Alexian Brothers Health System on Tuesday broke ground for a $7.5 million hospice residence facility near their main medical campus in Elk Grove Village.
The hospice residence will become only one of 12 in the state with a license to operate a free-standing hospice facility, though experts said the need for hospice programs is rising.
According to Alexian Brothers, hospice programs in the United States care for more than 1.5 million patients and families each year. Within 20 miles of the new building, there are 100,000 people who have been diagnosed with an illness such as cancer or Alzheimer's and may require hospice, official said.
"This will complete the continuum of care cycle that is so important to us," said Kathleen Gunderson, vice president of ancillary services at Alexian Brothers Health System.
The building is expected to open in July 2013 and will have 16 patient rooms.
The 19,150-square-foot center will also feature common rooms for families in a homelike setting as well as a library, kitchen and rec room. Rooms will also have space for loved ones to sleep over with the patients, Gunderson added.
Although Alexian had been considering a hospice facility in the past, and even did a feasibility study in 2006, that idea turned into reality when the hospital was approached by Dominic Mangone, a major donor who wanted to make it possible.
Mangone, a private equity investor and chairman of the Alexian Brothers Foundation excecutive board, was a hospice volunteer for many years and learned from the death of his parents about the importance of end-of-life care.
"There's a tremendous need," Mangone said. "As a hospice volunteer, I saw many families struggling to take care of loved ones.
"At the end of life even though you have help, it still creates a lot of tension for the loved ones around you. It's scary to take care of someone who is dying."
Length of stay and level of care will be determined on a case-by-case basis with some patients living at the residence for the last seven to 10 days of life, while others will live there until they pass away with no time limit on their residency.
Funding for the $7.5 million building comes from a combination of private donors and the Alexian Brothers Foundation, but Mangone said fundraising will be an ongoing effort.
Residents who can afford to contribute to their stay will be asked to pay an as-yet undetermined fee, officials said. However, no one will be turned away because of an inability to pay.
Because many patients may be on Medicare or have financial issues, he said he expects the hospice residence to actually lose money each year and need donations of up to $300,000 annually to keep running.
Mangone said he is confident that the unique facility will keep donors interested.
"A hospice residence is something special because it's just dedicated to dying people and the families of those who are dying," Mangone said.
Developers said it will be the only faith-based hospice residence in the Chicago area, a factor Mangone said was important to him.
"It's at the hour of death that people have the most questions about the afterlife, and I knew Alexian know how to handle that," Mangone said. "They know how to care for the soul as well as the body."