From Interview with Wendy Rains, by Carol Forest
Wendy Rains’s resume runs the gamut from Designer of Architecture, Interiors, and Fashion, to Environmentalist, Journalist, Magazine Publisher, Author, Radio Talk Show Host, and Voice Over artist. Needless to say her life has been filled with rich, varied experiences. She never imagined adding care giver to that list. But as life took its twists and turns, in 2002, she and her dad found themselves buying land together and building homes in Todos Santos.
Her parents were pretty unconventional, having built multiple homes and moving their family around quite a bit. Her mom had been diagnosed and living with dementia for many years. Instead of placing her in an assisted living facility, she lived in her own condo with round the clock care by a loving Filipino family. She no longer recognized her husband or kids, and her particular condition rendered her mute. When the move to Mexico became a reality, her mom’s Filipino family asked to have her live with them….back home in the Philippines, on the outlying island of Occidental Negro in Bacolod City, where for 7 years, she spent the end of her days. Unconventional? Indeed.
In the early years in Todos Santos, her Dad only came down now and then for short stays, and moved there full time in 2010. Her dad is now 99 years old and in spite of his maintaining a certain level of independence, Wendy has found herself in the position of caring for him. As a senior herself, looking after her aging dad in a foreign country, was in lockstep with the family tradition of unconventional aging in place.
Todos Santos has attracted quite a few expats “of a certain age”, and it’s no secret that many of them are single with no family around. There are also couples who have had to leave town in search of senior or assisted living, or end of life care for their spouse. These facilities or services just don’t exist in the area. Besides, once one has chosen to live and enjoy their life there, leaving there isn’t something you really want to do!
With a knack for recognizing what’s missing or needed, Wendy started on a new path of creating the first hospice style group of volunteers. In early 2017 she had arranged for Elena Moreno to present a forum on Death and Dying in Mexico. It was so important to share all the complicated information one needs to know if a death of a foreigner occurs while in Mexico. (The paperwork alone and all the agencies one must file a report with is mind-boggling). The forum attracted over 100 people, and the majority of attendees were definitely “of a certain age”.
Wendy had met Dan Hodul, a gentleman who had a lot of experience in senior assistance in Northern California, and they decided to have sheets for people to sign if interested in becoming hospice care givers. Over 25 people signed up, and that was the birth of Comfort Care & Assistance…and the start towards realizing her vision to fill a serious void.
Dan conducted the first 3 training sessions in the Spring, with the promise of starting up again in late fall, when most people return to town from summers away. In the meantime, Wendy did a lot of legal research and spent time creating this website, discussing ideas of how to proceed, and laying out a longer term plan for the group.
Thanks to friend and volunteer Tracy Durland, Wendy was put in touch with Camille Adair, an RN who has devoted her life in the US to creating and putting into action her Solace training workshops. She has also produced a documentary, Solace: Wisdom of the Dying.
It was serendipity at play….and Wendy and Camille immediately planned for her to visit Todos Santos in December for the volunteers to participate in a 3 day workshop to complete their training. The workshop was a huge success and the first trained group of volunteers were now ready to serve. Camille has since returned to conduct another workshop for more volunteers. Wendy also hosts a monthly book club for volunteers who wish to participate, and she also has plans for online sessions on a variety of relevant topics to continue to expand the volunteers knowledge and compassion. Since the Covid-19 virus has caused chaos throughout the world, Wendy has now implemented a new way for her volunteers to keep connected, with Zoom meetings called Wisdom Sharing. Each meeting focuses on a different topic, providing the participants to share where they find themselves emotionally and physically during this crazy time.
Comfort Care & Assistance refers to themselves as a group of friends volunteering to help friends in need at the end of life. It is a not-for-profit organization, under the auspices of ACTS, A.C., the non-profit community organization. Trained members of the group can also make themselves available to help friends when other needs occur, such as post surgery and other Palliative circumstances, subject to their own arrangements. The original 25 trained volunteers has now grown to 70, including quite a few nurses, nurse assistants, and experienced hospice caregivers and grief counselors from the US and Canada. Wendy is busy handling the many calls she gets to match the right volunteer with the person in need. It’s become a full time job! Uber Volunteer Luena Pearson, a nurse and Death Doula from Canada, is currently creating an Affiliate with Comfort Care, called My Nurse. She is putting together a team of nurses to focus specifically on any medical needs as well as providing Death Doula services.
So, what’s in store for the future? Now that Comfort Care & Assistance is well established and running smoothly, Wendy’s focus is currently to make her vision of creating a “senior village” a reality….She pictures a charming, inviting environment for all three stages of aging in place…Senior Active Living, Assisted Living, and End of Life Care. The idea is to have everything anyone could want all in the same place so once a resident might need care, they wouldn’t have to move away, or even move out of their home as their needs change.
In the fall of 2018, inspired by Hogevy in Holland, Wendy visited three “dementia villages” to learn as much as possible about why these communities are so successful. She spent time at the original Dutch village established in 1996, and then ventured to Switzerland and Italy to visit the newest facilities inspired by Hogevey. She learned what works and what can be improved and is anxious to start the project.
Wendy is excited to report that 35 acres of land in Pescadero, a bit south of Todos Santos, have been purchased! Wendy has hired and worked with the architectural firm Rima, out of Cabo San Lucas, to make it all happen. They now have completed the Master Plan for “Valle del Cielo…A New Paradigm For Joyful Aging In Place”. She looks forward to seeing the virus crisis end so that things can get back on track for Phase 1 of the Village.
Those of us who know Wendy, have every confidence in her vision, drive, and persistence, and uncanny ability to fill such a great need in her beloved adopted puebla. Wherever Wendy goes she is stopped and thanked by so many of her fellow Todos Santenos. There’s already quite a waiting list to move to Valle del Cielo!
Wendy can be reached by email: Wendy@ComfortCare.mx, or by phone:
Mexico: (52) 612 145 0150 US: 323 325 4780
(Taken from an interview with Wendy, by Carole Forest)