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July 23, 2015

Hospice brings comfort to dying patients

  • A new inpatient center at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett will have a fireplace and other familiar touches to make it feel more like home.
    Mortenson Construction


    Much of health care is focused on healing and restoring patient health. But for those facing a serious or terminal illness, hospice care helps patients enjoy the gift of time with loved ones while maximizing the quality of living that remains.

    When designing and building hospice facilities for patients, there are ways to approach design that considers the well-being of the individual while conveying a soothing and peaceful environment.

    Many people think “hospice” refers to a specific place. Rather, hospice is specialized care to support patients and their loved ones during an advanced illness at the end of life. It can be provided almost anywhere: at the patient’s home, in a retirement home, in an adult family home, at an assisted-living facility or a skilled nursing facility.

    The focus of hospice care centers on comfort and quality of life when options for a cure are no longer available or no longer desired by the patient. The primary goal of hospice care is to help people have an alert, pain-free life while living each day fully.

    Inpatient hospice care

    Those receiving hospice care have a strong desire to enjoy the comforts of home. For this reason, most hospice care — whenever possible — is provided at home. In some instances, the patient’s fragile or medically complex state requires a higher degree of care in a hospital or a hospice-care facility where 24/7 registered nursing staff is available.

    Image by MG2 [enlarge]
    Homelike touches at the hospice include a kids’ room with video games.

    Hospitals have not traditionally been designed or built with the goal of making a patient feel at home. Further, hospitals are costly to build and operate, so the typical hospital facility is geared toward health and healing.

    There are also instances when a patient is being treated in the hospital for a condition that is not improving, or suddenly takes a turn for the worse. In these scenarios, a family must choose whether to keep their loved one in the hospital, or to attempt to transport their family member to a hospice care facility, which can pose a risk to fragile patients.

    For this reason, Providence Hospice and Home Care of Snohomish County is partnering with Providence Regional Medical Center Everett to create a hospice care setting within an existing portion of the hospital’s Colby campus in Everett.

    Founded in 1978, Providence Hospice and Home Care of Snohomish County provides compassionate and high-quality care to meet the physical, spiritual and emotional needs of patients and families facing the end of life. In addition to its core hospice services, the agency also offers specialized pediatric and palliative care services, and an ambulatory palliative care program.

    The goal of the new inpatient care center in Everett is to provide pain management or acute symptom management to hospice patients, allowing patients to enjoy the comfortable feeling of home during their time in hospice.

    Homelike setting

    The Providence inpatient hospice care center is currently in construction, with a targeted completion date of December 2015.

    The project consists of a full renovation of the eighth floor of the A wing at the Providence Everett Colby campus to provide 16 private patient rooms for hospice care.

    The facility allows close access to Providence Regional Medical Center Everett while also creating an environment specifically designed to convey a feeling of home. To that end, project designer MG2 and builder Mortenson Construction have worked closely with Providence Hospice and Home Care of Snohomish County to choose materials, colors, furniture and amenities to minimize the institutional feel common to hospital settings while projecting a sense of home.

    Amenities include a residential-style kitchen in the common area for use by patients, families and friends, as well as a common family living room area with a fireplace on a ledge-stone wall, a kids’ room (complete with video games) and a tub room with a soaking bathtub. Finishes and materials include gypsum ceilings instead of the acoustical tile ceilings typical of a hospital, along with residential-style light fixtures, comfortable furniture, wood finishes including cabinets and floors, soft colors and wall surfaces, and a welcome station rather than a traditional nurse station.

    The eighth-floor location on the Colby campus also provides exceptional views of the Cascades, Puget Sound and the surrounding Everett community.

    Thoughtful design

    Also important to the project is how necessary systems are seamlessly blended into the space.

    Examples include medical gas and nurse call systems at the headwall of each bed. These systems are incorporated into this headwall in a way that is less visible in the room, further reducing the institutional feel common to hospitals.

    In addition, standard building systems such as signage are either minimized or adjusted to blend into the hospice setting. Even small items, like cubicle curtains, are custom-designed since they are common in hospitals, but not in homes.

    The design, planning and construction of this project required sensitive considerations due to the project’s location above the seventh floor of the A wing, an inpatient bed floor with many oncology patients undergoing difficult treatments and experiencing suppressed immune systems. Careful planning and arrangements for the demolition of existing eighth-floor materials, as well as tie-in of plumbing and electrical systems, were critical to ensuring patient safety and project success.

    Close coordination among the designer, builder, the hospice agency and hospital have been essential to maintaining progress toward completion of the project. When designing and building for hospice care, there are ways to help make patients feel comfortable and at home and to create a more calming environment.

    Mark Baughman is a construction executive who focuses on health care for Mortenson Construction, a national general contractor with a local office in Kirkland.

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