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A Pleasant ending

Books at the Hospice House are inscribed with donors' names along the spine at the new facility in Spokane. 
 (Photos by Brian Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Books at the Hospice House are inscribed with donors' names along the spine at the new facility in Spokane. (Photos by Brian Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

The house is beautiful, decorated in rich earth tones and dotted with Mission-style pieces.

Yet its residents will likely stay here just a few days, in some cases mere hours.

The people behind Spokane’s first Hospice House, which opens this week after years of planning, hope an experience at the house – however brief – will have a lasting impact.

“This is just really a place where we hope to exude compassion and kindness and safety and comfort,” says Matt Kinder, Hospice House program manager. “We want people to feel at home and in as much peace as possible.”

The 12-bed facility was built for Hospice patients who, for a variety of reasons, can’t remain at home in their final days. In some cases, people need help managing their pain. In others, spouse or other family members aren’t able to properly care for the dying person.

Traditionally, those patients have spent their last days at a hospital or extended-care facility. But now a small number of them will have another option.

“It’ll be a more homelike environment,” says Cindy Magi, an admissions nurse for Hospice.

Indeed, you have to look closely at the house – beyond the hand-sewn quilts, burbling fountain, frosted light fixtures and painstaking stonework – to spy its medical elements.

“We’re well-equipped to do some pretty aggressive palliation,” says Hospice CEO Gina Drummond. “To the person who walks in, it feels very lovely and homelike.”

A centralized oxygen system snakes through the walls, available for hookup in any of the rooms. Procedure lights are tucked away above each bed. Showers are wide enough for wheelchairs.

Each room can accommodate a mobile X-ray unit. There’s a room devoted to a therapeutic spa tub.

“If they need to come do a procedure for comfort, they can do that,” Drummond says. “We won’t be encouraging any treatment or procedure that isn’t going to have an impact on the person’s quality (of life). Our job is to make sure people don’t experience undue burden.”

Before being admitted to the Hospice House, patients must first be referred through Hospice of Spokane. They will then be given a bed in the house based on availability and level of need.

“It’s really going to be about the person who’s got the highest physical need, the person who can’t wait,” Drummond says.

In general, patients will likely live less than two weeks at the house.

If space is available, the house will admit occasional respite patients, allowing the caregiver at home a few days’ rest while a husband, wife or other family member stays at the Hospice House.

Private insurance, as well as Medicare and Medicaid, will cover those patients who meet the guidelines for admission to the Hospice House. Those using the house for respite care will pay about $165 a day.

Spokane’s Hospice House will admit its first patients Monday, after several years of planning and fundraising. Hospice employees visited similar houses around the region. The nearest ones are in the Tri-Cities and in Great Falls, where Drummond spent several years before coming here.

“It really didn’t matter how much time people had in the house,” she says. “It is about quality, not quantity.”

Each room is spacious enough for family members to stay and hold vigil. The house has a couple of larger gathering areas for those who want a break from the room. There’s also a full kitchen set up for communal dining, for those who desire it.

Cooks will do their best to accommodate patients’ wishes and appetites, says Hospice spokesman Dale Hammond.

“Somebody might need to do a birthday cake or have Thanksgiving in July,” Hammond says.

The small size is designed to keep the house from feeling institutional. But Hospice workers hope to one day have similar houses scattered throughout Eastern Washington.

“Hopefully the community will support us enough to be able to build more in the future,” he says.

Terry Stott, director of nursing for Hospice, has been involved in much of the planning for the house.

“This is beautiful and it’s wonderful,” Stott says.

“But as soon as the patients arrive, as soon as the real work starts happening, that’s when the spirit of the house will be there.”