First residential hospice is planned for Carroll

Groundbreaking is held for $3.5 million facility

August 29, 2002|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Families struggling to care for a terminally ill loved one soon could find a place of respite in Hospice House, a $3.5 million residential facility designed to offer treatment and compassion in a homelike setting.

Although construction is not expected to begin until next year, Carroll Hospice staged a ceremonial groundbreaking yesterday for a 20,000-square-foot brick building in Westminster with eight suites for patients and their families. It would be the first facility of its kind in Carroll.

"This is so needed in this county," said Jeannette Ellis, a registered nurse certified in hospice and palliative care. "Hospitals are crowded and [are] discharging patients quicker and sicker. Families often face heavy-duty caregiving responsibilities that some of them just cannot manage. The intensity of caring for the dying can be overwhelming."

Ellis counsels at least three patients a week who must decide where their lives will end. She recently told a terminally ill man that his frail, elderly wife could no longer care for him, and that he would have to enter a nursing home.

Until Hospice House opens, Carroll County has no in-patient program to offer terminal patients. The hospice staff can only direct patients to hospice beds in Baltimore or Montgomery counties, adding the burden of daily travel for families in a difficult situation.

"Most patients opt not to go, and families continue to struggle at home," said Marie Bossie, executive director of Carroll Home Care and Carroll Hospice. "Sometimes, we have to put patients into a nursing home, and that is ... not what they want."

The average stay in a hospice program is 50 days. Carroll Hospice typically manages in-home care for about 50 patients a day - double the number it handled two years ago. Nearly 40 percent of its patients are younger than age 60.

Carroll Hospice started with a band of volunteers in 1986. It has more than 100 volunteers providing assistance to its paid staff of 105. Its budget for fiscal year 2003 is $1.8 million. With that history of growth in mind, the design of the new building leaves room for an expansion to 16 beds.

The setting at Hospice House will be "geared to the serenity and peace that needs to take place at the end of life," Ellis said. "Our job is to relieve the physical symptoms so the patient can address the spiritual, the emotional and the psychological aspects."

Hospice House will offer three types of care.

"Patients who can no longer stay at home either for their own safety or for lack of caregivers can stay for as long as six months," said Bossie. "We will also offer families five days of respite care every month as needed and will admit patients to treat them for pain and symptom management so they can return to their homes."

The hospice floor will have living and dining areas for families. A lounge with a television, games and toys will be for younger family members. The large kitchen will be divided to give space for a family member to prepare favorite foods. Plans also include a chapel and a spiritual care center that opens onto a memorial garden.

Each suite will have a private, full bathroom and a daybed for overnight guests. The rooms will have French doors opening to a terrace or a garden.

"If the patient cannot go outside in a wheelchair, we will take the bed outdoors," said Bossie.

David Horn, vice president for marketing, business development and managed care at Carroll County General Hospital, parent company of Carroll Hospice, said the idea is to offer more than bricks and mortar.

"There is a just a big void in the community for people going through the dying process," Horn said. "Eight beds will definitely be used. We will provide a sophisticated level of round-the-clock care."

The facility would be at Washington Road and Stoner Avenue. Funding constraints probably will delay construction until next year. The soonest it could open would be late next year.

"We are uncertain when we will actually start because we are trying to evaluate the likelihood of whether state funding will be available," said Horn.

Hospice plans to apply for a $1 million state grant; $2 million of construction costs would come from the hospital's capital campaign and the remainder from contributions.

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