Chautauqua Hospice & Palliative Care has a far reaching history of helping others, spanning several decades. However, the idea of hospice programming began long before.
The original concept of hospice began in the 1950s’ through one woman’s work with dying patients. Dame Cicely Saunders, an English social worker, nurse and physician, noted that physical pain is the result of the complex interrelationship between physical, emotional, social and spiritual distress and cannot be successfully treated in isolation. She termed this idea “total pain.”
Saunders developed total pain control techniques which are still used today to eliminate or reduce pain to a tolerable level while maintaining the patient’s mental alertness.
In the 1960s Elizabeth Kubler-Ross researched the impact terminal illness has on patients and their families. As a result, more consideration was given to death and dying.
Ten years later volunteers throughout America became concerned with the way cancer patients were dying in pain while in the hospital. Various hospices were formed by volunteers such as doctors, nurses, counselors and clergy members, who used the concepts developed by Saunders and Kubler-Ross.
In the 1980s federal and state standards for hospice programs were established, and a Medicare insurance benefit was developed. For the first time, special care for a dying patient and their family was realized as a health concern.
The first initiative to bring hospice care to our area began in 1978 when several concerned community members gathered to discuss the care of local patients who were dying and the needs of their families. A planning board was formed to study hospice efforts in other areas. Members studied data from a variety of projects funded by Medicare, New York state and Blue Cross. This study led the board members to believe the efforts were beneficial and worthwhile for the emotional well-being of patients and families of Chautauqua County as well as save the healthcare system significant expenses.
On April 10, 1981 Hospice Information & Referral Service was incorporated with Rev. Donald Ray, president, and Patricia Kennedy, secretary. The earliest activities were carried out on a volunteer basis from a second-floor office in Sinclairville, NY. The mission was to improve the care of dying patients in collaboration with other health care agencies, as well as educate the community and provide information services.
In the first year of service, 44 families were served and the trained volunteers established a network of health care agencies in the area.
In 1984 a satellite office was established to provide better access to services in Northern Chautauqua County. Three years later, a bereavement follow-up program was added to help those who had lost a loved one.
In 1991 the number of families served increased to 388. In the same year, the board determined the organization should become certified and provide direct hospice services. Licensure was granted by the New York State Department of Health, and an amendment to the certificate of incorporation was filed on November 16, 1992. This changed the corporation’s name to Hospice Chautauqua County, Inc.
Our offices moved from their original Sinclairville location to Mayville in 1996, then to Fredonia in 1999. In 2001, we moved to the former Turner Elementary School building and maintained satellite offices in Fredonia and Jamestown. In 2010, we moved our administrative offices to 20 W. Fairmont Ave. in Lakewood, the former Aarque Mangement building and continues to maintain the Fredonia satellite office.
In August, 2012, the organization reached a significant milestone when it launched a community-based palliative care program for patients who are not hospice eligible. These patients may be receiving curative treatment for serious illness but also have need of other medical, emotional and spiritual care.
In 2016 the name of the organization was changed to Chautauqua Hospice & Palliative Care to more accurately reflect the broader array of services that it offers.
Chautauqua Hospice & Palliative Care has grown steadily since its inception as an entirely volunteer organization to its current operations. The organization employs over 59 full-time professional employees, and the average daily hospice census has grown from approximately 29 in 1999 to 84 in 2015.