Hospice care makes headway in West Michigan

January 21, 2012
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Faith Hospice is in the planning stages of doubling the number of its beds at its facility in Byron Center, further proof the public has eased away from looking askance at palliative care for terminally ill patients, said the nonprofit’s vice president of marketing.

Construction costs are yet to be determined, but it is clear the stigma and mystery that once surrounded hospices when the movement migrated from the United Kingdom to the United States in the early 1970s has fizzled out, said Chris Nicely, vice president of marketing for Holland Home, the parent company of the 20-bed Faith Hospice.

“We have a garden or basement level that’s already wired and plumbed and at some point it will also be finished, so eventually there will be two levels at Trillium Woods,” Nicely said. “We may do it in phases or one fell swoop.”

Factors leading to the expansion at Trillium Woods, 2100 Raybrook St. SE, include effective marketing and branding campaigns that have raised the public’s familiarity with Faith Hospice, its community outreach representatives that frequent health fairs and trade shows, Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance companies that cover end-of-life care services, and, a plain-and-simple competitive drive.

Forty-six percent of Holland Home’s revenue is derived from Faith Hospice and its private duty companies: Helpers of Holland Home and HomeCare of Holland Home, said Nicely. Faith Hospice’s revenue in 2010 was $13.1 million.

With practices largely defined by Medicare, hospice care is available in the United States to patients of any age who have less than six months to live based on a medically certifiable prognosis. Care may extend beyond six months so long as a patient’s condition continues to merit a terminal outlook, said Nicely.

“There’s very much a marketing drive between hospices,” said Nicely. “They want to be the one to serve people, so there’s a competitiveness about the service. The payment issue with Medicaid, Medicare and other insurances are all realizing that end of care services are needed. So things have caught on since the 1970s, with our government and insurances, that it is a necessary right to have specialized end-of-life care. Funding helps make more people aware.”

It also helps that the social stigma physicians once encountered, in that hospices were seen as giving up on a patient, is no longer prevalent.

“Hospices do specialize in end-of-life pain and symptom management,” said Nicely. “It’s just like any other condition, where you have cardiologists for hearts and oncologists for cancer and you have specific hospice physicians. I'm not saying that hospitals can’t do it, but hospice physicians deal with it all the time; they stay up with the latest trends and know the latest medications and know the family issues. This is where I put my trust.”

Faith Hospice’s legacy goes back to when Holland Home was founded in 1892 by the Rev. Adrian Kriekard of Third Reformed Church in Grand Rapids. He and a handful of men and women decided to provide shelter for the congregation’s older members, opening the first Holland Home on the corner of Michigan Street and College Avenue to accommodate eight people.

More Holland Home facilities opened in the ensuing years, starting with Fulton Manor in 1912. In subsequent decades, a series of building programs for Raybrook Manor arose, starting with the groundbreaking of Raybrook’s first facility in 1973, and later the addition of a third campus in 1990 following the purchase of Breton Manor, now named Breton Rehabilitation and Living Centre.

In 1997, Breton Manor began offering residential hospice care along with rehabilitation and skilled nursing. The campus expanded in 1999 with the construction of duplex, triplex and four-plex homes, and the addition of Breton Terrace, a large, congregate-living building, in 2002. Breton Ridge, another independent living building, opened on the campus in October 2008.

Holland Home expanded its services into the community with the establishment of HomeCare of Holland Home in 1987 and the creation of Hospice of Holland Home in 1995. Hospice of Holland Home was renamed Faith Hospice in 2006, the same year Trillium Woods was constructed. That’s also the year when a decision was reached to widen its ecumenical outreach and include members of the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and other Protestant traditions to deliver spiritually oriented hospice care to all faiths.

Today, Faith Hospice bills itself as the only faith-based hospice in the greater Grand Rapids area, serving an average of 150 people at any given time of the year in their homes and at Trillium Woods’ 20-bed facility. It receives a daily average of three to four referrals, according to Nicely.

“Our mission is, quite honestly, fulfilling God’s calling to serve others with love and compassion, to follow Christ’s teaching in all that we do,” said Nicely. “That makes us a little different than other hospices in that we can claim that mission and on the rock of Christian principles.”

Some terminally ill patients are open to sifting through some weighty questions and priorities, said Nicely.

“Two main things need to be taken care of: quality of life of the patient and what do they want to do?” said Nicely. “They may need to reconcile some relationship, be closer to the divine, maybe ask for forgiveness from a superior being or other relationships. What does that person want and need knowing that their time is relatively short? Still, our philosophy is we do not push religion on people. We ask the patient if that is something he or she would like to have.”

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