A CLOSER LOOK

Hospice, according to the Web site hospicenet.org, “emphasizes palliative rather than curative treatment; quality rather than quantity of life.

“The dying are comforted. Professional medical care is given, and sophisticated symptom relief provided. The patient and family are both included in the care plan and emotional, spiritual and practical support is given based on the patient’s wishes and family’s needs. Trained volunteers can offer respite care for family members as well as meaningful support to the patient.”

Other resources include the Hospice Foundation of America, www.hospicefoundation.org; the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, www.nhpco.org; and, locally, Hospice of Southern Maine, www.hospiceofsouthernmaine.org.

Diagnosed with end-stage heart disease, Lionel St. Ours, 91, of Biddeford, has been told he has less than two months to live. With the help of nurses from Hospice of Southern Maine, his daughter, Diane Lamontagne, who left her home and family in Florida, is taking him through his last weeks of life.

“Having Hospice behind me is just a godsend,” said Lamontagne.

Lamontagne hopes to see her father make it long enough to move into one of the 18 rooms at The Gosnell Memorial Hospice House on Hunnewell Road in Scarborough. The building is nearly complete and, according to Jody Deegan, chief operating officer of Hospice of Southern Maine, the first patient will be admitted at the beginning of August.

“That’s where he wants to go,” Lamontagne said of her father, whom she is taking care of in his home. She said he insists on remaining as independent as physically possible. “He doesn’t want to go to any nursing home.”

The Gosnell Memorial Hospice House, named for Arthur and Margaret Gosnell, whose five children donated $1 million toward the building, is only the second facility of its kind in Maine. The Androscoggin Home Care and Hospice house, a 14-patient facility located in Auburn, opened in November 2005. The Gosnells were summer residents of Maine. A total of $5.5 million was raised for the facility, said Deegan.

Before that home was built, Deegan said, Maine was one of the few states that did not have a Hospice House.

“We’re way behind,” she said.

In order to be admitted into the house, patients must be certified by a physician as having less than six months to live and not seeking a cure for their illness. The house will serve as a temporary home for patients who need to learn how to manage their symptoms on their own and, in some cases, as a final destination for those who need 24-hour care.

Though imminent death is what brings people to hospice, the focus of the care is not on dying, but on living well up until the end.

“We’re all dying,” Deegan said. “Our focus is helping the person live the best they can in the time they have left.”

Deegan said the setting of the Hospice House is an important factor in ensuring the quality of life. The choice of a resdential neighborhood is intentional because it’s a quiet place but, with chirping birds and flowering plants, has a certain vivacity that is key in keeping the patients in high spirits.

Some residents, however, weren’t pleased to see who was moving into the neighborhood. Increase in traffic flow on the surrounding streets, which are already subject to speeding cars cutting through from Route 114 to Route 1, was one of the main concerns, along with people parking on the street and an increase in crime due to the amount of medication the facility will contain.

Ginny Frederick, who has lived on Hunnewell Road for nearly 40 years, has already seen a lot of changes and is concerned about the latest development.

“It’s going to change the neighborhood,” she said.

Like most neighbors, Frederick isn’t opposed to hospice as an organization – in fact, her mother-in-law, who also lived on Hunnewell Road, was under its care in the late 1980s after being diagnosed with lung cancer.

“I’m definitely for the whole purpose of hospice,” she said. “They were very good.”

While neighbors might not want to deal with the traffic, according to Deegan, the location provides an ideal place for people to spend some of the last moments of their lives.

“This is the perfect setting,” Deegan said. “We want to help them be as comfortable as possible so that nature can take its course.”

“That’s where he wants to go,” Lamontagne said of her father, who insists on remaining as independent as physically possible. “He doesn’t want to go to any nursing home.”


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