We all die. Death can be met with dread, denial or dignity. But being able to pass away peacefully, with comfort and even joy, can sometimes be a challenge.
A home for end-of-life care in the Woodstock neighborhood is dedicated to making this passing easier, by providing a supportive, caring environment for those who cannot remain in their own homes during the last weeks and months of their lives.
In the fall of 2010, the prospect of having an adult care home for hospice on S.E. Henderson Street proved controversial for a few neighbors on the block.
They attended several monthly Woodstock Neighborhood Association meetings to voice concerns and fears about potential traffic, parking, and noise from that they thought could result from ambulances, staff, or visiting family and friends. They claimed that such a home would be a detriment to their block.
Today, the home, called 'Martha and Mary Home', is fully licensed and operating, after successfully meeting all of the city requirements for an adult care home. A staff of thirteen people - three full-time, and ten part-time - provide 24-hour care. Since September 2010, the home has been providing its capacity of five residents with hospice care.
Pat Cary, Executive Director and a hospice nurse, says she is pleased with neighbors' response to the home.
'We worked from the beginning to be sensitive to our neighbors, and we reached out to them in many ways. Since we opened, we have not received any complaints - in fact, the two girls across the street sometimes bring cookies to the house, and one of them has put music on our iPod for our residents.'
Addressing one of the early concerns, she says, 'Ambulances very seldom come to the home.' Patients usually arrive in a van, and funeral homes also use vans for transport.
The completely renovated house is the former Dieringer residence. (The Dieringers are proprietors of the Safeway and BiMart blocks in Woodstock.) Bob and Evelyn Dieringer and their family of twelve children lived in the house for fifty-four years. Bob passed away in 2007, and Evelyn in 2009. In their will, they stated a desire to have the home be given to, and be used by, a charity.
The facility is based on the practices and philosophy of Martha and Mary Ministries, a nonprofit that grew out of a small group of nurses, doctors, and clergy who brought compassionate care, education, and healing to those who are dying. These caregivers saw the need for a home specializing in end-of-life care.
'We had experienced the great blessings that come to those who are dying and to the ones who share in this final journey,' says Executive Director Cary. 'We also knew of many people who had needed far more than they received in their last months and days - people who died in pain, who were afraid, or who died alone.'
At the Martha and Mary Home, comfort is also given to family members who are often overwhelmed by the circumstances, and who need help from those who have had extensive hospice experience.
Dorene Lydon, a longtime Woodstock resident, was the first person to benefit from the services of Martha and Mary Home. 'Dorene was at Providence [Hospital] in September,' relates Dorene's husband Tom Lydon. 'They gave us addresses of Southeast Portland adult care homes, and we visited three. It was obvious to us that this was the one we wanted. The physical facility was great, and Pat and the people who volunteered there were just amazing. They were so hospitable. They really took care of Dorene and my family.'
Even though Martha and Mary Ministries is based in Catholic philosophy, residents who seek the services of Martha and Mary Home come from diverse backgrounds. During the early part of May, there were two people with an Evangelical background, one with no religious affiliation, one Catholic, and one Episcopalian.
Patient care is funded through Medicaid, private pay, and donations. Volunteers (with application and complete vetting) help with office and yard work, food preparation, and sitting and offering compassionate presence at the bedside of patients.