For families dealing with a terminally ill loved one, the end of life can be a confusing and overwhelming time for patients and caretakers alike. To ease this burden and give families more options, Hospice By The Bay has established a room at Sonoma Valley Hospital where patients can get the care they need in their final days.
“This is the most trying time for any person,” said Sandra Lew, chief executive officer of Hospice By The Bay. “Sometimes families just can’t deal with all of the stress of having a loved one die at home. To say, ‘I’m going to bring you to a lovely place,’ that really helps relieve the guilt they might feel.”
Located in the hospital’s skilled nursing facility, the room was remodeled with funds raised by Hospice By The Bay to create a space that seems more like a bedroom than a hospital room. With soft colors, decorative art, fresh flowers and a quilt hand-made for each patient, the goal was to feel less clinical and provide the comforts of home, while remaining within arms reach of the medical staff at the hospital.
“It was a room that we really wanted to stand out from any other hospital room. We really wanted it to look homey and nice, not sterile like many hospital rooms,” Lew said, explaining that there’s room for family members to spend the night as well. “It doesn’t have the same rigidity as normal hospital rooms where there are visiting hours, people can come whenever they want.”
While the hospital has long worked in concert with hospice, the two nonprofit entities launched their first official partnership, a palliative care program, around three years ago. Aimed at chronically ill patients, the two share the cost of staffing nurse practitioner Geoffrey Van Den Brande, who helps families make a plan for long-term care, which sometimes includes a Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) directive.
“Palliative care is an effort to improve quality of life and help patients make health care decisions,” said Dr. Robert Cohen, chief medical officer at Sonoma Valley Hospital, who helped launch the program. “So now, those plans aren’t made with me in crisis in the emergency room. In a state of calm, we can make those decisions before a crisis occurs.”
Lew said Hospice By The Bay, the second oldest hospice in the country, has long fielded inquires about in-patient care for clients who do not have family support or who simply prefer not to die at home. The cost of building and staffing such a facility was too high for the nonprofit to manage, so it looked for alternative options.
“We first partnered with (SVH) on this palliative care program. A natural segue was this concept of having a bed in the hospital for these patients who could not be managed at home,” Lew said, explaining that the hospital immediately agreed to the idea.
“It was so remarkable, they were interested from day one. We work with a lot of hospitals and it’s rare you find this kind of can-do attitude,” Lew said. “It’s a credit to the administration at the hospital for being so open-minded and putting the community first.”