A Place That Cares For HIV/AIDS Patients

In Hope Care Center, Kansas City has one of the few hospices entirely dedicated to the needs of those living with HIV/AIDS. Hope is also one of the four primary beneficiaries of AIDS Walk; the others are SAVE Inc., Good Samaritan Project and the Kansas City Free Health Clinic.

Mike McTavish, CEO and administrator at Hope Care Center, has been a full-time employee there for three years. He was a consultant to Hope Care Center for a long time, and was on the board and had taken on other roles since just after the place opened.

Nestled in a quiet Waldo neighborhood at 85th and Main Street in Kansas City, Hope Care Center is a remarkable place run by some remarkable people. It has about 30 employees, McTavish said.

“About two-thirds of that staff is direct nursing staff, and the other one-third is administrative.”

Of the 16 beds, half are in private rooms and half are in double rooms. Each room either has its own bath or shares with the room next door. McTavish said staff members take care to place similar people in shared rooms or people who need more care closer to the nurse’s stations.

“If someone is here on hospice, we try and make sure they have the privacy where family can come for their last days. We move people around a little bit, just to try and find the best situation that we can with the number of rooms that we have.”

Residents are staying at Hope Care Center longer than previous residents did, now that more medications are available for HIV/AIDS.

“Even when we opened in the fall of ’96, there were a lot of folks who were involved with Hope who were surprised at how many people could get better and go back to independent living. Now, we had many, many more folks who passed away back in those days. I think that the expectation was that Hope Care Center would essentially be a hospice, a place where people could come for their last days and Hope Care Center could provide some dignity to them at the end.”

“The largest group are the ones that return to independent living,” McTavish said. “We still have folks who come here and pass away. We still have folks that come here, typically it’s people who have not had the proper care for an extended time and the disease has taken a significant toll and they can be stabilized. And those are folks that there’s not really the hope of independent living for them in the future, but they can be stabilized and have a good life at Hope Care Center.”

Although many of the residents are on Medicaid, many of their needs are not met by insurance, and that is where contributions from the AIDS Service Foundation through AIDS Walk and individual donations help Hope Care Center survive.

“With 16 beds available, we’ve actually had to turn away more than we can serve. We’re turning away 20-25 people a year. So our dream is to have a larger facility where we can better serve the needs of the community,” McTavish said.

He said their goal would be to expand the facility in its current location rather than seek out a new location.

Hope Care Center prides itself on a great executive chef who takes the nutritional needs of residents into account when providing meals. They also use the donations to provide outlets for recreation, using the Hope Care Center van to take residents on excursions around town.

“The donations are what makes our residents have a much more full life. Many nursing homes make the residents pay their own way when they go for outings and such. We don’t do that. We pay for all of that for our residents. It’s an important part of their recovery and it’s an important way for people to stay connected in the community. We don’t want people to think that because they are in a nursing home they are isolated from the rest of the city.”

“We’ve been very fortunate to have very good neighborhood support since we opened,” McTavish said. “The neighborhood association has even had their block party in our driveway a couple of times.”

It’s very common, according to McTavish, to see neighborhood residents walk their dogs on the park-like grounds of Hope Care Center, which back up to parkland.

“Most of the people don’t know where exactly are the property lines and just assume we’re part of the park ground, and that’s all right,” he said with a laugh.

McTavish said that volunteers and contributions are always welcome, as are clothing and household items. “Many of our residents come to us with just the clothes they are wearing,” he said.

“It is much more than a roof over their head,” he said. “We are caring for the whole person.”

More information can also be found at www.hopecarecenter.org, where readers can sign up for the center’s newsletter, or by e-mail at info@hopecarecenter.org, or by calling 816-523-3988. The Foundation of Hope is a 501(c) 3 organization; information on donating can be found on their website or by calling the main number.
Look for Team Hope Care Center at AIDS Walk and at the AIDS Bicycle Challenge during the fall. In addition, they will host a fundraiser with the band Alacartoona at 7 p.m. May 20 at Varieties, 3611 Broadway, Kansas City, Mo. Missy Koonce will emcee. Admission is $25.

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