Skip to main content

What's Up Magazine

Caring for Life: Hospice of the Chesapeake, a Vital Community Resource

Dec 13, 2017 02:00PM
By John and Cathy Belcher

We came to Annapolis from Vancouver, Canada in early 1998 and shortly after began our quest to support and give back to the community. We became heavily involved in many 501c3 organizations and in particular those that would ensure the best medical care for ourselves and the community. We took respective places on the boards of Anne Arundel Medical Center (AAMC) and Hospice of the Chesapeake.

With its mission of “caring for life throughout the journey with illness and loss,” Hospice of the Chesapeake has cared for more than 35,000 patients and helped over 100,000 families affected by the death of a loved one since its inception in 1979. In 2016, 2,826 hospice patients were cared for by the hospice interdisciplinary teams and were supported by over 435 volunteers, many of whom sit at a patient’s bedside. In 2017, Hospice of the Chesapeake will celebrate its 38th anniversary deeply committed to making important contributions to the health of our region.

We had a shared vision regarding Hospice’s expertise in end-of-life care, in particular providing care to people with life-limiting illnesses, so they can live out their lives in comfort and with dignity. In 2014, we decided to give a large transformational gift creating the John and Cathy Belcher Campus in Pasadena, helping them to establish their first-ever permanent home. The new campus, nestled on a serene seven-acre wooded site, and which hosts the Chesapeake Life Center, the Rebecca Fortney Inpatient Care Center, and the Patient Services building, has moved Hospice to an even greater care capability. It is significantly and importantly tied to our local hospitals, including Anne Arundel Medical Center and others in both Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties, and works closely with them to provide both hospice and palliative care.

We also decided to invest in Hospice’s future by providing seed funding for Belcher Institute—a virtual educational center—that sets the standard for a new level of excellence in end-of-life care. The mission of the Institute is to lead positive and transformational change in the care and understanding of complex illness. Although still in its early stages, the Institute has sponsored several outreach programs focused on giving voice to end-of-life care decisions and considerations. Its successful “Courageous Conversations” series hosted at the Anne Arundel County Public Library has introduced many topics such as, Safe Passages: Navigating Options in the Face of Serious Illness, The Best Ending Ever, and Growing Through Grief, as well as a discussion series on the bestselling book, Being Mortal by Atul Gawande, MD.

Hospice of the Chesapeake has always supported patients’ goals to remain at home until the end of life, but sometimes this is not possible. The new 14-suite Rebecca Fortney Inpatient Care Center provides a home-like setting which allows patients to be surrounded by family and friends and simultaneously receive state-of-the art medical care. In the coming months, the Mandrin Inpatient Care Center in Harwood will re-open to serve the southern part of Anne Arundel County as well as Prince George’s County. These two acute care facilities serve as important and cost-effective alternatives to hospitalization where patients—and their family members—all receive compassionate and loving care.

Through its Chesapeake Life Center programs, Hospice of the Chesapeake has created many innovative programs to meet the growing grief and bereavement needs of people of all ages in the community. In addition to grief support for hospice families, bereavement counseling services are available to anyone in our community who has suffered the loss of a loved one. Fully one half of the nearly 2,600 grief support sessions were provided to community members who had suffered a loss outside of hospice services.

We are both involved in many non-profit organizations and we get great satisfaction giving back to the community. We urge all to consider doing the same. In the words of Winston Churchill, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” We are particularly proud of our association with, and our investment in, Hospice of the Chesapeake. It provides an important and valuable service to our community. Our hats are off to CEO Ben Marcantonio and his team for what they do every day and we look forward to their continuous development of compassionate end-of-life care for all of us.

Remember—it is not a disaster to have dreams unfulfilled, but it is a disaster not to dream. We dream of the day when all in our community take the opportunity to benefit from the compassionate care provided by Hospice of the Chesapeake.

But until then, life is now, don’t look back, break with routine and go have an adventure.