June 20, 2019

New Hampshire's First Hospice House Marks 25 Years of Service to the Community

CONCORD, NH – On Monday, June 17, nearly 100 people gathered in the Susan McLane Memorial Garden at Concord Regional VNA Hospice House in Concord, NH to mark the 25th anniversary of its opening. The Hospice House, located at 240 Pleasant Street, opened on April 4, 1994, and was the first in New Hampshire.

Concord Regional VNA, which will mark its 120th anniversary this year, has provided hospice services to residents of the greater Concord community since 1981. Prior to opening Hospice House, hospice care was provided in patients’ homes, and in hospitals or nursing homes. Hospice House offers patients who are terminally ill and their loved ones a comfortable place with skilled care for a peaceful end-of-life journey.

“This is a special place where our staff and volunteers provide around-the-clock care, guidance and support for patients and families during what can be an extremely difficult and emotionally exhausting time in their lives,” said Beth Slepian, President and CEO, Concord Regional VNA. “We try to create a setting where patients and their families may have deeply personal experiences. Over the years, we have hosted weddings, date nights, special visits with pets of all types and sizes, and personal concerts,to name just a few.”

Jock Irvine of Concord, who spoke at Monday’s event, recalled how the Concord Coachmen Chorus, of which his father was a member, crowded into his dad’s room at Hospice House and sang for him.

Hospice staff member Joann Chamberland, RN, started with Concord Regional VNA as a hospice nurse in 1993, and accompanied the very first patient to Hospice House. Chamberland shared the story of 93-year-old Gertrude at Monday’s ceremony. Gertrude lived alone in a mobile home, and her health was failing. “We walked together into this brand new Hospice House, and Gertrude said, ‘This is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen – it’s too nice for me,’ and she wept. Gertrude christened this place with her tears of joy,” said Chamberland. She says she thinks of Gertrude every time she walks through the front door of Hospice House.

U.S. Representative Ann McLane Kuster discarded her prepared remarks in favor of sharing personal reflections connecting her own family’s journey to the vital services Concord Regional VNA and Hospice House provide to families throughout the region. “None of us is immune to the reality of end-of-life. My grandmother – my mother’s mother – passed in the comfort of her bed, and I recall her doctor commenting on how fortunate she was to be at home,” said Representative Kuster. “This and her father’s passing is where the notion to make hospice services and end-of-life planning a reality in New Hampshire took hold.”

The Susan McLane Memorial Garden at Hospice House was named for Representative Kuster’s mother Susan McLane, who served in the New Hampshire legislature for 25 years, and was instrumental in ushering-in legislation that paved the way for what we now know as ‘advanced directives’ – binding agreements meant to ease the burden of end-of-life decisions, and to hospice services.

NH State Senator Dan Feltes read a proclamation from the New Hampshire Senate recognizing Hospice House’s 25 years of service to the region.

Since opening its doors in 1994, more than 3,500 patients and their loved ones have received care at Hospice House. Concord Regional VNA provides more than $1 million in community benefit through services offered by the Hospice House.