What a Wonder Of Modern Care
At last, with the opening of the FirstHealth Hospice and Palliative Care Campus, the sun shines on a concept sometimes misunderstood, often shrouded in dread.
The 11-bed acute care facility, ready for patients in early October, welcomed the community at an open house last week. Attendees exhausted superlatives, comparing patient suites, gathering rooms, solace nooks, dining and spa areas to a luxury resort. It was a fitting comparison, given the elegant-yet-comfortable furnishings, artwork and noninstitutional atmosphere.
Hospice has been practiced since biblical times, often in hideaways where little could be done to alleviate the pain of terminal illness. Dame Cicely Saunders, a British physician, established St. Christopher's, the first modern hospice, near London in 1967. She brought the concept to the U.S. in 1974.
May Well Be the State's Best
The Hospice Foundation of America stresses that hospice is a concept of care, not necessarily a place. The philosophy of living life to the fullest is implemented by a team approach. Examples include a local resident who, through hospice pain management, went home from the hospital and spent his final autumn on the golf course.
A recent study reported that although 75 percent of Americans want to die at home, at least 90 percent die in hospitals. In North Carolina, approximately 35,000 patients are served by hospice associations annually in various venues, including 30-plus residences.
Hospice serves patients of every age, race, social status and financial means. Nobody deemed medically eligible will be turned away for lack of insurance. Patients may stay at the Pinehurst Hospice House until the acute situation is under control, then return home. Inevitably, some will die there.
Our Hospice House is surely North Carolina's crown jewel, beginning with the quiet, wooded setting beside a pond just minutes away from the FirstHealth complex. Oversize rooms contain recliners and sofa beds for family. Lighting is soft and flattering. Each suite opens onto a patio. Meals are available around the clock.
Addressing the Whole Person
But the operative here goes beyond pain control, symptoms management and insurance issues. Beginning with director Charlotte Patterson, an RN and hands-on administrator, care is extended to families experiencing emotional distress. They are fed, sheltered, entertained, counseled by social workers, supported by clergy and relieved by volunteers. Families - and anyone else in the community - may also participate free of charge in programs offered by FirstHealth Grief Resource and Counseling Center, housed in an equally stunning building adjacent to the residence.
The only question raised by attendees was the "acute care" rather than residential status and relatively small number of beds, given the 16,000-square-foot size and overall $13.8 million cost. These parameters are set by a Certificate of Need granted by the state.
Spreadsheet to bed sheets, Hospice House stands proof that we care deeply about our neighbors with life-limiting illnesses; that a patient is still a whole person with a whole person's needs; that life can be made pleasant in extreme circumstances. And that death can be greeted with serenity and acceptance.
Isn't it comforting to know such a place exists in our community?
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