Allegan hospice expands

January 31, 2010
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ALLEGAN COUNTY — Wings of Hope Hospice is taking a leap of faith into a new project that won’t rely on a single penny from Medicare, Medicaid or private insurance.

Executive Director Theresa Lynn said the nonprofit organization, which has provided in-home services for the dying and their families since 1983, is launching a new nonprofit that will provide residential hospice services for up to four people at a time, for free.

The Wings Home will primarily serve those without a home or without family or friends able to be caregivers, Lynn said. She said it is modeled after the Mother Teresa House in Lansing. Instead of dealing with claims, medical coding and paperwork, she said, the Wings Home will be funded completely by donations and operated with trained volunteers.

The Perrigo Foundation provided a lead gift of $100,000, Perrigo Co. spokesman Art Shannon said. Lynn said about $450,000 has been raised so far, and Wings of Hope last month launched a public fundraising campaign for another $150,000 in donations over the next two months.

She said the organization hopes to buy an existing home in central Allegan County, although a site has not yet been identified. She expects a few modifications may be required, such as the installation of wheelchair ramps and a wheel-in shower, but remodeling is expected to be minor. The Wings Home could be open by September, she said.

“It’s simply going to be another place for our patients to live,” Lynn said. “Our nurses will be going in to visit them just like they would be going to visit them in their own home. It’s not going to be an institutional facility with a nurses’ desk and call lights.”

The Wings Home will serve those who have no other place or resources while they are dying.

“Over the years, we’ve had a number of patients who have not had families, who had no one to take care of them or whose spouse was too frail, or for whatever reason family just was unable to care for them,” Lynn said.

“Sometimes they would transfer to other hospices that had residential facilities. Once we had a volunteer take a patient into her home. But the rest of these folks would typically go into a nursing home. Not that there is anything wrong with a nursing home, but they are busy places and not well-suited for peaceful end-of-life care.

Lynn said Wings of Hope considered building a more typical residential hospice facility.

“We realized that we would have to have a home that would have 10 to 12 patients at all times to afford it,” Lynn said. “We didn’t think the need was that great, so we scaled it down and looked at other models in the state.

“We came across the Mother Teresa House in Lansing. That’s been around for 13 years. We’re going to run it just the way they run it.”

Lynn said there will be a few staff positions associated with the Wings Home, such as a volunteer coordinator. Hands-on, around-the-clock care will be provided by 60 to 70 volunteers, she said.

“I came to this area from Grand Rapids six and a half years ago,” she added. “I was so amazed when I came here at the community support this little hospice gets.”

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