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Above:  The Whatcom Hospice House in Bellingham, Washington is a 12 bed facility for terminally ill patients.

Doti spent the final weeks of her life in the Whatcom Hospice House, an in-patient facility in Bellingham, Washington designed to provide comfort care to those who are terminally ill.  From my Dad’s bout with cancer many years ago, I became familiar with the term “hospice,” which typically refers to periodic, in-home care for those who have less than six months to live.  However, I wasn’t aware of an in-patient hospice concept like this until Doti’s illness.

As I learned, the Whatcom Hospice House is a wonderful facility.  Intended for those who have days or weeks (not months) left to live, it provides individualized care and a quiet place for terminally ill patients and their families.  Unlike a hospital, the Hospice House provides a tranquil and private environment, and unlike home health care, a nursing staff is on hand 24 hours a day to provide comfort care, bathing, pain medicine, and other needs.

The Whatcom Hospice House has 12 private rooms and each is something like a small, furnished studio.  Each room is equipped with a hospital bed, recliner and sofa/bed for visitors, a bathroom and a small refrigerator.  The facility is incredibly quiet and peaceful, and each room looks out into a park-like area and has access to a private patio.  There’s a Family Lounge with a fireplace and TV, offering family members a place to meet or relax, and a Sanctuary for prayer, meditation, or quiet conversation.

 
Above:  A typical patient room at the Hospice House.  That recliner is where I spent all of January as I assisted Doti.  The sofa/daybed can be used by overnight visitors and each room has access to a private patio outside. 
 

The Hospice House is staffed around-the-clock with nurses (RNs, LPNs, CNAs) on hand at all times who provide palliative care to the residents.  The nursing staff at the Hospice House was wonderful and I want to give a big “Thanks!” to every one of them, including David, Becky, Therese, Michelle, Erin, Molly, Amy, the other Amy, Stephani, Pam, and Brittany.  Hopefully I’m not missing anyone but if I am, I apologize.  Every nurse was incredibly caring, patient and helpful.

Along with the wonderful nursing and administrative staff, something that makes the Hospice House special are all the volunteers that assist. Volunteers staff the front desk and make rounds, providing comfort to patients and visitors alike.  When I was there in January 2017, homemade soup was provided for visitors every afternoon by volunteers and a volunteer masseuse visited the facility about once a week.  Doti got a massage every week and thoroughly enjoyed it.  A wonderful volunteer group called the Threshold Singers visited frequently and the four members sat around Doti’s bed and sang for her for 20 minutes once or twice a week.  It was one of the most beautiful sounds I’ve ever heard and Doti felt likewise, and I could tell they enjoyed singing for Doti as much as she enjoyed listening.

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Above:  The Family Lounge with a fireplace, TV and kitchen provides a nice occasional respite for visitors.  They served homemade soup here every afternoon, and cookies were always on hand.

I learned about the Hospice House in late December when Doti was in the hospital.  After I told Doti about it and showed her pictures from their website, she was impressed and was happy and relieved when she was admitted a few days later.  The alternatives for Doti, given her situation, would’ve been hospice in a home health care setting or perhaps a dreary nursing home, neither of which would’ve been suitable for her, given her needs.

The Whatcom Hospice House is a wonderful concept and facility, and I’m hoping there are similar facilities elsewhere in the country. I heard that they draw patients from all over the state of Washington and if so, I'm not surprised.  It was the perfect place for Doti to spend her final days, and she and I are both very grateful to their staff.