Woman’s final mission to help future people at the end of life

October 10, 2017 06:34 PM

BALLSTON SPA - As the battle over the right to die continues, there's another battle at end of life – the battle to get people to embrace palliative or comfort care.

There's a growing body of research showing it improves quality of life at end of life and may even extend life.

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A special home in Ballston Spa has been providing that care and for one woman, letting others know about it will help her rest in peace.

The Gateway House of Peace is a home for terminally ill people in Saratoga County. There are two bedrooms, but plenty of room for family to gather and support their loved ones. That was important for Tom and Tim Welch when their mom's heart failed and life's end loomed.

"On September 15, we were told that she had 10 minutes to live," recalled Tom.

However, 84-year-old Joan Welch had other plans. This retired Corinth teacher wasn't done helping others.

"We never knew our mom to sleep more than three or four hours a night our entire life, because she was in charge of many organizations to help others," noted Tim.

WEB EXTRA: Extended conversation with Tom and Tim Welch

Her community service was well known, garnering her notice in the book, "Remarkable Women in New York State."

Along with her sons Tom and Tim and their wives, she's beloved by her five grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

Her room at Gateway House of Peace is filled with reminders of their visits and love. Until her health failed, she lived with Tom and his family.

"I don't know if we were watching her or she was watching us," admitted Tom.

When Joan needed more care than they could provide, they took her doctor's suggestion and move her to Gateway.

In this home-like environment, her loved ones – family and friends - can drop by just as always.

With round-the-clock staffing by volunteers, the family is secure knowing they can head home at night to recharge and return to spend their days at her bedside.

Then something unexpected happened. Joan told her family she had one more mission.

"We think that her last mission is getting this house exposure," pointed out Tom.

Gateway House of Peace runs solely on donations. So her final mission - sharing the Gateway story - caps Joan's amazing life of service.

"We're very thankful for the Gateway house," noted Tim.

There are a handful of these "end of life" homes in the Capital Region. They all offer two beds. You can self-refer, but hospice is usually required to be involved.

I’ll be keeping Joan and her family in my thoughts.

More information:

Gateway House of Peace


Benita Zahn

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