United Hospice of Orange and Rockland Counties: Honoring life, giving care, and bringing comfort for more than three decades

Cara Pace, CEO
May 2, 2024

When Mary Anne decided to seek hospice care for Marie, a close family member who was developmentally delayed and living at a nearby facility for physically and mentally disabled individuals, she knew exactly where to go:  the Joe Raso Hospice Residence at United Hospice of Orange and Rockland Counties, where she was confident Marie would get the care, compassion, and love she would want in her remaining years.

After all, Mary Anne was familiar with the United Hospice’s staff and mission, having made many memorial donations and through her participation in the Tree of Life program, both as a donor and a volunteer. She knew that Joe Raso was the perfect place for Marie.

“Marie was a developmentally delayed adult who was raised/lived for close to 40 years (at a home for developmentally delayed children) left there by her father at the age of 12.  Her path after that was different – to say the least,” Mary Anne recalled.  “At her passing she was a kind, gentle, funny  89-year-old eight year old.  I wanted her to be treated with dignity, care, compassion and for once in her life – to be made to feel like she was the most special person in residence.”

Marie’s story and Mary Anne’s experiences with United Hospice, a unique, not-for-profit organization that has been serving the communities of Orange and Rockland counties in the beautiful Hudson Valley region of New York for over 35 years, is just one of the many stories shared by family members whose loved ones have benefitted from United Hospice’s approach to care for patients who are near end of life care.

More than 1.7 million Americans entered hospice care in 2021, according to the latest statistics from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO), up from approximately 1.15 million Americans in 2010.  According to the NHPCO, “The majority of hospice care is provided in the place the patient calls home.  In addition to private residences, this includes nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and residential facilities. Hospice care may also be provided in freestanding hospice facilities and hospitals,” like the Joe Raso Hospice Residence.

Tracing the roots of hospice care

Cara Pace, Chief Executive Officer at United Hospice, explained that the concept of hospice itself has a long and meaningful history.

“The word “hospice” originates from the Latin term “hospitum,” which encapsulates hospitality and offers a place of rest and safety for the sick and weary, Pace noted.  “This notion traces back to 1065 when facilities were established to provide solace and care to the sick and dying as they embarked on their journey to the Holy Land.”

Pace said that the modern version of hospice, which exists today, was first developed by Dame Cicely Saunders, a licensed nurse in Britain who revolutionized hospice care in 1967 by introducing the concept of modern hospice.

“Dame Saunder’s health struggles inspired her to pursue medical social work and emphasize prioritizing the patient’s well-being over the illness itself, Pace said.  “Additionally, Dame Saunders recognized the importance of attending to the needs of the patient’s loved ones during this challenging time.”

Pace says that, as a nonprofit organization, United Hospice prioritizes the well-being of its patients over financial gain.  The entire medical team and staff invests significant time and effort into each patient’s care, providing comprehensive and personalized support throughout their journey.  With a dedicated full-time board-certified medical director in hospice and palliative care, United Hospice has assembled a team of expert physicians who offer house calls and provide round-the-clock support through their innovative service delivery model.

What patients and their families can expect from the Joe Raso Residence

Emotions have a significant impact on physical health for patients who enter Joe Raso, according to Dr. David Chmielewski, United Hospice’s Medical Director.

“That is why the medical team and staff at Joe Raso strive to enhance the quality of life for our patients and their families when time matters most.  Patients of all ages receive specialized care for advanced illnesses such as cancer, heart, lung, kidney and liver disease, and neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease), Alzheimer’s, and Dementia,” Dr. Chmielewski said.

Dr. Chmielewski explains that United Hospice provides specialized care to people of all ages facing advanced illnesses.  Similar to contacting a specialist when an illness requires the care of an expert, patients, families, and healthcare providers reach out to United Hospice because we provide compassionate end-of-life care when time matters most.

United Hospice treats the whole person, addressing the patient’s physical and emotional needs and supporting their loved ones, a notion that Mary Anne explained was so important to her when she sought to place Marie at Joe Raso Hospice Residence.

“I knew of the Joe Raso Hospice Residence (in New City) and when I realized that Marie’s time was diminishing, there was no hesitation in making the request for a placement there,” Mary Anne recalled.

Patient care at Joe Raso Hospice Residence

One of New York State’s premier hospice residences, Joe Raso provides patients with ten private, spacious suites, with ample space for visiting family members and convertible furniture for overnight stays.

For example, bathrooms at Joe Raso are designed to accommodate every need of the patient and include a wheel-in bathtub, radiant heat, and other amenities that make life comfortable for their patients.  Moreover, Joe Raso understands that every patient’s dietary needs differ and offers flexible dining options that cater to patients’ religious and dietary needs.

The medical team and staff at Joe Raso strongly encourages families and friends to visit patients by providing a Great Room, a space for residents and visitors to visit, read, sit by the fireplace, or enjoy a view of our beautiful courtyard.  Private contemplation or meditation rooms and private areas for patients and families to visit or meet with a social worker.

In addition to medical care, patients at Joe Raso can participate in life-enhancing activities including music, massage, and pet therapy.

This was the perfect environment to meet Marie’s medical and social well-being, just as it has for the hundreds of patients and families who have benefitted from United Hospice’s unique approach to end-of-life and rehabilitative care for more than three decades.  Mary Anne’s advice to patients and families who are in need of such care?

“Don’t wait!  Visit United Hospice and the Joe Raso Hospice Residence if being away from home is your choice.  The skill and expertise of the Hospice staff in delivering the needed services allow family members to focus on valuable time with their loved one.  It’s a gift.”

To learn more about the Joe Raso Hospice Residence or to find more information for patients and families who wish to receive hospice care in their own homes, please visit www.unitedhospiceinc.org or call 845-634-4974