Local nonprofit provides comfort, free place to stay for terminally ill people

Study finds many Baby Boomers will die alone

SAN ANTONIO – A recent study shows that many Baby Boomers don’t have support systems and will die alone, but one local nonprofit is working to fix that problem.

Jack Hall, 64, has terminal cancer. He could die at any time, but he's OK with that.

“I'm a believer. I'm not afraid to die,” he said.

Hall is spending his final days making model airplanes, spoiling his companion dog, Sadie, and spending time outside.

“Water the plants, feed the birds, enjoy this part of life back here,” he said.

Hall doesn't have any family in San Antonio and couldn't afford hospice care. He is part of the growing number of Baby Boomers who don't have support systems and are left to die alone.

Cases like Hall’s are the reason why the nonprofit Abode Contemplative Care for the Dying and 26 other homes across the country open their doors free of charge for people who are dying and don’t have family around and can't afford other options.

The federal study released this year found that more elderly people without family who are dying will have to lean more on paid professional care, potentially leading to a lower quality of life and higher costs for the government and taxpayers.

“The need is going to be horrendous,” said Martha Jo Atkins, executive director of Abode Contemplative Care. “And we are not ready. San Antonio is not ready. The country is not ready.”

The study says two of the reasons behind this problem are that families are living farther apart and Baby Boomers did not have many children.

Another study says that by 2030, the cost of paid elder care could double and by 2060, more than 21 million Americans over the age of 50 will be without a living partner or child.

Hall said he doesn't know what he would do without Abode and its staff and volunteers. It's given him a new perspective on life and dying.

“It's about living until you do pass on,” he said. “We enjoy every day around here.”

He hopes more places like Abode are available for his generation in the future.

“I know when I lay down here and take my last breath while these people here, they are my family. They'll be here with me,” Hall said. “I won't go alone. There's a lot of peace in that.”

Abode Contemplative Care for the Dying is one of the only places in San Antonio that provides a place for terminally ill people for free. There aren't physicians or nurses on staff, and you won't see IV bags. The guests can eat, do laundry and come and go as they please. It's a place for those dying to go peacefully.

Currently, there are three rooms available for guests. Since the opening of the home in December 2014, several hundred people have died at the home.

The director said she hopes to add three more rooms in the next year. She said she is not sure what the solution is for this growing problem of needing care for the Baby Boomer population, but she says educating the public is a start. 

The nonprofit operates with funding from grants and donations.

About the Authors: