Between the fluorescent lighting, sterilized environment and continuous beeping of machines, hospitals are not best known for their warmth and comfort.
Despite such unpleasantries, most patients temporarily suffer through these circumstances with the knowledge that they will soon be on the road to recovery and be released home to their family. However, for patients with a terminal illnesses, such as those with the many forms of advanced cancers, forbidding hospital environments don't offer the hope of a peaceful and familiar passing.
Sam Matlick ’17 is committed to developing a system that would increase the number of patients who have the opportunity to pass away surrounded by loved ones and in the comfort of their own home. He recently started a nonprofit organization, the Sandee K. Foundation, in order to address this need, taking the idea to a regional pitch competition, held at the SUNY Polytechnic Institute.
Matlick earned second place out of 22 teams from a dozen local schools. During the competition, Matlick had 10 minutes to deliver his pitch, before a five minute question and comment period for the judges. “I’ll adjust my next pitch to address [the judges’] questions and comments,” he added, “in order to prepare for the final round of competition this upcoming Friday.”
Matlick was awarded a cash prize for his last pitch, although, as a finalist, he will move on to compete against teams from across the state in the final round of The New York State Business Pitch Competition (NYBPC) on Friday, April 24. The stakes in this round are much higher, with the grand prize for the competition set at $100,000, split evenly between cash and in-kind prizes, such as counseling and legal services.
Matlick also won Hamilton’s 4th Annual Pitch Competition in October, 2013, with his company, SellYourTech LLC, which is “a web portal for the purchase and resale of used electronic equipment.” SellYourTech.com is now operational on five college campuses and is hoping to expand to 10 by the end of the year. He also went on to take the grand prize at the regional, and a “people's choice award” (4th place) at the NYBPC last year.
The Foundation that Matlick is currently pitching is named for his mother, Dr. Sandee Karen Matlick, who passed away in September, 2014, after a hard fought, 11-year battle with breast cancer.
In October, Matlick began thinking of what he could do “to honor and leave a legacy in [his mother’s] memory, and what better way than to make an attempt at decreasing the suffering of others struggling with breast cancer.” He acknowledged that although his family was fortunate enough to be able to offer his mother in-home nursing, a comfort he cherished and believes is essential for both the patient and their family, many families aren’t as lucky.
These families do, however, have options in terms of end-of-life care, thanks to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Act, instituted in 1986. The Act allocated financial support for families opting to utilize hospice care for their terminally ill loved ones in the comfort of their own home.
Hospice care entails having a visiting nurse come into the home to check vitals, assess the patient’s progression, and provide support for both physical and emotional pain that accompanies terminal illness. Similarly, palliative care is provided by a specialist or team of healthcare professionals but, unlike hospice, begins at the time of diagnosis.
Insurance providers, such as Medicare, incorporate hospice and palliative care into their packages, although many of these plans only offer such services to patients aged 65 and over. However, cancers, especially breast cancer, tend to affect younger adults, with diagnoses beginning as early as age 30 and increasing in likelihood as one ages. Other types of end-of-life comfort care exist, such as in-home nursing, but aren’t covered under any form of insurance.
In-home nursing care is an around-the-clock service that takes place during the last several months or weeks of life. For this care, a medical professional, or several, stay with the patient and family 24/7 in their own home to handle all the care-related duties such as bathing, moving,and feeding, that the family wouldn’t want to, and shouldn’t have to do during an already stressful, painful,and traumatic process.
This top-of-the-line care service is not cheap, however. It can cost the family as much as $2,000 a week out of pocket for up to six months, or, for patients with shorter expected life spans, in-home nursing care could even charge per hour. For the average family, although the care is incomparable in its importance, the cost is insurmountable.
This led Matlick to the idea for Sandee K., providing financial support for economically disadvantaged families with a terminally ill loved one. Matlick described the application process: “Providers will fill out an application on behalf of families in need of their in-home nursing care services, and if the Foundation determines they are eligible financially, Sandee K. will cover the cost,” which would otherwise be an out-of-pocket expense.
“After talking to dozens of people who used this service, I determined there was a need for this Foundation,” Matlick stated. “So I established [The Sandee K. Foundation] to help fund in-home end-of-life nursing care for families affected by breast cancer,” he added. Matlick hopes that eventually the Sandee K. will grow enough that it will be able to branch out and also support care for other terminal illnesses.
Regarding last week’s pitch competition, Matlick explained “I like to go in with as much to show as possible,” such as his pithy and apt slogan: “Caring Help is On The Way, Family First, We're Sandee K.” And indeed, he had plenty to show; before the competition, he had already partnered with Griswold Home Care, had a hand-designed website built and began consulting with Meacham-Woodfield, LLC.
The partnership commitment from Griswold Home Care, the largest in-home hospice care provider in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, is a strong first step in Matlick’s plan to create a network of providers. Although its website is built and functioning, the Sandee K. Foundation is still waiting to have its nonprofit status approved, after which point it will begin accepting donations online.
Matlick’s previous success, as well as personal connection and commitment to the cause, bodes well for the future of the Sandee K. Foundation: “for care and comfort,” expanding the availability of in-home end of life comfort care to those most in need. For more information, please visit SandeeK.org.