. The Colonial-style hospice will include 6 rooms, all with outside access; a central living room with fireplace; a kitchen, and administrative offices.
“It is very much a house, for people with very specific needs,” Weisman says.
Offers of help poured in. Westport excavator Scott Walker and Stamford builder Gus Pappajohn will work at cost. Gault will contribute propane tanks.
Construction is almost ready to begin. But funding is needed.
The target is $5.5 million. Organizers estimate the facility will cost $2.5 million, including furnishings. $3 million is budgeted for working capital. (Jewish Senior Services will provide primary nursing care. Payments will be on a sliding scale. No one will be turned away for an inability to pay.)
Westport’s Newman’s Own and Stamford-based Purdue Pharma have already made grants. Without any publicity, a few individual donations have come in. FCHH will soon begin a capital campaign.
Weisman, Tucker, Westporter Dr. Richard Zelkowitz and other board members are excited about the plan, and the progress they’ve made. Soon, they believe, Fairfield County will have its 1st, and desperately needed, residential hospice.
Many local residents — and their loved ones — can at last rest easy.
(For more information — or to help — write PO Box 4606, Stamford, CT 06907, or call 203-912-6429.)