New projects respond to hospice care demand
By Katherine Michalets, of SBT
When Ron Komas’ 56-year-old wife Kathy was dying of cancer, he wanted to care for her at home. However, her doctor warned against that and suggested a nursing home or hospice house.
After being turned down by numerous nursing homes because of the severity of Kathy’s cancer and after he was not able to find a hospice house in Washington County, Ron had to settle for hospice care in Milwaukee.
"I was flabbergasted that I couldn’t find one," said Komas on his search for a hospice in Washington County.
After Kathy died in June 2002, Ron decided he would try to build a hospice house in Washington County. Ron is working with SynergyHealth Inc., which is constructing a new facility for St. Joseph’s Hospital along Highway 45 and Pleasant Valley Road in the Town of Polk.
A piece of land from St. Joseph’s Hospital will be donated to Ron for the use of an eight-bed hospice house to be called Kathy’s Hospice.
Architects are still working on the final design of the hospice, but it will include large bedrooms with sofa beds, a great room, a kitchen, a children’s room and a patio, so beds can be rolled outside.
"Kathy’s Hospice will be the first of its kind in Washington County," said John Klocke, executive director of the SynergyHealth Foundation.
Ron has raised more than $500,000 for Kathy’s House. SynergyHealth Foundation is raising funds for the facility, which is estimated to cost $1.5 million.
They plan to break ground in the spring or summer 2004.
As plans are being made in Washington County for Kathy’s Hospice, ProHealth Care and Hospice Inc. and the Visiting Nurse Association of Wisconsin are also developing hospice houses.
ProHealth Care and Hospice Inc., based in Waukesha, broke ground June 6 in the Town of Oconomowoc for its initiative, AngelsGrace Hospice. The 25,000-square-foot, $5 million project has a proposed completion date of May 2004. The 15-bed facility will provide end-of-life care for all ages, from infants to the elderly.
The Visiting Nurses Association’s Center for Hospice Care, an affiliate of Aurora Health Care, plans to build a new hospice at 7620 Honey Creek Parkway in Wauwatosa.
The 31,000-square-foot, 18- to 24-bed facility will cost an approximate $7.5 million, the majority of which has been raised. Aurora has contributed $4 million, and another $3.5 million has been donated from outside contributors.
"We have seen a great need for respite care for both adults and pediatrics," said Mary Runge, director of hospice services for VNA.
Milwaukee Hospice Residence, an affiliate of the VNA, has an average of 10 to 14 people on its waiting list each week for its seven-bed facility.
Both AngelsGrace Hospice and Center for Hospice Care will provide patients with peaceful surroundings.
For example, the proposed location for Center for Hospice Care has 9-1/2 acres of woods and gardens. "Every room will have a view of the woods," Runge said.
Plans call for the Wauwatosa hospice grounds to include walking paths, gardens and fountains.
AngelsGrace Hospice in Oconomowoc will have similar surroundings that include a pond, trees and landscaping.
"We have tried to make it as comfortable as possible for the entire family," said Mary Jo O’Malley, director of ProHealth Care and Hospice Inc. and the future administrator of AngelsGrace Hospice.
The AngelsGrace Hospice plans include family rooms, a children’s play area, a library, a family dining room and a spa room with a specially designed bathing area. AngelsGrace will perform respite care for caregivers who need some time to rest.
"All social, spiritual and physical care will be provided," said O’Malley.
AngelsGrace Hospice will help to educate those entering the medical field, as well, as well as clergy and social workers in its training center, Runge said.
The VNA has partnered with Marquette University to provide instruction on end-of-life care.
Both hospices see great need in the region for their pediatric care facilities.
"There is nothing in the area for children like this right now," Runge said.
Hospices generally provide care for the terminally ill and their families, even if the patients chose to die at home or are placed in a nursing home.
"We do support people wherever they are, whether it is in a nursing home or in hospice care," Runge said. "It’s just a special place, and there is such a need for it. All the surrounding community will benefit."
"There is a great need for hospice care in Milwaukee," said Melanie Ramey, executive director of Hospice Organization and Palliative Experts (HOPE), an organization that provides educational programs, technical support and lobbying for the industry.
With 48 hospice care providers in Wisconsin that provide either in-patient or in-home care and sometimes both, more services are needed in the state, Ramey said. Only 10 to 11 of those hospice care providers have hospice houses, she said.
The market is beginning to respond to the growing demand for hospice care.
"The south side really had no options," said Debbie Jarosek, social worker for Ruth Hospice, which opened its 10-bed facility on 8300 Beloit Rd. in West Allis Aug. 6. The new facility joins the 5-year-old Ruth Hospice on 8526 Mill Rd. in Milwaukee, a 26-bed facility. Ruth Hospice is a member of Village at Manor Park Healthcare System, a senior healthcare system.
Last year, Ruth Hospice had 195 admissions, all of whom were age 55 or older. Occasionally, the Ruth Hospice facility in West Allis has to place people on a waiting list when the service is unable to meet the demand.
"As people learn about the philosophy, they want hospice care," Ramey said.
Oct. 17, 2003 Small Business Times, Milwaukee