The Hospice House Difference
By Patricia Klein, Sr. Public Relations Specialist, Good Shepherd Hospice and
Abby Vandegrift, Communications & Policy Coordinator, Florida Hospice & Palliative Care Association
Judy Goll will always remember October 22, 2011. Even though doctors had diagnosed her husband, Stephen, with Alzheimer’s disease one year earlier, that evening he cooked dinner for her. Later they watched the movie “The Notebook.” As Judy describes it, “The next day he took a turn for the worse.”
Stephen’s condition entered what is called ‘crisis’ level and required a higher level of care. In this wearisome state, Judy and Stephen found unexpected support at the Bud and Donna Somers Hospice House in Sebring.
Somers Hospice House opened in January in 2011, and about one month later staff started caring for patients. Since then, approximately 1,200 patients and their loved ones have received compassionate end-of-life care at the state-of-the-art facility. Somers Hospice House is an inpatient unit run by Good Shepherd Hospice and, like many other hospices around the state, offers this type of facility to patients who are classified as being in crisis or for caregivers who are in need of respite.
What makes a hospice house different? The word Judy would use is “wonderful.” In a Hospice House, patients’ and their families’ comfort is the first priority. Hospice Houses are built to have a “home like” atmosphere, and often provide amenities such as a cozy family area with comfortable furniture, a well-stocked children’s play room, a dining area with wooden tables and chairs, and convenient laundry facilities.
When is it appropriate to stay in a Hospice House? Hospice care is appropriate for patients who have been diagnosed with a disease that has a prognosis of six months or less if the disease runs its normal course. Medicare defines four levels of hospice care: basic hospice services, continuous home care, respite care and inpatient care. Patients who are in a medical crisis with symptoms that cannot be managed as effectively in their homes are appropriate for inpatient level of care and are eligible to stay in a Hospice House. Caregivers who are in need of respite can also have their loved one stay in an inpatient unit for a short amount of time.
The goal of inpatient care is to bring pain and symptoms under control so patients can return home. Inpatient hospice care is provided in contracted hospitals or nursing homes. But like at Good Shepherd Hospice, patients who need inpatient care have the choice of being admitted to a freestanding hospice house. Some hospice organizations offer residential hospice care, which provides long-term care for patients who have frail caregivers or lack family support at the end of life.
In Sebring, Good Shepherd Hospice has taken every step to make the Somers Hospice House warm and welcoming. “We want patients and families to consider the Somers Hospice House a home rather than a facility,” said Becky McIntyre, Good Shepherd Hospice chief clinical officer. “Visitors are welcome at all hours. We even allow visits from family pets, as long as pets are well behaved and vaccinations are up to date.”
Judy tells how one evening she went home after visiting Stephen, only to feel uneasy. Rather than tossing and turning in her own bed, Judy grabbed her pajamas and drove to the hospice house. She was able to stay with her husband on his last night alive. Judy Goll is at peace with the end-of-life care Stephen received and encourages anyone facing a similar circumstance to consider hospice house care.
The mission of Good Shepherd Hospice is to provide quality palliative care and relieve the suffering of those in our communities affected by life-limiting illnesses and end-of-life issues, maintaining the highest ethical standards, so all may live as fully and comfortably as possible. Please visit www.chaptershealth.org/hospice for more information.