Anthony House to offer compassionate, 24-hour care for the terminally ill
By Lou Sorendo
Death is inevitable, but it doesn’t have to be a negative, lonely experience.
Wellhouse Ministries, Inc. in Oswego is taking the sting out of what can be a taboo topic.
Wellhouse Ministries — led by Kateri Spinella, her husband David Chelson and her mother Celestina Spinella — is raising money to start a comfort care two-bedroom hospice home in Oswego County.
“Under Wellhouse Ministries, our mission is to open Anthony House, that place to call home for people with a terminal illness,” Kateri said.
The trio represents the ministry, founded in 2015 as a 501(3)(c) nonprofit, charitable organization to help meet the needs of the terminally ill, their families and loved ones living in Oswego County.
The team is hoping to have Anthony House up and running by the end of 2018.
Chelson currently works for the Oswego County Highway Department while Kateri Spinella is a part-time emergency room nurse at St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center in Syracuse. They reside in Palermo.
Wellhouse Ministries is headquartered at the Oswego County Business Expansion Center on East Seneca Street in Oswego.
Spinella, who has more than 20 years in the nursing field, said the motivation behind the ministry came from the work she did as a hospice nurse with the Oswego County Health Department.”
She said there are some “fantastic” nursing programs locally, “but there is not a lot to prepare us for end-of-life care.”
Spinella said it was a real “eye opener” when she went into people’s homes and helped manage end-of-life symptoms while teaching families how to care for their loved ones.
“It was something I had not encountered before in all my years of nursing, and I just saw some real needs that people had,” she said. “I was well educated in a good way.”
Spinella said that she learned from her patients and their families. “That is so much a part of what motivated us. There’s such a great need,” she said.
Must meet criteria
Spinella said for a patient to be admitted into a home hospice program, part of the requirement is to have a caregiver with them 24 hours a day, seven days a week for a variety of reasons.
However, in many instances, families do not always have the resources to provide that round-the-clock care.
If individuals in need of end-of-life care do not qualify for any other placement, Spinella would have to refer them to a place such as Francis House in Syracuse, which features two homes for the terminally ill on the north side of the city.
However, “that involves travel time and a lot of inconvenience, especially if one spouse is terminally ill and the other spouse has their own medical issues and can’t do a lot of traveling,” Celestina said. “It would be great to have a home here in our area so that we can take care of these people.”
Wellhouse Ministries will provide the 24-care and supervisory pieces that individuals need in a homelike environment, while Oswego County Hospice would attend to medical issues.
“They will make the determination that somebody qualifies for hospice care. Believe it or not, there is criteria,” Spinella said.
Two physicians must attest a patient is in need of hospice care. If a person is affirmed, Oswego County Hospice provides a nurse to come to Anthony House to do weekly or as-needed evaluations while providing medicines and supplies needed to help manage an individual’s symptoms.
Meanwhile, Anthony House would oversee personal care on a 24-hour basis, including tasks such as feeding and bathing.
Design, planning stages
Anthony House is designed to feature two-bedroom suites on each side of a great room and kitchen. Two garages will exist on each side of the home, making transport of residents efficient and private.
The design will offer privacy but also be a gathering place for family members. The suites will be large enough to accommodate family members who want to stay during the last several days of the person’s life.
Also planned is a garden where residents and their families can spend time outdoors.
The ministry wants Anthony House to be located in Oswego County, and preferably outside the city proper of Oswego in a tranquil environment, presents an exciting opportunity for home building services, as noted by My ADU. The team is entertaining both the option of building a new house or buying an existing one.
“Eventually, we hope to open up additional homes. We really feel this is just the first step, and we foresee multiple homes within the county,” Chelson said. “There’s nothing like this in the county.”
There are 14 homes of similar status in the Rochester area, and many comfort care homes across the state, Spinella noted.
The team did its homework prior to developing its own concept.
Spinella said Francis House — with its emphasis on excellence in care and contributing to the community — has greatly influenced Wellhouse Ministries.
“What is brought into Francis House is poured right back out into those that they serve and the families they care for,” Spinella said.
Another source of mentorship has been the Matthew House in Auburn. It has been in existence for more than 13 years, and during that time, the two-bedroom home has served more than 300 families.
“The way they are set up, they have taken away the sting of death or the negative aspects of death,” Celestina Spinella said.
Major fundraising event
Wellhouse Ministries’ signature event will be its annual fundraiser, the Black and White Masquerade Ball. It will take place Jan. 13 at The American Foundry in Oswego.
Food, entertainment by The Billionaires, and games and prizes will be featured.
The ministry needs donors who either wish to make monetary donations or are willing to donate time to build the house.
Chelson serves as the building coordinator. He estimates the home to cost approximately $200,000, with another $50,000 to get the doors open.
“We definitely don’t have any monetary aspirations for this. This is spiritual,” said Chelson, noting there are no paychecks or compensation in the effort.
“Our success or longevity in this ministry is going to be dependent upon the people, the community, and its dedication and commitment,” Kateri Spinella said.
Her mother noted both Matthew House and Francis House have solid volunteer bases.
“We do find there are a lot of people interested, so we need to develop training programs and get them on board,” she said.
Ardent supporters of the ministry and Anthony House include SUNY Oswego, various foundations and several churches, according to Kateri Spinella.
Wellhouse Ministries Seeking Donations
Officials from Wellhouse Ministries, who plan to start a comfort care two-bedroom hospice home in Oswego County, are organizing several events to raise money for the project. One of such event — the Black and White Masquerade Ball. —will take place Jan. 13 at The American Foundry in Oswego.
They are also seeking donations from the public to make the project a reality.
Here’s the information about the organization:
Mailing address: PO Box 862, Oswego, NY 13126
Address: 185 E. Seneca St., Oswego, NY 13126
(Donations can be made through PayPal on the ministries’ website)