Taking Edge off Death

Abraham House defines comfort care

By Patricia J. Malin

The Abraham House is going into 2018 with plans for an expansion while at the same time providing greater sustainability for its current base in Utica.

Abraham House, a nonprofit hospice facility at 1203 Kemble St., Utica, offers the terminally ill a home free of charge, but has just two beds.

Last June, Abraham House opened its Bird’s Nest Boutique to the public at 102 Eagle St. in a vacant building it owns next to the home. The boutique is a thrift store that sells new clothing and gently used merchandise, such as jewelry and household items, while creating a revenue stream for Abraham House.

Abraham House Executive Director Gina Ciaccia said she came across the idea for the boutique while attending a national conference. The concept was well received and approved by the board of directors.

Abraham House has been serving the needs of the terminally ill free of charge since 1998 and is the only comfort care home within Oneida, Madison and Herkimer counties in partnership with Hospice and Palliative Care Inc., of New Hartford. The house and the adjacent boutique were the former family home and office of Dr. A.L. (Abraham) Shaheen.

Abraham House offers 24-hour comfort care. While 91 percent of its guests came from three counties, Abraham House does not turn anyone away. In 2017, it also accommodated guests from Onondaga, Otsego and Delaware counties.

To date in 2017, Abraham House had an occupancy rate of nearly 70 percent or 42 guests, who stayed a total of 372 days. The average stay was 10 days, according to statistics provided by Ciaccia. The guests ranged in age from 42-97.

Final journey

Candidates for Abraham House are individuals with a terminal diagnosis and a prognosis of living three months or less that need round-the-clock loving care (provided by volunteers) in a home-like environment.

The proposed Rome Community Care Shelter will be located at 417 N. Washington St., the site of the former Rome Home for the elderly, which closed last spring after 108 years in the community. With the need for exterior and interior renovations, furnishings and new staff, and pending applications for grant funding, Ciaccia said the new home is not projected to be open for guests until spring 2019.

The Abraham House hopes to obtain nearly $300,000 in funds and matching grants from the city of Rome, the Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida Counties Inc., the Rome Community Foundation, The Good News Center, and New York state.

Sustainability is a concern since Abraham House admission is not based on income level or ability to pay. The home estimates it spends $394 per day to host each guest. Neither guests nor families are billed for any services provided, nor does the home collect insurance reimbursements.

“It is hoped that guests and family members will provide Abraham House with reasonable financial compensation dependent upon their individual ability to pay,” its website states.

Abraham House holds two major fundraising events a year which account for 25 percent of the facility’s operating budget, Ciaccia said. Its 10th annual “View of Hope” formal gala was held recently at Historic Union Station in downtown Utica. The 2016 event netted $36,000.

Every year in March, it organizes a “meatball madness” contest at Utica College, a fun event that attracts attention and participation from the public at large.

Abraham House and Hospice & Palliative Care, Inc. are separate nonprofit organizations, but team up to provide quality end-of-life care. Between Abraham House and Hospice’s Siegenthaler Center on Middle Settlement Road in New Hartford, there are just six beds for hospice patients; thus, the facility in Rome will help meet increased demand.

All potential Abraham House guests must be patients of hospice. Hospice also provides the medical care plan and oversight for guests, social workers, and bereavement services at the Abraham House.

Family members, hospitals, physicians, and home care agencies can make referrals to Abraham House.