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News Community Hospice Foundation keeps dream alive

The site of the proposed Hospice House is located in the former Merle and Prelo Dryman house on Maple Street.Fund raising ongoing for Franklin hospice facility.

The Hospice House Foundation (HHF) of Western North Carolina was founded in 2005 with the hopes of establishing a strong system of support for terminally ill patients. The goal is to establish a six bed facility in Franklin that will give patients the feeling of being at home in what could be their final days.

Now the outlook seems to be bright for the home, but that was not always the case. When the organization originally filed a request to establish the home, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services denied it because the state believed the organization would be unable to raise the funds needed for the home. After reviewing the letter that offered suggestions that the foundation along with its partner, Four Seasons, could make to comply, a plan was carried out and an appeal was filed. In early 2012, a Certificate of Need was granted and plans for the Hospice House were able to move forward.

While area hospitals offer hospice care, 29 hospice inpatient facilities operate throughout N.C., but only one west of Asheville in Haywood County, 45 minutes from Franklin. The local house is located on Maple Street in Franklin and is planned to serve patients of Macon County and the surrounding areas, including North Georgia.

According to Michele Alderson, president of HHF, it took a while to settle on the perfect place to open the Hospice House.

“We looked at a lot of different properties and we just couldn't choose,” says Alderson. “Then the Dryman house became available and it was just perfect. We're so excited to make this a comfortable place for patients and families around the area.”

The public will be offered the services of a hospice medical doctor, nurses, nursing assistants, a chaplain, social workers and grief counselors. Many trained volunteers will be on site to assist patients and their families, which is where the HHF will still play a role.

“Our job is to secure funding and bring it all together for the house to open, but once that is all done then we hand it over to the doctors and the managers who have experience running these homes,” she says.

Four Seasons, the managing arm of the Hospice House, specializes in this sort of care. In fact they are number one in the state for hospice care and served 66 percent of the people who died in Hendersonville last year said Alderson.

Four Seasons was able to reach an agreement with the Highlands- Cashiers Hospital, who had a hospice license, to transfer the license, thus giving Four Seasons access to Macon County patients and therefore bringing the house even closer to existence.

Steve Mills, director of the Four Seasons located in Highlands, believes the people in the area will benefit greatly from the services of hospice.

“We're pleased to be partnering with Hospice House Foundation who has been working to develop this in-patient unit for Western North Carolina,” said Mills. “It will provide an inpatient setting for patients who need acute symptom management for their end of life needs. One of the things we find is that people don't often choose hospice care until the very end and hospice care is available to people who have up to six months or longer to live. When we get involved with people earlier in the process it gives us a chance to work with them and meet their social, spiritual, and medical needs. When the time comes and the days grow shorter, we have a strong relationship with them and we can help support them the best that we can. The Hospice House will really provide an additional level of care for the patients and their families.”

The house will serve patients who are experiencing different circumstances, but the staff will have experience in addressing their needs. “Most hospice patients prefer to stay at home at the end of life, but sometimes their care goes beyond what a caregiver can provide,” said Alderson. “In that case a patient can be admitted to the Hospice House for pain and/or symptom management. The patient can go home when and if their condition improves.”

Another service that will be offered will be respite care; Patients will be able to come to the house for up to five days while their caregivers take time to rest, travel, or do anything else they may want to do. While under the care of the Hospice House, the patient will receive medical attention.

Patients may also be admitted to the Hospice House near the end of life. Families and caregivers are allowed to stay with their loved ones while the patient is at the residence for any reason. The rooms are large enough to offer adequate sleeping accommodations.

“We want everyone to be comfortable. This is a home. There is a living room area, a kitchen where they cook, and a dining room. We want families to find comfort here and to be able to spend time with their loved ones,” Alderson said. “Patients will have balconies to look out at the view and to hear the children playing next door. We think things like this are important for people that will come here.”

Patients who seek out care from the Hospice House will be able use Medicare, Medicaid, and most other private insurances according to Alderson, but even those who cannot offer any of these payment methods will not be turned away.

“That is why our job is never done. The foundation will always be raising money. Nobody will be turned away.”

The Hospice House looks to open its doors for operation in 2016, but citizens wishing to visit the home can call (828)524-3161 to schedule a tour and get information concerning the services to be offered. Today's Alive After Five! event will be hosted by the Hospice House Foundation of WNC at the Hospice House, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. The public is invited to attend.





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