A safe place to nest

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Moricheypic1nica Hastings walked into Gilchrist Center Baltimore – Joseph Richey House to interview for an open nursing position and stayed for hours, captivated by the warmth and simple charm of a place she had never seen before that day.

The residential hospice center would soon become her second home, a place where she could care for, console and comfort patients, most who were there because they had no place else to stay or no one to take care of them as they lived out their final months, weeks and days.

“I feel very privileged to share this intimate time in people’s life,” said Monica, who began working at Joseph Richey House two years ago. “There are so many opportunities for gratitude on both sides. Patients have a place to stay and us as their second family as death nears.”

“The staff operates as a family as well,” she said. “We wear our hearts on our sleeves.”

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As the only residential hospice center in the Baltimore area, Joseph Richey House provides a much needed service for patients at the end of life. But because staff and volunteers often care for patients over a period of several months, the center feels more like a home than a series of connected rowhomes with 18 individual patient rooms.

Patients soon realize that Joseph Richey House is about so much more than medical care. Monica might spend time with a patient just talking about fishing on Lake Okeechobee in Florida. Social worker Victoria Ringo often works to connect patients with estranged family members. And staff have been known to stand by a patient’s bedside, singing for an hour or more while a volunteer plays guitar.

“You learn everyone’s wants and needs,” said Monica. “There are so many opportunities for joy. I get to care for patients longer. I get to know their personalities. Sometimes we’re all they have. There’s a special intimacy.”

richeysubheaderwricheybuildingpichich opened its doors in 1987, was conceived as a safe place for patients with end stage HIV/AIDS in the days when the disease was almost always fatal and carried a great stigma. Nearly three decades later, it continues to serve as a residential haven for patients – but with a broad reach. Staff and volunteers care for patients with any terminal diagnosis. And while the majority of patients have limited financial means, Joseph Richey House has also been home to others who just need round-the-clock attention as they approach the end of life.

At Gilchrist Hospice Care, patients and families may benefit not only from the extraordinary care of our nurses, social workers, chaplain, aides, counselors and volunteers but also from an array of specialized programs and offerings designed to ensure that all their needs are met, that the end of life is rich and meaningful and pain-free, and that loved ones who will be left behind have the strength to journey on. This story highlights just one of these programs, all designed with the knowledge that…every feather helps a bird take flight.

Read the other stories in our “Every feather helps a bird take flight” series: Loneliness departs, Taking a family under our wingHelping hearts, More feathers

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