Photos and story by Susan Mikula Campbell
A plaque on the wall to the entrance to the new wing at Northgate Health Care Facility in Wheatfield shows the face of Jeanne D'Arc Abou-Antoun.
It reads, in part, "Jeanne was the consummate caregiver whose compassion for others is embodied in the spirit of this unique unit..."
Jeanne, a certified nursing assistant at Northgate for more than 11 years, would have been smiling as she watched her family members join Northgate, Niagara Hospice and elected leaders at the ribbon cutting ceremony for Hospice at Jeanne's House on May 17. Jeanne received hospice care herself before her death in 2011, according to Terry Collins, RN, Northgate administrator.
The new 21-bed unit offers comfortable private and semi-private rooms, a lounge area and its own sunny courtyard. Most importantly, it merges the 24-hour skilled nursing care of a nursing home with hospice services to meet the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of terminally ill patients. The collaboration between Northgate and Hospice is the first of its kind in the state.
The innovative unit will set the example for skilled nursing facilities and health care officials across the state, said Jim McGuire, McGuire Group president and CEO, noting that visitors from as far away as Long Island already have come to Northgate, hoping to replicate Hospice at Jeanne's House.
John Lomeo, Niagara Hospice president and CEO, said the grand opening of the new unit marked the culmination of years of planning and was "another coup for Niagara County."
"Nursing home patients should have access to the best hospice care available," he said, pledging that everything possible would be done for patients at Hospice at Jeanne's House "to make your journey peaceful, dignified and always consistent with your wishes."
Also at the grand opening were representatives of patients of Northgate and other McGuire Group facilities who did their own fundraising efforts to present a check for $2,852 to the new unit.
Nate Kennedy, a former co-worker and friend of Jeanne's, is associate director of hospice and palliative care at Northgate.
"I hope that I can represent her the way she needs to be represented," he said. "People entrust their loved ones into my care. This is a crucial time in life that needs special attention. It's a delicate part of life for everyone involved."