Nurse and family launch credit card business to fund hospice house

Sisters forge a way to serve terminally ill patients and save health care providers money.

A closeup of two hands touching.

A clinical nurse manager at a Massachusetts VNA, Carol Wilcox R.N., knows personally and professionally the impact of terminal illness.

"Health care professionals cannot change the grim reality of a terminal diagnosis, but we can change the journey," Carol said. "Therapists, in particular, often work with MS and ALS patients, building a relationship with them. To know that a facility exists where their patient can go to be cared for long-term is a just such a blessing."

But that blessing, in Carol’s home state of Rhode Island, is yet to exist. The nation’s smallest state is also the only state in the country that does not provide any options but a nursing home for those who are terminally ill and cannot be cared for at home.

For caretakers who are elderly or perhaps have small children, keeping a terminally ill loved one at home may not be possible.

"The worry is constant. The days are long. And the nights are longer. There are many end-of-life issues, way too much for most people to do safely and well," Carol said.

Carol and her sister, Margaret Wilcox Kinnecom (the ad exec), cared for their uncle who died of esophageal cancer. Their spouses (teacher and entrepreneur) also cared for terminally ill loved ones.

"We feel very strongly that Rhode Islanders deserve a choice. It was a matter of ‘If not us, who?’ We could just complain about it, or we could do something!"

Donations are not sustainable, the couple decided, and instead launched Swipe for Cause, a credit-card processor that dedicates 100% of its profit to Chrysalis Hospice House. There are no additional fees to either the person being charged or the business doing the charging.

"Our merchants don’t spend money to help us: They save money with lower fees from our partner FIRST DATA, the largest credit card processor in the country," Margaret said.

It’s not a new idea, but has a unique twist: Chrysalis Hospice House has a long-term funding source. When merchants or health care providers partner with Swipe for a Cause, 100% of the profits are dedicated to the respite home.

Currently profits are financing construction, but ongoing income "will make sure that everyone who needs residential hospice will have access to Chrysalis Hospice House, regardless of their ability to pay," Margaret noted.

For medical practices interested in working with Swipe for a Cause for credit card processing, Carol notes, "It seems like such a natural thing for any health care group to help to improve health care by redirecting money they are already spending! We spend a lot of time listening to people and their stories of losing a loved one. It is the part of the job we love, just connecting."