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updated: 9/8/2012 4:33 PM

Northwest Community Hospital opens hospice suite

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Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights opened a hospice suite last week with seven beds for patients that need end-of-life care in a hospital setting, officials said.

"We realized we had a void -- once our patients were ready to go into hospice care, we were sending them to a different facility," said Karen Colby, vice president of Patient Care Services with Northwest Community Hospital. "We decided we needed to develop a place where they could go and be cared for in a homelike setting."

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NCH paired up with Midwest CareCenter to create the seven-room suite, which opened for patients last Wednesday. Colby said several patients have already settled into the top floor unit at the Arlington Heights hospital and that officials will decide later if more rooms need to be opened in the suite.

The Midwest CareCenter Hospice Suite has features including private patient rooms, a meditation room, a spacious family lounge with a kitchenette and other visitor amenities, including a bed for overnight stays.

Visitors are allowed 24-hours a day and arrangements can be made for pet visits as well, Colby said.

Patients will have access not only to their regular doctors and nurses but also social workers, a chaplain, case managers and other services that could include physical, massage or music therapy, said Bernadette Abell, clinical director of inpatient units with Midwest CareCenter.

Although hospice typically takes place at home, Colby said sometimes symptoms make that impossible. She said the new suite was designed to make both patients and families as comfortable as possible during a difficult time.

"The benefits of a hospice suite are really important to the family," Colby said. "This allows them to be family rather than caregivers while the patient is still alive." The organizations will also provide bereavement services to designated family members for 13 months after a death to get them through all holidays and milestones with counseling and support, she added.

"We're more than just a hospital," Colby said. "This is something patients have asked us for, and it's a part of our dedication to the full continuum of care."

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