When Ken Shaw decided to make a substantial donation from his estate to benefit the UC Davis Hospice Program, he probably was unaware that it would be the largest donation in the program's history.
The former Citrus Heights resident, who traveled to several continents during a career in the Air Force, lived quietly and frugally in his retirement years at his apartment at Crosswood Oaks Retirement Community. People who knew him say Shaw was a reserved and deeply private man who never married. He lived in the Sacramento area alone, although his extended family lives in Idaho.
When he reached his mid-80s and his health deteriorated, one of his caregivers said he thought he might need home health or hospice care so that he could remain there until the end of his life. Although he never used UC Davis hospice care, untold numbers of terminally ill patients will be able to obtain hospice services because of his generous gift to the UC Davis Hospice Program.
Shaw, who died on Feb. 14, 2008, at age 87, bequeathed nearly $270,000 to UC Davis. Debra Genovia, an area gerontologist who provides private geriatric care management, met Shaw and began working with him in 2004. They developed a close friendship as she helped him organize his belongings and coordinated and monitored his health care.
'A gentle soul'
Shaw "was truly a gentleman in every sense of the word," Genovia says. "He was the nicest, gentle soul. He loved music and he loved to sing. He was also a fabulous painter and took some art classes at his senior living facility. He was an avid reader until he couldn't comprehend anymore."
When it came to money, Shaw was "extremely thrifty," Genovia says. "But in his last years he decided he wanted a portion of his money to benefit others."
Genovia says Shaw recognized that other elderly people lived distant from family members like he did. "He understood that hospice could be a godsend. He thought it would an important program to support."
Shaw's donation is the largest ever received by the UC Davis Hospice Program, says Frederick J. Meyers, professor and chair of internal medicine at the UC Davis School of Medicine.
Medical director of the UC Davis Hospice Program for over two decades, Meyers pioneered the concept of simultaneous care, a model of care for cancer patients undergoing investigational therapy and has garnered national recognition for the UC Davis program.
"The donation comes at a time when the importance of having support for hospice and end-of-life care is critical – both in providing care to our patients and being key participants in the national debate about the rights of patients to palliative care," Meyers says.
At any one time, the UC Davis program provides care to as many as 100 terminally ill patients who wish to remain at home.
Initially set up to serve patients who are terminally ill with AIDS and cancer, the program now includes patients with heart and liver disease, Lou Gehrig's disease and Alzheimer's disease and other degenerative and life threatening illnesses. The program also serves children suffering from potentially terminal illnesses. In some cases, hospice provides unreimbursed care for patients who have few resources.
Donations to the program help underwrite costs of training faculty and staff in end-of-life care. Shaw's donation will support expansion of hospice services.
Shaw's "extraordinarily generous gift will allow us to provide the very best care to patients and also for us to develop our bioethicists, physicians and nurses at UC Davis to be a strong voice in the community," Meyers says. "These types of gifts do make a great difference in continuing to build on our strong tradition of care, and add tremendous value to what we do in the future. We're extremely grateful for Mr. Shaw's generosity."
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