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TUESDAY, NOV. 27, 2007

Homelike setting

“I don’t know what I would have done without hospice,” says Jeannie Norton of the nine months her mother received hospice care before dying in June 2006. “I didn’t have to carry everything on my shoulders myself.”

With care from Hospice of Spokane, a nonprofit agency that provides a plethora of services to families with a terminally ill member, Norton’s mother was able to live her final months with dignity in the comfort of her home.

Yet circumstances can make the home setting impossible for some terminally ill patients. That’s why Hospice of Spokane built Hospice House, a $5.3 million homelike setting for up to 12 clients and their families at a time. Nestled in a neighborhood at the corner of Seventh Avenue and Chandler Street, just a few miles from downtown and Spokane’s major hospitals, more than $4 million of its cost has already been raised.

The craftsman-style home, which opened last week, was designed to offer comfort, dignity and peace, from the paint, wood and stone in private and common rooms to each plant and path in the healing gardens.

Walk in the front door and you feel you’ve stepped into a welcoming family room, with fireplace, piano and cozy couches for conversation. This is one of several places family can stay close and interact while taking a needed break. Just off this great room is a kid friendly activity room, equipped with video and board games, a TV and books, offering youngsters a familiar escape and place to just be kids.

Down the hall, past a fully-staffed nurse’s station, two wings of private patient rooms, six per wing, merge medical necessity with homey comfort. Each room has a door and large windows, inviting in the sight, sounds and scent of the thoughtfully planned gardens and landscape. Each has a private bathroom and comforting colors and textures you might find in a home, such as warm, durable linoleum, wood molding and climate control.

Designed in the shape of an H by architectural team Jeff Warner and Kamela Potratz of ALSC Architects, Hospice House has a natural ambiance that works in tandem with the healing landscape easily accessed from any room, whether common or private.

Each garden designed by landscape architects Anne Hannenburg and Tom Pratt, of Sherry Pratt Van Voorhis, was planted and shaped to provide a sensory place for physical movement, social interaction, choice and control, and natural distraction for the families who wander its paths, all purposeful elements of healing gardens.

The Meditation Garden in the south concave of the H, flanked by the two patient wings, is bermed with plantings from our region to evoke memories and stir the senses with year-round beauty. Just open a window or door to hear the whisper of quaking aspens or breathe in the fragrance of flowers.

From this garden one can return to a patient room, or enter the interior courtyard, a lodgelike inner garden for any weather, with vaulted beamed ceilings and soaring windows, a natural segue to the Garden of Hope.

In the Garden of Hope a curving path arcs around roses and grass with a focal fountain forming a metaphor for the movement of life. The fountain gushes upward with vitality. Then, just outside the home, a semicircle pond bubbles, visually slowing and calming. This circle of water is mirrored and connected to the interior courtyard, the tension of its surface barely broken as water moves inside and out in gentle flow.

To the east of the courtyard, families can eat together or enjoy fresh baked bread in the dining room, a natural area to congregate or have a last Thanksgiving together, be it November or July.

Just down the hall a rock-lined reflection room and adjoining reflection garden provide space for small church services, memorials, or quiet introspection, in a soothing setting that speaks to everyone.

All these elements combine so that to those who are unable to live their last days in their own houses, Hospice House feels like home.



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