Friday, January 20, 2012

Hospice Buffalo

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about my Grandma, Carol Sondel, who passed away in November 2001. After finding out she had pancreatic cancer early in November, it took just a few weeks before she passed. It was a painful time for her, a heart breaking time for my family, and for me personally, a time where I hit “rock bottom.”

During the few weeks after the diagnosis to her passing, my family utilized the services of Hospice Buffalo, and we couldn’t be more thankful for their support both physically and emotionally during this very hard time.

According to, the word hospice means a “house of shelter”. In medical terms it is defined as a “health-care facility for the terminally ill that emphasizes pain control and emotional support for the patient and family.”

Buffalo, NY is extremely fortunate to have Hospice Buffalo, the only licensed hospice program in Erie County. If you asked me to define “Hospice Buffalo” I’d tell you it means “Supportive family.” In its’ most basic sense, Hospice Buffalo is a “house of shelter” for hundreds of patients throughout the area, but Hospice Buffalo is so much more than a “health- care facility”.

Hospice Buffalo began as a grass roots, voluntary effort in the homes of dedicated professionals and local civic leaders who wanted to make a difference in the lives of terminal patients and their families. In 1978, under the direction and leadership of Charlotte Shedd, RN, MS, the organization began.

Hospice Buffalo’s health care professionals serve more than 700 patients a day in homes, hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living residences, group homes, hospice inpatient units and hospice residences.

When I began to research more about Hospice Buffalo and dig deeper into their history, I spoke with the Director of Public Relations & Community Relations, Rosemary Collins. From the moment I began talking with her, I could see how deeply she cared about the mission of Hospice Buffalo, and she was gracious enough to spend a lot of time answering the many questions I had.

Hospice Buffalo is available to ANYONE who is facing a serious illness. They are available 24 hours, 7 days a week and anyone is able to call them and schedule a visit. Hospice is a fully covered Medicare benefit and most insurance plans cover hospice services as well. “Hospie care is based on the patient’s need, not the ability to pay.” Rosemary told me.

Hospice Buffalo offers comprehensive medical care to the patient, but above and beyond that, emotional and spiritual support is provided to the patient and their family. Hundreds of caring professionals offer medical and nursing services, home health aide services, social work services, pastoral and spiritual care, assistance with legal and other issues and bereavement counseling. Inpatient care for symptom management is also provided. In addition to all of that, Hospice also provides prescription medications related to the patient’s admitting diagnosis and medical supplies and equipment.

Just typing all those out, I am beginning to tear up. For someone who has seen a loved one struggle through a painful disease, they know the costs related to it, and the stress it can place on family members. Hospice Buffalo is there to help from A – Z and they don’t fail. With over 620 employees locally and an additional 1,000 volunteers, they are well trained and educated to provide patients and their families with everything they need to handle a very difficult time.

Since becoming “Hospice Buffalo” in 1978, they have served and helped more than 45,000 patients and their families throughout the Western New York region.

While much funding for Hospice Buffalo comes from health insurance companies, Medicare and Medicaid, Hospice Buffalo needs to raise many additional funds to cover the uninsured, underinsured, and services that are not covered. “Our greatest need is funding for patient care, as Hospice Buffalo’s cost of caring for a patient is typically not fully covered by insurance.” Rosemary told me. “We raise money in the community to help support our care including bereavement support for up to a year, pastoral care for support and guidance to patients and their families as well as expressive therapies (music, massage, child life therapy) and more.”

According to the March 2007 Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, clinical studies on hospice care have shown that hospice patients typically live longer than those who do not receive hospice care.

This past holiday season I attended my first “Light-A-Life for Hospice Buffalo” tree lighting ceremony outside Ctg Inc. on Delaware Avenue in the City of Buffalo. As a part of fundraising efforts you can purchase a silver bell engraved with a loved one’s name who has passed away, or purchase tags that are placed on a handful of trees and lit up for the holiday season. The short ceremony had a profound impact on me, and I plan on making this yearly event a new family event to honor and remember (although that’s not very hard for me) my Grandma’s memory.

When I asked Rosemary what she thought the BIGGEST accomplishments of Hospice Buffalo have been, she said opening The Center for Hospice & Palliative Care’s Mitchell Campus (Hospice Buffalo’s parent company) in Cheektowaga. This facility, opened in 1995, has enabled Hospice Buffalo to reach a greater number of people in our community. The Center is a beautiful 27 acre wooded site that has 22 beds for inpatient Hospice visits that help with short-term pain/symptom management as well as end-stage care and respite. It also serves as a 10-bed Hospice residence.

Hospice Buffalo has been nationally recognized as one of the 20 largest hospice and palliative care programs in the United States and was awarded with the prestigious Circle of Life Award from the American Hospital Association this past year.

To schedule a visit, learn more about Hospice Buffalo or utilize their services, you can contact them at (716) 686-8077. Their website has a wealth of knowledge and you can check it out at

Hospice Buffalo is truly a gem in the Western New York area and I am one of their proudest supporters. Hospice Buffalo will be one of the organizations I will be fundraising for as part of my “12 Missions in ‘12” campaign. Stay tuned for the details in coming months!


  1. Hospices are not just a place to rehabilitate the terminally ill patients. It is a place that serves as a home to the elderly, the abandoned and orphaned.

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  2. I have to agree with you hospice care concentrates on the totality of a person. They provide emotional and spiritual support as well which is very important for people who are old or suffering from illness.

  3. Hospice center and nursing homes are really close to me. I have work in one of the nursing homes in nj and it's one of the best experience of my life. To be close with people who you don't know is priceless. I won't trade the experience for anything.