August 9, 2009 in Idaho Voices

Hospice to fill growing need

North Idahoans will no longer have to move to Spokane for end-of-life care
Carl Gidlund smokejumper@roadrunner.com
 

More information

Contact Hospice of North Idaho at (208) 772-7994 or (208) 660-0571.

Hospice of North Idaho plans to build an eight- to 12-bed facility in Coeur d’Alene to accommodate North Idaho residents who are near death and whose care needs exceed what can be managed at home or in a long-term care facility.

Ground-breaking for the facility is anticipated in the spring, according to the nonprofit’s executive director, Paul Weil. Money for the project is being raised through donations.

The “hospice house” would be the first of its kind in Idaho.

Weil said Hospice of North Idaho is buying six acres on the south side of Prairie Avenue between Highway 95 and Atlas Boulevard for the facility.

“We’re fortunate to have a wonderful fundraising cabinet chaired by Jon Hippler and Susan Jacklin,” Weil said. “A total of $600,000 has already been donated. The lead gift of $250,000 came from the Curtis and Lillian Hanson Trust of Post Falls in appreciation for hospice services provided to family members.”

Eventually, the agency will move its offices from its current location on North Government Way and build a resources center on the property, he said.

Weil said there’s “a definite need for a hospice house in North Idaho. Over the past five years our patient load has doubled, and we’re now consistently caring for an average of 100 patients each day, plus providing services to more than 500 of their family members.”

Hospice of North Idaho anticipates increasing that average daily patient load to 150 within the next two years, he said.

The rule of thumb is that an area serving a population of over 100,000, with an average daily patient count of more than 75, needs a hospice house, according to Weil.

Hospice of North Idaho serves patients in their homes or residential care facilities, “but although most people want to die in their own homes, there are times when they can’t,” he said. “For example, a crisis due to pain or symptom management or caregiver breakdown may require 24-hour professional support.” Likewise, a patient may not have a caregiver available, or the money to go into a long-term care facility, he said.

As a result, many patients are admitted to a hospital via the emergency room until their symptoms are resolved, or caregiver support is initiated, or the patient dies, he said.

Weil said Kootenai Medical Center has four rooms called “The Circle of Life” for dying patients. Those aren’t enough, he said, to serve the needs of Hospice of North Idaho and other dying patients who need comfort care.

The hospice house closest to North Idaho is a 12-bed facility in Spokane and, according to Weil, it’s constantly well-utilized. There are five similar facilities in Washington state, in Kennewick, Longview, Kirkland, Tacoma and Vancouver. There is also a hospice house in Great Falls, and Bend, Ore. Overall, there are about 300 across the country, he said.

The local hospice house would have single rooms large enough to accommodate overnight stays by a family member, and each room would have a view and access to surrounding gardens.

Visitors would have 24-hour access to the facility, he said, and there would be play areas for children and family rooms for rest, relaxation and special gatherings. A room also would be provided for prayer and meditation, and patient meals would be based on individual needs and choices.

Hospice of North Idaho, founded by community members in 1984, employs doctors, nurses, aides, social workers, counselors, a chaplain and also involves about 60 volunteers. It serves patients in Kootenai, Shoshone and Benewah counties plus a small portion of Bonner County.

Inpatient and respite care provided by Hospice of North Idaho is covered by most private insurance and Medicare and Medicaid programs, Weil said. If a person lacks health insurance or is in need of residential care in the Coeur d’Alene hospice house, a sliding fee scale would be available, he said. “I’m confident we’ll be able to raise the money needed to build the facility, even in this troubled economy,” Weil said. “Over the years Hospice of North Idaho has provided services for many thousands of residents who have died under our care – last year alone some 600 – and their surviving loved ones have benefited from our comprehensive services.

“I feel certain those folks and others will be enthusiastic supporters and donors.”


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