New hospice suites designed for optimal function and comfort

Joliet Area Community Hospice hopes to move patients into these suites soon

Joliet Area Community Hospice is nearly ready to move its patients into the new addition of its freestanding hospice facility.

The area was designed to increase patient and family comfort and to make it easier for staff to care for their patients, according to Eileen Gutierrez, senior director of development and communication.

The projected opening is Feb. 1, she said.

The new 10,000 square foot brick building that goes along one the side of the pond has 12 patient suites and a solace room or chapel, she said.

“These patient suites are all large and bright and warm; they’re lovely,” Gutierrez aid. “They are designed to be comfortable for patients and families.”

Each room has new furnishings, a couch that becomes a pullout bed for those who wish to stay the night with their loved ones, a large accessible bathroom, a big TV, plenty of closet and cabinets, and a refrigerator, she said.

In addition, each room also has a set of French doors with a wide opening so the patient’s bed can be wheeled outside, Gutierrez said. Landscaping commences in the spring, she said.

“So once the sunshine is out, people will be able go to out and get some fresh air and sit outside in a safe and protected area,” Gutierrez said.

Lisa Data, hospice in-patient unit manager, said the original rooms did not have refrigerators, the queen size pullout bed and extra storage for families to keep their belongings. The French doors and patios are new, too, she said.

The wide patient beds make it easy for families to stay close to their loved ones, she said. The recliners are comfortable and move all the way back for greater comfort, Data said.

To improve functionality of the space, the addition has staff stations near the patients’ rooms instead of a single central location.

And instead of the white board in hospital patient rooms that announce the names of their providers for a particular shift, the suites in the addition have an electronic monitor that also provides other important information, such as the care plan for the day and assuring patients and families that help is on the way when they push the call button, Data said.

All of these features are designed for a better experience for patients and their families, so that they feel comfortable, safe and secure, Data said.

“We feel grateful to be able to care for patients during their difficult time and be able to support them on their journey,” Data said.

Joliet Area Community Hospice was the first freestanding hospice facility in Illinois when it opened in 2004, Gutierrez said. In 2017, it began a campaign to expand and renovate the existing hospice home. Approval was granted from the legislature in 2018, Gutierrez said.

The project cost $8.3 million, which came from money raised in the capital campaign, grants and reserved funds, Gutierrez said. The project is being competed in two phases.

“Phase two will start as soon as we move everyone into the new addition,” Gutierrez said.

During phase two, some of the existing rooms will be renovated in the same style as the room sin the new addition, she said. The dining room and living room will be expanded to become more family friendly, she said.

The existing space has room for 16 clients, Gutierrez said. When the project is completed, Joliet Area Community Hospice will be able to serve 20 in-patients at one time, she said.

“But we had to take some of those rooms out of service to get ready for all this,” Gutierrez said. “So we’ve been working with 12 rooms for most of 2020.”

In addition, Joliet Area Community Hospice also purchased the building across the street. That will be used for trainings, education and grief support programs, Gutierrez said.

She said that Joliet Area Community Hospice has been - and is still - accepting and caring for clients during the completion of both phases and that hospice cares for approximately 520 patients a year in its in-patient hospice home.

“I think it’s important for everyone to understand that, even though we’re undergoing construction, we are 100 percent fully functional,” Gutierrez said.

However, the vast majority of Joliet Area Community Hospice clients receive care either in their homes, a skilled nursing facility, an assisted living facility or hospital, Gutierrez said.

“But for those whose symptoms and pain just can’t be managed at home, the IPU [in-patient unit] is a wonderful opportunity for them, she said.

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Denise M. Baran-Unland

Denise M. Baran-Unland is the features editor for The Herald-News in Joliet. She covers a variety of human interest stories. She also writes the long-time weekly tribute feature “An Extraordinary Life about local people who have died. She studied journalism at the College of St. Francis in Joliet, now the University of St. Francis.