By Kieran McQuilkin, Richmond Times-Dispatch
Construction is complete on the Richmond area’s first free-standing hospice house. The Bon Secours Community Hospice House — one of only about 600 nationwide — is slated to open in early fall in Chesterfield County.
Hospice is end-of-life treatment typically offered in homes, but also in hospitals and free-standing facilities like the new Bon Secours palliative care center.
Work on the $8 million hospice house began in 2013 at Old Bon Air and Robious roads in the Bon Air community.
The 6.5-acre site was donated to Bon Secours by John Cullather and Anthony Markel, whose relatives benefited from hospice care.
The 19,000-square-foot facility has 16 beds; every room looks out onto a central garden, a crucial feature of the site, according to Bon Secours officials.
“There’s a connection with nature that patients at the end of life really crave and, of all the patients that go into these houses, two-thirds are in the last few days of their lives and will die there,” said Dr. William Anderson of Bon Secours Hospice.
Bon Secours officials said hospitals can be chaotic and a repository of bad memories, so hospice patients requiring intensive care are more comfortable in a quieter facility.
“We know from studies in the past that, given the option, people would much prefer to spend their final days in surroundings that are familiar and not very clinical, surrounded by loved ones and not in a sterile atmosphere of a hospital,” said Spencer Levine, vice president of programs for the Hospice Foundation of America.
Instead of working to cure the patient’s illness, hospice is designed to reduce suffering and provide comfort for the terminally ill.
Most hospice programs serve patients in their homes. About 85 percent of hospice care is based on the home model in the U.S., according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.
Hospice organizations need to be able to offer inpatient care, but the majority do not have their own brick-and-mortar facilities, said Jon Radulovic, spokesman for the national organization. They typically provide that care by leasing beds in nursing homes or assisted living facilities.
“We are starting to see a demographic shift with families spread across the country and not as many caregivers,” said Radulovic, adding that the American home-based model does not always provide the necessary support system for end-of-life care.