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A fundraising drive is in the works for a facility that can serve up to 10 people.
Friday, May 3, 2013
As the Roanoke and New River valley populations grow older, the time is coming for the region’s first hospice center.
A nonprofit community group in Blacksburg soon will launch a fundraising drive to build a residential hospice facility to be called the Sojourn Center .
Plans are still taking shape, but the general concept is for a state-licensed facility where seven to 10 patients would receive end-of-life care for their terminal illnesses.
While professional hospice care often is provided in private homes, there are only three licensed residential hospices in Virginia, according to the state health department. They are in Charlottesville, Winchester and Virginia Beach.
Many people might prefer to spend their final days at home, but that is not always possible.
The hospice would be available to patients with failing health who live alone, those who have an elderly spouse who is overwhelmed by the burden of caregiving, or those in younger households where dying members and child-rearing make for a difficult combination.
In those and other situations, a residential hospice center would provide a level of care not found in nursing homes or hospitals, organizers say.
“Offering end-of-life patients residential care at Sojourn Center avoids ‘medicalizing’ a natural, once-in-a-lifetime event and allows a peaceful and meaningful passage in a setting without the noise and bustle of a busy hospital,” said Dr. Tina Smusz , a palliative care physician who serves on the board of the nonprofit group that is planning the hospice.
Demographic trends suggest a growing need for hospice care.
By 2030, about one in six residents of the New River Valley will be 65 or older, according to projections by the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service.
In the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Planning District, about one in four will be senior citizens by 2030.
Nationally, there has been a substantial increase in hospice care, which can be provided in a number of settings: residential centers like the one planned in Blacksburg, institutional settings such as a nursing home or hospital, or patients’ private residences, according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization .
About 45 percent of all deaths in the United States during 2011 were under the care of a hospice program of some kind, the organization reported in a 2012 study.
Plans for a residential hospice center in the New River Valley, which have been discussed over the past five years, are moving forward.
The Sojourn Center, the community-based group behind the plans, recently added five new members to its board as it prepares for a fundraising campaign to begin within a year.
Board members hope to find someone willing to donate a 5- to 10-acre tract of land for the center.
The ideal piece of property would be in a peaceful, natural setting in Blacksburg or Montgomery County, said Anne Campbell , president of the board.
While organizers say the proposed location might change, it’s likely the hospice will be in the New River Valley.
There also has been talk of building a residential hospice center in the Roanoke area, but the planning is not as far along as with the Sojourn Center, said Smusz, medical director of Carilion New River Valley Hospice, a non residential service.
Some Roanoke residents might use a hospice in the New River Valley, Smusz said.
The plan is for a building that would offer up to 10 private suites. Patients would receive around-the-clock care provided by staffers with special training in palliative care and addressing the emotional and spiritual needs of both the dying and their families.
The average length of stay is expected to be about 10 days.
Campbell said the estimated cost for the facility is $2 million to $2.5 million. While that may sound like a lot, she said, “You have to realize that this is not a house with seven to 10 bedrooms. This is a facility that offers medical care.”
An alternative plan would be to expand and modify an existing building.
Once the facility is in place, a hospice agency will take over operations and patient care. The patient care services will be reimbursed by Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurance plans.
Already, the organization has raised more than $60,000, much of which has gone toward hiring a professional fundraising group and an architectural firm.
Assuming all goes as planned, Campbell said, the hospice would be open within two or three years.
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