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Ames Family Hospice Opens This Weekend, Will Serve Lorain County

Community will get to see facility that helps both the living and the dying

At Hospice of the Western Reserve's new in Westlake, the motto is, you're living until you die.

Everything from the design of the building to colors chosen is focused on giving patients and their families the most living possible out of the final days of the patient's life.

"We want them to feel like they're in a home, not a facility," said Robert Plona, director of residential services.

The new 40,000-sq.-ft. hospice opens this weekend with events that include a community open house from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, June 23. Guests are asked to park at the old Cleveland Clinic facility on Clemens Road and shuttles will take them to the hospice from there.

Hospice of the Western Reserve estimates it will care for 2,054 patients its first year of operation. There will be 122 permanent on-site employees, with 100 coming in occasionally from other facilities, and more than 60 volunteers.

The Ames Family Hospice will serve patients in western Cuyahoga County as well as Lorain County.

From the stone siding to the wooden shutters and the covered entry, Plano said, the hospice is designed to look like a large house when you approach it. There are shingled half-roofs all around the outer sides of the building, to give it a more home-like appearance and hide mechanicals on the flat roof.

When you walk in, you see what you might see in any house: A living room, a kitchen and dining room, and a study.

The living room is large enough for greeting visiting family and friends.

Patients can have family and friends over for meals in the kitchen, which comes with Americans With Disabilities Act-compliant appliances to patients who are strong enough can cook alongside their loved ones.

Each week, volunteers will come in and use the kitchen to bake cookies for the patients, families and staff. Teen volunteers will come in to make pasta dinners for families.

Plona said they will also work with area restaurants to come in and make gourmet meals for patients and their families, which will be served by staff. Someone will be on hand to take photos so family members can have a memento of the night.

The study is designed to be a private place where family can wait during a patient's final hours. It's also where they can be told upon arriving that their loved one died before they got there.

The entry hall then opens up to a large, light-filled pavilion. There are groupings of couches and chairs, and tables and chairs, for patients to visit with family and friends. A piano will be put in for patients and their families to play. Musicians will also come to entertain.

Small square stained-glass windows near the high ceiling serve two puroposes. They let more light into the pavilion while screening the air conditioning units on the roof from view.

A meditation room -- deliberately not called a chapel so that people of all faiths and no faith are welcome -- is off the pavilion. It can be a place for quiet reflection, for religious services, even weddings of patients or family members, Plona said.

There are also rooms for music and art therapy.

There are alcoves everywhere one can be in the halls, designed to keep wheelchairs, food carts and other medical equipment out of the hallways. The building was designed so that every hallway has access to the outside through windows and doors.

"It feels less hospital-like that way," Plona said.

There are two wings, each with 16 private rooms. The rooms are decorated in soft blue, green or yellow. They are designed to be as home-like as possible, with minimal appearance of medical equipment. The rooms come with flat-screen televisions that can also play DVDs and CDs, and be used for video-conference visiting with far-away loved ones. High-quality roll-away beds are in each room, along with digital safes.

Each room has a door opening to the outside. Several open to a closed courtyard. Those rooms can be used for patients with dementia, Plano said. They can walk outside but cannot roam away.

Each wing also has larger rooms. They can be used by patients with larger families, cases where spouses or family are patients there together, or for patients weighing 400 pounds or more, as the beds are larger and the doorways wider.

Each wing has a large screened-in porch. One will overlook a small playground for visiting children.

Laundry rooms and kitchenettes are in each wing so family members don't have to worry about leaving patients alone.

There is also a theraputic spa, a playroom for children, a hang-out room for teens, a cafe, and outdoor spaces with a walking path where people can buy memorial bricks. Pets will be welcome.

"Family is whatever the patient says it is," Plona said.

Each wing will also have a garage, where patients can be admitted in bad weather, or funeral homes can pick up patients who die.

Green building was also part of the Ames Family Hospice, Plona said. Hospice of the Western Reserve is going for LEED silver rating. Recycling was a big part of building, and will be a part of life there from the cafe to the staff lounge.

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