Credit card business funds long-term hospice facility


Posted on September 23, 2011

What happens when two sisters and their spouses discover there is no long-term hospice facility in their state?

A nurse, a teacher, an advertising executive, and entrepreneur redefine how to raise funds for Rhode Island’s only long-term residential respite home, potentially serving 1,500 patients annually. How’d they do it? Not asking for donations, but building a business with a cause behind it.

“Caring for a terminally ill loved one is a tremendous undertaking,” said Carol Wilcox, R.N., by day a clinical nurse manager at Southcoast VNA in Massachusetts.

Carol and her sister, Margaret Wilcox Kinnecom (an ad exec), and their spouses have cared for terminally ill loved ones and understand: “There are many end-of-life issues – pain, anxiety, safety, medications – way too much for most people to do safely and well,” Carol said.

The sisters acknowledge that while most people would choose to die at home, sometimes it just isn’t possible for elderly spouses or families with young children.

“Residential hospice is such a better option. We could just complain about no options here in Rhode Island, or we could do something,” Carol said.

A hospice house is usually a small home-like facility with 24-hour nursing care and emotional support. “A hospice house bedroom can actually look homey,” Carol said. 

A typical hospice houses also offers families a well-appointed kitchen, a common living room, and a dining room. “One man, whose 52-year-old father died in a residential hospice house in New York, was so grateful that the whole family was able to gather in the dining room for their last Thanksgiving dinner. It made the end of his journey just that much easier,” Carol said.

“Bringing hospice in earlier can help you make the most of the time you have left by managing pain symptoms as well as helping with emotional and spiritual needs,” Margaret said.

Rhode Island, the smallest state, is also the only state in the country that has no options but nursing homes. “Unfortunately we are seeing people much younger with terminal diagnosis, and a nursing home is simply not a good place to die – especially if you are 20 or 30 … or in all honesty, even if you are 80,” Carol said.

Rather than knock on doors, asking for donations, the couples launched Swipe for a Cause. For anyone who accepts credit cards as payment, it’s a win-win since a percentage of every charge is donated to fund Chrysalis Hospice House. There are no additional fees.

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, yet “even after we have built Chrysalis Hospice House, the funds raised by Swipe for a Cause will be enable people who cannot afford to stay in the house to have the option to,” Margaret noted.

The sisters hope to eventually expand the model nationwide, bringing hospice care within reach to everyone.

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