The promise of hope
A Huntsville Hospital plan to open North Alabama’s first inpatient hospice unit has special meaning to Doris Bailey.
Bailey, who lives in the Monrovia community, credits Huntsville Hospital’s Hospice Family Care with allowing her husband to die peacefully and with dignity in his own bedroom. Charles Bailey, 76, a retired Army systems analyst, suffered from stomach cancer.
“He was at the point of no return” when the family reached out to Hospice Family Care, Doris Bailey says. “They set up everything in the house for us and let us know they were at our disposal whenever we needed them, 24/7.”
Hospice employees arranged a hospital bed for Charles and put it at the foot of his wife’s bed, allowing him to spend his final days in a familiar setting surrounded by the people he loved most. His daughter Dodi Gaines was at his side when he died. “I don’t know what I would have done without hospice,” says Doris Bailey. “They weren’t only our caregivers; they became like family to us.”
While Bailey says home-based hospice care was the right choice for her husband, she enthusiastically supports the idea of inpatient hospice care for terminally ill patients who no longer can be cared for at home and who require constant medical supervision.
Huntsville Hospital, Hospice Family Care and Redstone Village are teaming up to build the region’s first inpatient hospice facility on the campus of Redstone Village, a retirement community in south Huntsville. Scheduled to break ground this spring, the $10 million, 30,000-square-foot structure will offer 15 private rooms with all the comforts of home. Each room will have sleeping accommodations for two family members. Plans also call for family living areas, work areas, a kitchen, patios with views of the nearby woods and mountain, and a non-denominational chapel. Round the clock care and comfort will be provided by a specially-trained medical director, nurses, technicians and spiritual counselor.
“A community the size of Huntsville should have a facility dedicated to inpatient, end-of-life care,” says Jeff Samz, Huntsville Hospital’s chief operating officer. “Our goal is to create a world-class model where end-of-life care is delivered with privacy and dignity for the patients, and where their families can be present and involved in the care.”
Huntsville Hospital estimates more than 300 hospital patients a year would benefit from inpatient hospice care. Currently, there are only 40 inpatient hospice beds statewide – none within an hour of Huntsville.
The Huntsville Hospital Foundation, the nonprofit fundraising arm of Huntsville Hospital, recently launched a $7 million capital campaign to cover the bulk of the costs to build, furnish and equip the inpatient hospice facility.
Bailey says inpatient hospice care would be a godsend for many families in the Huntsville area. She has a close friend whose husband is battling stomach cancer. The couple does not have any family in Alabama, and the woman is “at a loss” how to care for her husband as his condition worsens. “She’s been asking me about hospice,” Bailey says, “and she could really benefit from an inpatient hospice. I would even volunteer my time at a place like that. “Hospice Family Care was so good to me,” she says, “and I’d love to give back.”