Westporters Bring Hospice Care To Fairfield County

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.

A rendering of Fairfield County's planned hospice.

A rendering of Fairfield County’s planned hospice.

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.

Plantings like these will enhance the grounds of the proposed hospice.

Plantings like these will enhance the grounds of the proposed hospice.

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.

Hospice residents will have easy access to the outdoors, as shown in these plans.

Hospice residents will have easy access to the outdoors, as shown in these plans.

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.

A view of the Colonial-style building.

A view of the Colonial-style building.

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.)

6 responses to “Westporters Bring Hospice Care To Fairfield County

  1. With such a need, only six rooms?

    • The needs assessment that was done indicated that was a workable number. I believe financial projections also led to this number.

  2. Anne Skandera

    We are building a residential hospice in Danbury which will be ready soon. Much closer than Branford

    • Anne Skandera

      There is a web site to view the plans for the building which will be ready in December.

  3. Benne Druckenmiller ( former hospice nurse)

    Although I applaud any and all efforts to provide residential hospice care in Fairfield County the first facility to provide residential care was The Rosenthal Residence on the campus of Stamford Hospital. The 12 room home like residence opened in May of 2000 following years of volunteer and pro bono professional efforts to secure the site, design the home like setting and implement hospice services to the community. The Rosenthal Foundation supported these efforts. Visiting Nurse and Hospice Care of SW CT managed the facility for over 10 years. Rosenthal closed in 2012 due to financial considerations that could not be overcome.despite overwhelming community support . Perhaps your comment regarding financial considerations was in part because Rosenthal provided a template of what might work financially. We had many patients over the years from Westport. I only wish to honor those professionals and volunteers who came before and worked so tirelessly to provide the physical, emotional and spiritual support needed to patients and their loved ones at this most challenging time in life’s journey. Branford was not the only option for residential care for over ten years! Good Luck to Westport in their efforts and may they have success in their endeavor.

  4. Joel Brest, Ph.D.

    With all due respect, the recent “announcement” that Westporters will bring a Hospice to Fairfield County is presumptuous and premature. Based on current zoning regulations, a hospice on Roxbury Road in Stamford would be an illegal structure because the proposed one-acre property is in a residential zone and the hospice is a commercial use. Further, more than 100 neighbors have publicly opposed the project and will continue to argue against its appropriateness at that particular location.
    As many may not be aware, the proposed site on Roxbury Road is barely half a mile from Westhill High School and Roxbury Elementary School. The location is prime for drug related robberies, situated less than a quarter mile from a quick getaway on the Den Road exit off the Merritt Parkway. The site’s close proximity to schools, children of all ages, and Exit 33 of the Merritt Parkway, make it a far from ideal location to deliver and house narcotics.
    While the residents of Roxbury Road do not oppose the concept of a hospice, they do oppose the hospice at that residential location. Omitted from the article is that the plans call for a lighted 18-car parking lot to accommodate constant vehicles, visitors and vigils that are a necessary component of a hospice. Also omitted is that numerous private houses in a quiet residential neighborhood will be within feet of the proposed hospice building. And, as those familiar with the proposed site already know, Roxbury Road is narrow, winding and hazardous, with a disproportionate number of automobile accidents. That location does not need, and cannot tolerate, more traffic – especially commercial traffic. That is why Stamford zoning regulators have rejected previous non-residential applications proposed for that same site.
    It must also be noted that many who oppose the hospice site were members of the Roxbury Community Association and question the legality of the Association’s “donation.” In fact, they were surprised the surreptitious donation of land and money was made, given their lack of notice and ability to vote on the proposed donation which was, to a large extent, funded by their payments over the years.
    We do not question the motives of the supporters of the hospice. We, too, believe that there is a need for additional hospice services in Fairfield County. We simply point out that the supporters, by and large, do not live in the immediate neighborhood of the proposed site. We find it difficult, if not impossible, to believe that there are not many more suitable, and safer, locations. We strongly urge the Westport organizers to investigate those locations before attempting to raise additional funds to support a project that we believe is doomed to fail.

    Roxbury Neighborhood Committee
    Kim Montello, Paul Modugno, Joel Brest