[Posted February 3, 2023]
After four years of intensive planning and fundraising by a group of dedicated volunteers, Hopewell House in Hillsdale reopened as a residential end-of-life care provider on January 27. More than 2,000 people, foundations, and community groups donated over $5 million and countless hours of in-kind volunteerism and pro bono professional services to reboot Hopewell House.
The first resident was admitted a few days later and more were expected to arrive the following week. Hopewell House is now welcoming inquiries from those in hospice, their families, or other support team such as hospice provider or hospital discharge staff. The admission process usually takes a day or two, and includes a visit to the patient, whether they are in the hospital or at home.
The facility has had a refresh over the past several months, with new furnishings, fresh paint and the addition of a residence room that will be appropriate for children. “There are few places in the area that are designed to provide care for children at end-of-life who need more care than can be provided at home. We are really pleased to now have that space,” says Executive Director Lesley Sacks.
A January 23 press release describes the house as a "'home away from home' for those at the end of life who may not be able to die at home because of difficult symptoms, lack of support or because of being unhoused." Sacks added in a recent phone call that the last days or weeks of life can sometimes feel like a time of crisis and that residential hospice care gives friends and family an opportunity to go back to being loved ones rather than overwhelmed caregivers.
About the reopening, Sacks said: "The first week has been a whirlwind with a lot of excitement and joy, and a lot of people (volunteers and staff) anxious and raring to go.” She added, "We are virtually a start-up and working through all the nuances. It’s a really exciting time."
Hopewell House is the only licensed residential care facility dedicated to end-of-life care in Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington counties. Services include homemade meals for residents and their visitors, 24/7 caregivers with end-of-life expertise, and specially trained volunteers providing support in a homelike setting. Complementary therapies, emotional and spiritual support will be offered in tandem with residents’ hospice provider care. Each of the 12 beds, all in private rooms, comes with handmade quilts made by volunteers. Most residents will be at the house for days or a few weeks at the very end of life.
Sacks calls the Hopewell House team of volunteer quilters, knitters and crafters "extraordinary." "Our quilters have been creating quilts for the past year to build up our supply, so that every resident who comes to Hopewell will select their own quilt; once they have passed, their loved ones will get to take their special quilt with them. "
Sacks emphasized that while the facility carries the tradition of the Hopewell House of the past, it is an all-new organization with a new team and updated financial model.
The facility first opened in 1986 as Hospice House, created by an earlier group of volunteers dedicated to the idea of "living well in the presence of death." Founder Joan Strong Buell brought the concept back to Portland after a volunteer stint with a hospice provider in England.
Owned over the years by several entities, Hopewell House was closed in 2019 by its last operator, Legacy Health. Changes in funding for end-of-life care and the restriction of patients to those in the Legacy system had made the facility too costly. When the closure was announced, a new volunteer nonprofit, Friends of Hopewell House, came into being and developed an updated financial model based on Celia's House, a residential hospice facility in Medford. Different from the past, the house is now a residential care facility, more akin to assisted living than a general inpatient acute care hospital as it was under Legacy. The operating costs under this model are significantly lower, as much as 10% of the cost of a comparable hospital stay, according to the January 23 press release.
Nevertheless, Sacks describes the new Hopewell House as a philanthropic enterprise that will need ongoing support from the community to provide services to all, even those who can't afford to pay. At the moment, the facility is only able to take private-pay residents, or those with applicable long-term care insurance, with sliding scale discounts available (although there is the potential for one-time contracts with hospitals). Eventually, once agreements with insurers and hospital systems are worked out, residents will also be able to use medicaid or health insurance to pay for their stay.
At $575 day, the cost is beyond the reach of many. Hopewell House predicts about 50% of residents will need financial assistance to be there.
After racing to complete the capital campaign and achieve the re-opening in January, the Friends of Hopewell House board "took a breath" in January before starting the next phase: a new campaign to raise a $10-15 million endowment. Also on the agenda is expanding the model to be able to provide hospice services to more people in need of compassionate care while dying.
Hillsdale has three public schools, a library, a dog park, playing fields and parks, shops and restaurants. What other services or amenities would you like to see in our neighborhood? Let us know.