Aurora House is a licensed Special Care Facility that provides a residence with compassionate end of life care at no cost to the patient. This special house offers love and compassion through trained community volunteers and a staff of nursing assistants. Quality care is provided in a home-like atmosphere, with clean and comfortable, private rooms.
Aurora House is available to residents who have been diagnosed as terminal and have a life expectancy of less than three months. In collaboration with Hospice programs throughout the Rio Grande Valley, Aurora House provides shelter and personal care while the Hospice team provides medical care. Aurora House provides both the patient and family with companionship, homemaker services, and compassionate support. Each patient must be enrolled in a Hospice Program of their choice.
The medical care (which includes management of the symptoms, pain, medical equipment, medications, IV’s or Injections, wound care), is supplied by the Hospice program through an interdisciplinary team of Physicians, Nurses, Chaplains, and Social Workers. Aurora House follows Hospice protocol where the goal is not to cure, but to alleviate and lessen the severity and pain of illness and embraces the end-of-life philosophy which targets the four different areas of pain: Emotional, Social, Spiritual, and Physical.
As a private not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization, Aurora House does not receive any form of government funding and relies fully on community donations to provide care for its patients. It is not affiliated with or related to any hospital or religious organization. Aurora House is licensed for ten beds through the Texas Department of Health in Austin.
The idea for Aurora House began as a dream of Dr. Rafael Rodriguez, Founding Director. “When I was Medical Director of a local Hospice, I visited a lot of patients and their families in their homes. Sometimes I saw patients in the process of dying who were living in extreme poverty. They had not been bathed, they were lying in dirty sheets, and they hadn’t eaten in days, because they didn’t have the resources or families who could take care of them. We were taking those patients to McAllen, to the Comfort House, but at the same time, we were separating the patients from their families and friends,” said Dr. Rodriguez. “We needed a place in the Mid-Valley area where families could visit so patients wouldn’t feel abandoned.” Through a grassroots effort, volunteers were able to purchase and remodel a home for four patients in south Weslaco. The first patient was admitted in June of 2007.
Meeting Community Needs
Nurses train to save lives, and they can be unprepared to meet the emotional, spiritual, and medical needs of terminally ill patients and their families. So Aurora House partnered with South Texas College to provide nursing students with an opportunity to learn about end of life care, more specifically palliative and hospice care.
Since 2010, 2123 students have learned how to identify and manage physical pain as well as emotional, social, and spiritual pain; familiarize themselves with multiple medications used for pain management; and understand the importance of the interdisciplinary approach in caring for these patients. Students see first-hand the role of nurses, chaplains, social workers, and physicians as they manage the care of Aurora House patients.
Requests have been received from other schools for rotation and curriculum opportunities. Also, there was no room to hold continuing education seminars for health care professionals and students. The need was great for a dedicated, on-site classroom facility in which to hold, enhance, and expand these courses.
While students received their training, the Aurora House was so busy that 67 patients could not be accommodated due to lack of beds and staff. That number was just the patients seeking admission during the first half of 2014.
And then something wonderful happened….
A benefactor made a major donation if both an education center and additional patient rooms would be added to Aurora House!
This generous gift, along with others, allowed the Aurora House to complete the first phase toward expanding its mission and filling a desperate need!
Construction on four additional patient rooms, which doubles the Aurora House capacity, and a separate education building began in the Spring of 2014. Now that construction is complete, funding for the next phase of the project is needed.