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Hospice House North opens this month

An oasis of peace is poised to open just off bustling North Division Street. Soon, Hospice House North will welcome its first patients.

Since 1977, Hospice of Spokane has provided care and support for the terminally ill and their families. Serving Spokane, Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties, the organization’s mission includes honoring the dignity of the terminally ill, educating the community about end-of-life issues and offering bereavement counseling services and support.

“Approximately 285 patients are served on any given day,” said Gina Drummond, CEO of Hospice of Spokane.

Northeast Washington’s first Hospice House opened in 2007 on the lower South Hill. While the majority of Hospice patients receive in-home care, Hospice House offers a safe harbor; it’s a place where families can leave the caregiving duties to staff, and focus on being with their loved ones.

“Since opening our first Hospice House, more than 2,700 patients in our community have felt the comfort and care that are unique to a Hospice House setting,” Drummond said. Patients have ranged in age from newborn to 102.

But for all those helped, still more were waiting – more space was required, particularly on the North Side, Drummond said.

“Opening this second house will allow us to serve more people who need this special kind of care.” Indeed, there’s already a waiting list for the new North House.

Laid out like the letter H, the 13,000-square-foot house features soothing earth tones, plenty of windows and doors allowing natural light to stream in, and warm details like wood tongue-in-groove ceilings in the interior courtyard and reflection room.

The first thing guests see when entering the house is a great room with a stacked stone fireplace. Inviting couches and chairs beckon, and the empty bookshelves will soon be filled. “Hopefully anxiety levels will come down when people enter here,” Drummond said. “It doesn’t feel like a hospital or nursing home.”

A spacious conference room will be used to host classes and meetings. Last year Hospice of Spokane provided grief support services to more than 260 community members, including facilitation of 500 support group sessions.

Nearby, a children’s activity room offers a cozy window seat and a comfy chair upholstered in fabric that features the kind of jokes kids especially enjoy. For example, “Why did the turkey cross the road? It was the chicken’s day off!”

The clinical area is open and expansive, allowing room for the 16 full-time workers and numerous volunteers who will staff Hospice House North. Currently, 275 volunteers serve in a variety of ways, from bedside vigils and light housework to offering much needed respite for caregivers.

Twelve patient rooms each feature independent heating and cooling units and a small kitchen area that includes a microwave, sink and mini-fridge where patients and families can store snacks. Smiling, Drummond said, “One gentleman kept his fridge stocked with Guinness beer and cupcakes.”

The rooms also feature a door that opens to a small patio overlooking the courtyard and windows that open to allow in fresh air.

Beautiful handmade quilts, crafted and donated by area quilters, will cover each bed.

While the average patient stay at Hospice House is 8 1/2 days, some stay longer. Drummond recalled one gentleman in particular. “He spent several months and had lived a very solitary life. When his physician visited he told him, ‘This is the nicest place I’ve ever lived.’ ”

An interior courtyard offers yet another place for patients and family to gather. “Everything, even the extra-wide hallways, has been designed to create peace, comfort and serenity for loved ones,” Drummond said.

Part of that comfort includes a large kitchen and dining room. While the staff prepares patient meals, family members are welcome to gather here, use the kitchen and share a meal. The cook will keep a slow cooker of soup and a tray of baked goods ready for anyone who is hungry.

The reflection room is where many families will say a final goodbye to their loved one. Its chapel-like calm is open to anyone regardless of faith background. “It’s a spiritual place, not a religious place,” Drummond said.

Pegboards line the stacked stone walls, and will soon be filled with notes and remembrances from family members. Flameless votive candles offer a warm and comforting glow.

“The entire house is designed to serve the very unique needs of those who are nearing the end of life, and the people who staff it are uniquely qualified to be part of that experience,” Drummond said. “We’re always conscious that everything builds a memory that people take with them. We usher people through a really hard time and hopefully help create some really good memories.”