Cancer patients routinely travel long distances to receive life-saving therapies. Certain treatments, such as bone marrow transplants and radiation therapy, require patients to stay close to treatment centers for weeks to months. As a result, patients and their caregivers often need temporary housing for extended periods of time, which can be costly.
Despite expansion over the years, national organizations that offer free temporary housing for cancer patients, such as the American Cancer Society Hope Lodge communities and Ronald McDonald House Charities, often have long wait lists. These wait lists will likely only get longer as demand for housing assistance increases because of rising cancer incidence and cancer care costs.
To combat challenges attaining temporary housing and meet the increasing demand, some cancer programs are providing additional lodging options for cancer patients. City of Hope and Banner MD Anderson are two recent examples of this phenomenon.
City of Hope's Judy & Bernard Briskin Hope Village hotel
City of Hope's reputation as a leader in bone marrow and blood stem cell transplants has driven cancer patients across California and beyond to travel long distances for care at their facilities. Their new Judy & Bernard Briskin Hope Village hotel aims to "provide accommodations for people who are being treated at City of Hope and meet clinical criteria for critical lodging as determined by their care teams as well as their visiting family."
City of Hope collaborated with a hospitality management company to allow patients and their families to enjoy the comforts of a luxury hotel experience. But this is no ordinary hotel—147 rooms are intentionally designed with needs of cancer patients in mind and can only be booked by the cancer center.
Some of its patient-centered features include:
- Golf carts to transport patients around the medical campus
- A private entrance to the hotel in case patients are not feeling up to entering through the main entrance which features a restaurant and bar
- Multilingual patient navigators and a team that manages the distinctive nonclinical needs of international patients
- Lowered check-in counters and chairs in the check-in area to accommodate people using wheelchairs or walkers
- Arm rests in nearly every chair in the building to accommodate patients feeling weak in standing up
- 116 studio rooms equipped with a kitchenette, two TVs (one for the patient and another for caregivers), a sleeper sofa for caregivers, and a queen-sized bed for patients
- 15 pairs of rooms with connecting doors to offer families more flexibility
- Grab bars by the bed and in every bathroom, including bars to enter the shower and next to the toilet
- Muted colors throughout the hotel
"Sometimes hotels can be wildly nauseating [for patients] as they walk down the hallway. So, we even paid attention to a muted color and pattern on the carpets on the floors."
– Dr. Susan Brown, Chief Nursing Officer, City of Hope
Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center's Home Away from Home program
Thousands of patients travel more than 30 miles each way to receive care at the Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center in central Arizona. Patient navigators and social workers at the center heard stories of cancer patients "sleeping in cars, in dangerous or unsanitary areas, or, in the case of stem-cell transplant patients, well outside of safe distance required post-transplant" because of financial barriers to obtaining safe temporary housing.
In 2019, the Banner Health Foundation launched the Home Away From Home campaign to build an endowment to offset the cost of temporary housing for cancer patients. Social workers and patient navigators used endowment funds to establish partnerships with hotels and motels for discounted rates and to offer financial assistance to qualifying patients. Some examples of cancer patients that qualify for housing assistance include:
- Stem-cell transplant patients required to stay within a 15-minute drive from the Cancer Center for three to six months depending upon the type of transplant
- Patients participating in clinical trials at Banner MD Anderson
- Patients receiving daily outpatient radiation therapy for one to two months
- Newly diagnosed leukemia patients who must immediately begin a one-month hospital stay followed by a 25- to 30- week cycle of both inpatient and outpatient therapies
Last month, homebuilder Taylor Morrison announced a donation of 16 homes to support the Home Away From Home program. This 16-home community will be completed by the summer of 2024 and provide lodging for more than 60 patients and caregivers each year.
These cottage-style homes feature two bedrooms, two baths, a kitchen, laundry room, a gathering room, a private backyard, and doggy doors to be pet-friendly. The community will be built close to the main campus of the Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center in Gilbert, Arizona.
"Hope and healing can be found in something as simple as a safe and comfortable bed and a good night's rest. With all the concerns and feelings going through a patient's mind, a home nearby provides such relief and one less thing to worry about."
– Michael Herring, Chief Executive Officer, Banner Gateway Medical Center
Housing assistance programs can help relieve stress and improve health outcomes by ensuring adherence to treatment protocols among cancer patients. Health systems should consider philanthropic opportunities to offer in-house lodging assistance for cancer patients and their caregivers to prepare for potentially increasing demand.