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Tue, July 23

Couple brings passion for hospice care to Prescott

EDITOR'S NOTE ­ This is the second part of a seven-day series about hospice care in the Prescott area.

Prescott residents Gabe and Linda Coppola have a long history with hospice services. It is that personal history that led them to become hospice volunteers and to work toward a free-standing Hospice House and Care Center in the Prescott area.

Gabe was a special education teacher in Buffalo, N.Y. The couple moved to Prescott after he retired.

Gabe's father died of pancreatic cancer 16 years ago, and Linda's father died of prostrate cancer this past July.

"We both got involved with hospice because of our fathers. Both of our fathers were at the Buffalo Hospice House ­ just 16 years apart," Gabe said.

"When we saw how hospice came in and helped the family, not just the patient, it became our charity, our passion," he said.

Both fathers received home care before going to the Hospice House.

"Our experiences were different. We were living in Buffalo when my father died, but Linda had to travel back and forth when her father was ill," Gabe said.

Linda said, "my father just wanted my mother to take care of him until he actually saw how exhausted she was. When the first hospice volunteer came to the house, he pointed to my mom and said 'she's my caregiver.'"

Linda noted that her hospice volunteer training helped her talk to her father about a number of topics.

"Hospice care allows families to not be caregivers. It allows them to spend family-time with the patient," Linda said. "We had some great times and some good conversations after hospice was involved. Before that, he was just angry."

Gabe said his father was mean until he signed the hospice papers. After that, he said, his father was more at peace.

Gabe said they decided to volunteer with hospice in Prescott before Linda's father died.

"We opened the telephone book and called. We thought there was only one hospice service, but there were three and now there are five. Then we found out there was no Hospice House," Gabe said.

He said that neither of their fathers wanted to die at home because of the bad memories that would remain.

"That was their choices. When we learned there was no Hospice House here, it was clear that was a choice that needed to be available to people," Gabe said.

The Coppolas then started a quest to build a Hospice House.

"We went to every caregiver in the area and told them what we wanted to do. Everyone thought it was a good idea, but they were unable to move forward at that time," Gabe said.

The Coppolas' road soon led them to Adult Care Services and Susan Rheem. The timing could not have been better. ACS was exploring the idea of opening its own Hospice House.

With the support of the ACS Board of Directors the plan soon changed to building a stand-alone Hospice House that all service providers would use.

The Coppolas saw their dream take shape Dec. 2, 2005, when ACS officials announced the creation of A Residence for Hospice and Comfort Care to help the terminally ill and their families deal with dying in a dignified manner and in comfortable, home-like surroundings.

The new hospice house is a cooperative project between ACS, Yavapai Regional Medical Center Hospice, Hospice Family Care, Hospice of the Pines and Granite Mountain Hospice. It will consist of 10 private rooms, overnight accommodations for family members, kitchen and dining areas, private gathering spaces and peaceful gardens.

Contact the reporter at prhoden@prescottaz.com

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