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Submitted by eden on Fri, 09/17/2010 - 13:46
Zen Hospice Project was founded in 1987 as a program of the San Francisco Zen Center. Initially, we brought services to indigent cancer patients living in the streets or in small residential hotels. Soon after, the AIDS epidemic came to the forefront in San Francisco. In 1988, we began working in partnership with Laguna Honda Hospital to offer hospice services in an institutional setting. We started offering person-centered care for the dying at our residential Guest House in 1990 and incorporated formally as Zen Hospice Project in 1992. Over the years, we have become a haven for people who are dying and their families, who had nowhere else to turn.
The Guest House became a residential hospice in 1990 to provide services for both the underserved without access to other hospice care and those seeking to live their final days with the support of a contemplative end-of-life care community. Hospice Care continued uninterrupted for the next 14 years. In 2004, in order to bring the Guest House into compliance with safety codes, we temporarily suspended residential hospice services. Renovation plans were finalized in 2006 with Stadler & Architects. Construction began in 2008 and was completed in October 2009, under the able guidance of Glenn Warner of Scott & Warner Contractors. The finished project is a beautiful combination of Victorian splendor and modern safety and accessibility. The Guest House re-opened as a 6-bed hospice residence in September 2010. It is licensed as a Residential Care Facility for the Chronically Ill (RCFCI) by the State of California.
The Hospice Unit in Laguna Honda Hospital became our partner in 1988 to provide dignified care for the indigent AIDS-stricken population of San Francisco. This model hospice unit provides a final home for approximately 100 people each year who would otherwise likely live their last days in homeless shelters or on the streets. An interdisciplinary team including physicians, nurses, social workers, activity therapists, spiritual and bereavement coordinators, attendants, and Zen Hospice Project Volunteer Caregivers generate a community of care distinguished by dignified and generous caregiving for the uninsured members of society. Few non-profit partnerships can boast such a long and successful partnership. We are honored to serve the people of San Francisco through our work with the wonderful hospice team at Laguna Honda Hospital.
Our thriving volunteer program began as a project of the San Francisco Zen Center. Each year, 100+ volunteers collectively provide 20,000 hours of care for 200 patients at one of two locations: Laguna Honda Hospital Hospice and the Guest House Residence. Volunteers provide practical, emotional, and spiritual support. They make soup, change linens, give backrubs, listen to life stories and bring to these everyday activities the open heart, mindfulness, and equanimity that are cultivated in meditation. This service offers our volunteers the opportunity to explore their own relationships to death and, in return, offer our residents a place of quietude, openness, grace, and dignity. Although our reputation for volunteer caregiving is renowned, the heart of the program is simple: bringing together individuals who are cultivating a "listening mind" through meditation practice with people who need to be heard. It is a mutually beneficial relationship.
Since its inception, Zen Hospice Project has been aware that a strong educational component would eventually emerge from its hospice work. Our Education Center was established in 1999 (originally named The Institute) as a natural evolution of our work at Zen Hospice Project. For more than 10 years, the Education Center has been contributing to the culture of death and dying in America, beyond the walls of our hospice, volunteer, and grief support programs. Through our workshops, lectures, and consultation services, we disseminate the vital knowledge that has accrued within our organization. Participants learn to effectively apply mindfulness methods to end-of-life care. By training caregivers, we can directly improve the quality of care for thousands of patients, which we could not have served in our existing programs.
In 2006, we began offering Grief Support to those who have experienced a significant loss, such as the death of a loved one, the incremental losses related to caregiving, or the loss of an ability or identity. Through our array of grief groups, workshops, and 1-to-1 support sessions, we have confirmed that many people can benefit from good company and guidance, grounded in our mindful approach of calming the mind, balancing the emotions, and attending to the present moment. While there are several resources in the Bay Area for bereavement support, they do not explore death and loss in the unique way of Zen Hospice Project. Our model of bereavement care is based on the view that we are all interconnected through the reality of impermenance and the possibility of personal transformation through calming the mind, balancing the emotions, and attending to the present moment. In helping individuals live skillfully with grief and loss and by providing a variety of grief services, we are a respected resource in the larger community of agencies that directly supports the bereaved.In 2006, Zen Hospice Project plans to fully launch a bereavement support program for the general public
Frank Ostaseski was the founding director of Zen Hospice Project. He introduced thousands to the practices of mindful and compassionate care of the dying. His deep wish to comfort the suffering and his boundless enthusiasm for Buddhist teachings were key factors in the blossoming of our organization. Frank is a gifted teacher who inspired our volunteers and staff to bring great mindfulness and compassion to our practice of serving the dying. At the end of 2003, Frank left our staff to establish the Metta Institute and develop the End-of-Life Care Practitioner Program. Frank now teaches internationally, leading Buddhist meditation retreats and professional trainings on the spiritual dimensions of living, dying, and transformation.
Thousands of people have been touched by Zen Hospice Project, many of whom live -- and die -- with more ease and less suffering. By paying careful attention to the great matters of life and death, we have been at the forefront of the hospice movement for many years. Over the years, more than 20,000 people have received care, inspiration, comfort, and/or training, and our mission has been carried into communities near and far, inspiring similar work throughout the world. We hope that our approach of turning toward death and loss with loving kindness and careful attention continues to influence countless individuals, organizations, and communities for years time to come.