New hospice house to be built in Johnson County


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To better serve local residents, coordinators are looking to build the Hospice Home of Johnson County to create a comforting atmosphere for patients.

The nonprofit group will serve patients in a home, with up to eight receiving services at the same time, in order to fill a need for the services in the area.

Caregivers will provide services such as showering, help with movement, counseling, recreational activities, among others. Additionally, meals and snacks will be provided for patients.

“What we’re trying to do with our group is to establish a home-like residence for a person who can’t stay at home while they’re close to dying,” said Carol Tippe, the Hospice Home of Johnson County board president.

The organization will work with other hospice programs in the area, such as the hospice care at Mercy Hospital and Iowa City Hospice.

These programs provide professional caregivers and volunteers who provide services to patients and comfort to their families.

“Individual [patients] would decide if they want to stay in their homes or a different facility,” said Maggie Elliott, Iowa City Hospice executive director. “The Hospice Home of Johnson County is another option for patients to stay.”

Other options for a patient are to choose to live at home and receive an at-home caregiver or to be placed in a nursing home and receive additional services.

The closest hospice house to the Johnson County area is in Hiawatha, more than 30 miles away. In the state, there are only 16 similar home-like facilities, Tippe said, which is why organizers wanted to build one in the area.

Officials are still deciding where the home will be built.

Coordinators are looking for where to build the center in a centralized location of the county and in an area with two acres.

Funds for this program will be based on tax-exempt donations.

The cost for establishment will depend on where the home is built, and how many patients the home can hold. An estimated $250 will be charged per day for each patient, but some insurance and donations may lower the costs.

Organizers have been working on this project for three years, and one of the most difficult challenges has been gaining a nonprofit status, which allows donors to earn tax exemption on their donations.

Home coordinators hope the process will be complete by late 2015 or sometime in 2016, but it will take time to raise funds through donations, grants and fundraisers.

As part of the University of Iowa Health Care services, the Hospice and Palliative Medicine Fellowship training program prepares students for a future in hospice care.

Prior to 2012, people interested were allowed to take a test, and if they passed they would be physician certified, according to officials. Now students must get hands-on training in hospitals prior to taking the examination.

“We started the program this year with funds through the [University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics],” said Joanne Gritton, a member of the support staff for the fellowship program. “The university is affiliated with Mercy Hospital to get hospice hours for the certification.”

Though the Johnson County home is still undergoing decisions, local volunteers are helping speed up the process.

In preparation of the Johnson County Hospice Home, business students at the UI have volunteered to kick off the program, Tippe said.

In the future, team members are looking for more students with skills in planning and marketing to help get the word across.

“[We’re looking for] people who want to volunteer and for major donors to the project so we can have part of the money before we go ahead with the planning,” she said.

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