Campaign Underway To Honor End Of Life Wishes

Rendering of the entry to the Santuary at Canyon’s Edge. Courtesy/LAVNS
Rendering of the north facade of the Santuary at Canyons Edge. Courtesy/LAVNS
Los Alamos Daily Post

When people reach the final moments of their lives, most prefer to spend this time at home. Sometimes that is not possible but a local campaign is underway to bring the next best thing to Los Alamos.

The Los Alamos Visiting Nurses’ (LAVNS) Sanctuary at Canyon’s Edge campaign is striving to construct a six-bed inpatient hospice facility that would be located on five acres off Canyon Road. The goal is to raise $3 million and the campaign is well on its way to this goal; it has raised almost $1.5 million.

The hope is to break ground this summer and the project is expected to take 16 months to complete.

Sarah Rochester, a member of the capital campaign leadership and former executive director of LAVNS, said one of the driving forces behind the campaign is to help honor people’s wishes to remain at home when they reach the end of their lives.

“If we have a hospice house … that allows folks to stay in their community. We’ll be making this as much home-like as possible,” Rochester said.

It also is a chance to provide all four levels of hospice care. Currently, LAVNS offers level one, which is routine care. This includes home visits, an intermediate care facility or hospital stay. Level two is respite care, which provides up to five days of care for patients and a break to caregivers. The third level is inpatient care; or short term crisis management for individuals with families who are unable to care for them.

“It’s an opportunity to have nursing care around the clock,” Rochester said.

The fourth level is continuous care for patients who are experiencing their last days or weeks of life. Rochester emphasized all four levels of hospice care are not catered just to an older age group.

“It not just for the old and frail, we’re talking about whatever is necessary at the end of the life,” she said.

There is a need for this type of facility in Los Alamos. Rochester pointed out that the community is rapidly aging. Plus, the nearest hospice facility is in Albuquerque.

It is important to realize the hospice facility will not resemble a hospital. All the rooms will have views of the canyon, they will be filled with light and the beds can be moved outside.

“These are going to be really homelike,” Rochester said. “Everyone will have a view … so it will be quiet and peaceful.”

The furnishings will be similar to those in a home, not a hospital, and there will not be a lot of medical equipment.

“The whole intent is comfort,” Rochester said.

Plus, patients will have the benefit of a large staff. Rochester explained that for the hospice to receive Medicaid funds, it is mandated to have a registered nurse, a second registered nurse or a licensed practicing nurse, and two certified health aids. This will provide almost one-to-one care.

Rochester, along with a fellow nurse, Edye Anderson, founded the Los Alamos Visiting Nurses. It is the oldest nonprofit nursing/hospice program in the state. Rochester said she just loved and believed it.

“I just kept working at it and it grew,” she said.

Rochester believed in LAVNS so much she worked without salary for the first two years. Eventually, she was able to bill Medicaid “and the rest is history.”

An occupational therapist was hired along with a home health aide. When it became clear that the next step in LAVNS’ evolution was a hospice house, the campaign was started to ask the community for financial support. While grants are going to be pursued, Rochester said the community’s support is very important to make the hospice house a reality.

For more information and to donate to the campaign, visit or call LAVNS at 505.662.2525.

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