Hospice Adopts New Name

June 5, 2006
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GRAND RAPIDS — Hospice of Holland Home has been providing comprehensive health care and pain management services, as well as emotional and spiritual support for people with terminal illness and their  families for more than 10 years, and it has just been renamed Faith Hospice to better reflect its all inclusive, ecumenical approach to end-of-life care.

One of the problems with Holland Home’s hospice program has been that most people have associated it primarily with the Christian Reformed Church, said Bill Crawford, director of Faith Hospice.

“This is an outreach to involve the churches in our local community to share with us in providing the highest quality end-of-life care as possible,” he explained. Our Faith Hospice board is going to be representative of all the different faiths in the area — Catholic, Protestant, Greek Orthodox, etc. churches in the area.”

Hospice of Holland Home has always ministered to different faiths, but it has typically been viewed only as a Protestant organization, and most of its governing board members and its financial support have come from the Christian Reformed community, said Carl VerBeek, a member of the Holland Home board of directors and former partner with Varnum, Riddering, Schmidt & Howlett.

Holland Home is opening its new Trillium Woods residential center this month at 84th Street and U.S. 131. The facility will be a dedicated residential hospice that will replace the hospice operation at Holland Home’s Breton Woods campus. Holland Home also has a Fulton campus and a Raybrook campus.

“In the process of reconfiguring the plan for that facility, it kind of dawned on us that we were now providing hospice services to the majority of the faith-based community, but we hadn’t changed either our governance structure or our support structure to show that,” VerBeek explained. “What we did was rename our hospice program Faith Hospice, and we reached out to get people on the governing board that represent the broader spectrum of the faith-based community.

“We’re now broadening the ecumenical basis for both the governance and the support service to better reflect the kinds of services we’ve already been offering to the community. We want to make sure that the way our hospice is conducted is as user-friendly and compatible with whatever the individual’s faith is that needs to be reflected in the way that individual dies. For example, the facility features a very large chapel that can be used for various religious activities, with different religious icons and symbols available for use by different faiths.”

VerBeek said the Trillium Woods facility has 20 large rooms big enough for a patient and a patient’s family members to share space. It has a large lounge and dining area for family gatherings. The building is surrounded by wooded grounds that feature a trout pond.

“It’s really a building designed for hospice,” VerBeek noted. “We’ll open 20 beds in June, and there’s room to expand by another 10 beds downstairs. We hope to eventually relocate our home care hospice offices in that building.”

Bob Israels, president of Israels Designs for Living, designed the building inside and out, and he and his wife donated more than $6 million to its construction; and local businessman Dan Pfeiffer donated a major portion of land for Trillium Woods, VerBeek pointed out. Israels, in fact, is an international consultant in the building design and interior design of senior care facilities. Israels owns 19 corporations, one of which is an owner agent corporation that is responsible for the design, specifications and development of senior facilities for the largest adult care provider in the world. He donated his time and talent to the design of the building and personally worked with Byron Center residents and its township board to get the plan approved. Locally, Post Associates, Exxel Engineering and Erhardt Construction were involved in the project.

“When I came to the board of Holland Home, I brought a lot of the knowledge from the company I work for as an owner agent, so, I was able to share a lot of those ideas with Holland Home,” Israels said.

For Israels, the Faith Hospice/Trillium Woods project was driven by a passion. His wife’s mother had a severe stroke in 1995, and it became evident after more than a year of strokes and other setbacks that she needed to be in a residential hospice setting, he recalled.

“Holland Home opened their doors to create a residential hospice for my mother-in-law to spend her last days at. Because of that, I was moved to want to develop an all-faith hospice in Grand Rapids that would be for everybody,” Israels said, noting that since it was to be a faith-based hospice, it had to be independent from anything that was sponsored by state funds. “We had a dream that we could put this together, and we incorporated several different donors who have been absolutely fantastic in helping to get this done. As a team, we were able to pull this thing together and create a very open, spacious building. If you fly over the building, it’s in the shape of a cross. This place is absolutely unbelievable.”

Israels said it was “an answer to a prayer” that Dan Pfeiffer owned the property at the crossroads of U.S. 131 and the new M-6 because the location is easily and quickly accessible to everybody in the region.

“Most of the people that visit a residential hospice are family. People can get there quickly to spend time with their family,” he added. “Because family comes and spends a lot of time there, you need a library, you need activity areas and the grounds.”

The Faith Hospice operating board will have 12 to 15 members. Crawford said the board is still a work in progress, but the goal is for the board to represent as many faiths as possible. Four Christian denominations are already represented among the first members on the board.

“Reponse has been excellent,” Crawford noted. “We’ve had some calls from Saint Mary’s and Spectrum Hospital complimenting us on our new name. The community is saying they feel that the name Faith Hospice really captures the essence of who we are.”

Faith Hospice serves between 100 and 110 patients in home settings, residential facilities, assisted living facilities and hospitals — wherever the patients are is where Faith Hospice serves, Crawford said. The hospice operates with a staff of 83 people, along with volunteers.

Crawford pointed out that hospice services are not just for people who are actively dying. Hospice services are for anybody with any life-limiting or life-threatening illness or condition, but he said most people aren’t aware of that. It’s a message he would like to see spread far and wide. Crawford was formerly a monk with the worldwide Order of Cistercians of Strict Observance, more commonly known as Trappists. He became involved in end-of-life care while in a Christian monastery and soon thereafter became involved with Mother Teresa of Calcutta. He worked with Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity for seven and a half years in the homes for the dying in Italy, India and Africa.

“Because of the caste system in India, people were dying in the streets,” he recalled. “We would pull them off the streets and bring them into homes for the dying so that they could die with dignity, peace and love. That was our goal.” 

He most recently served as regional director of care for Hope Hospice of Fort Myers, Fla. Crawford said he was looking for a hospice that was more faith based, and when Hospice of Holland Home told him it was going to become Faith Hospice and was looking for Christian leadership, he “kind of felt the calling to come this way.”

The hospice movement migrated to America in 1974. Between 1974 and 1983, hospices were run only by volunteers. That changed when Congress instituted a hospice Medicare and Medicaid benefit in 1983. The early hospices focused strictly on cancer patients, Crawford noted, but the emergence of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s opened the doors of hospice to illnesses other than cancer. Today, more than 50 percent of hospice patients are non-cancer patients, he said.    

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