A Dream Realized: Franciscan Hospice House
Writer / Joyce Long
Photographer / Ron Stiemert
American poet Langston Hughes once asked, “What happens to a dream deferred?” Franciscan St. Francis Health responds with its newly constructed 27,000 square foot Hospice House built by Tonn and Blank Construction and dedicated in mid-September.
First envisioned in the late 1990s, doctors and nurses at Franciscan St. Francis Health recognized a need for an extension of both the home and hospital for those requiring specialized end-of-life care. Critically ill patients wanted to go home, but their loved ones were often not able or healthy enough to provide 24/7 care.
“In my otolaryngology practice, I saw a lot of head and neck cancer patients, so at that time, there weren’t many options,” said Dr. Gerald Walthall, medical director of Palliative Medicine.
After a month of routine inspections and technology installation, Franciscan Hospice House will begin receiving patients in November. According to Director of Hospice Services Kris Basicker, “The whole purpose for the house is to make it warm and welcoming for families whose loved ones are entering the end-of-life journey.”
Eligible patients will include those requiring 24/7 nursing support for symptoms unmanageable at home and five-day respite stays to give families much-needed breaks. In addition, patients needing routine levels of care will be admitted on a case-by-case basis.
A Virtual Tour
Enter St. Francis Hospital campus from Emerson Avenue and continue east. Franciscan Hospice House is located south of the hospital at 8414 Franciscan Lane, past the private home for the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration.
Visitors will be welcomed into a living room with a stone fireplace, a donated baby grand piano and stylish seating selected by Dene Nidiffer, the hospital’s senior interior design project manager. To the right is Admission Coordinator Adrienne Bocchinfuso’s office. Lining the east side of the building is the large community room with audio-visual capability and a more intimate library.
Next to the living room are the nurses’ station and chapel. “Virtually everything in this chapel, including the stained glass windows, pews, organ and statue of the holy family, came from the hospital’s former Beech Grove location. The beauty of that continues the legacy of St. Francis,” said Media Relations Director Joe Stuteville.
North of the nurses’ station are rooms where Bereavement Coordinators Jeff Hauersperger and Karla Norton will counsel families. Nearby is a children’s play area for visiting families. A hydrotherapy room features a large bathtub with a lift for patients who prefer baths. At the end of the north hall, a large family room and screened porch make it possible for families to gather and relax away from the patient’s private room.
The house features 12 patient rooms with expansion space for four additional ones. Each room has its own separate patio and faces the woods and garden. Besides the patient’s bed, the layout includes a sofa sleeper, refrigerator and power charging station. Loved ones are welcome to spend the night. Large handicap compliant bathrooms, individual temperature control and two flat screen TVs enhance each room. Nearby is a kitchen and laundry facilities that families can use.
Hospice Home Team
Franciscan Hospice House provides much needed office space for its staff and volunteers. Ambulatory and delivery along with a separate staff entrance line its west side. Medical Directors Drs. Nicolas Priscu and David Mandelbaum manage patient care and share an on-site office.
Offices for the clinical staff and administration will also be located in the house. Their retreat room features a large table, lockers, kitchenette and a separate comfortable lounge. “Having been involved in critically ill patient care, I know how exhausting it can be. In this area, the staff can rest spiritually, emotionally and physically,” said Cecilia Quade, Director of Palliative Care and Hospice.
Volunteer Coordinator Cheryl McMahon recruits volunteers who will take patients to the chapel, visit with patients and help with office work. “It is a very rewarding opportunity. We all play an advocate role because we are here to go on that journey beside our patients and their families,” said McMahon. To discuss volunteer opportunities, call 317-528-2092.
Sister Veronica Lopez, who works with the Palliative Care Team, will regularly visit patients and their families. Sister Marcene Franz, vice president of Mission Integration, will share the hospital’s vision for hospice and focus on spiritual care. “The whole cycle of life also includes death. The sisters have a long history of caring for patients from birth to death,” said Stuteville.
Greg Williamson, executive director of Franciscan Alliance Foundation Central Indiana, has worked for the past four and a half years to raise money so that the Hospice House could become a reality. While $10.3 million was raised and covered construction costs, an additional $1.7 million will fund an endowment that will supplement training, updates and operating costs.
Of the money raised, almost half came from Franciscan Alliance. Individuals including hospital personnel donated 29 percent, businesses and organizations 18 percent and grants 5 percent. Williamson emphasized donations are still needed to fund the endowment.
“We really want to build the endowment. Hospice House is first and foremost a ministry. When you designate a gift to the endowment, 100 percent goes to the intended purpose, not to pay overhead. People who have a heart for hospice can leave a gift in their estate plans,” said Williamson. Visit givetohospice.org for more information.
For the hospice team, their dream has come true — a house that serves patients and their families well. For Greenwood resident Cecilia Quade who will retire this year, it’s a great finale of a 28-year career at Franciscan St. Francis Health.