A facility that provides home-like care for people at the end of their lives is a great gift to Lawrence and Douglas County.
Care Cottage, a four-bedroom house in southwest Lawrence, has opened for business under the supervision of Douglas County Visiting Nurses Association, Rehabilitation and Hospice Care. The list of services this non-profit agency offers to county residents is as long as its name, and the hospice house has been a long-time dream of many people associated with VNA.
As families scatter around the world, it's often difficult for someone to be available to provide full-time care for someone who is in the last stage of his or her life. Too often, that means people are put into a institutional setting - a nursing home or hospital. Those facilities do their best to provide sensitive, compassionate care, but they bear little resemblance to the home settings that have been such a comfort to their patients throughout their lives.
Care Cottage provides an important option for local residents. Until now, the closest in-patient hospice facility was located in Topeka. Some Douglas County residents took advantage of that resource, but having a hospice house in Lawrence makes it much easier for friends and family members to visit often and for patients to continue to see the same doctors and health care providers.
Care Cottage was designed as a single-family residence and its supervisor want residents to think of it as their home. That means they can move about freely, probably keep something special in the refrigerator and decorate their rooms as they like. It may not be home, but the staff is dedicated to making it as much like home as possible.
It was wise to take advantage of the opportunity to buy Care House, which already was state-certified as an assisted living facility, but this house is just the first step in VNA's plans to construct a 12-bed in-patient hospice on county-owned land behind the United Way Center on Ridge Court. That project will require a large fundraising effort, but with the number of retirees moving to Lawrence, as well as the aging baby boomers who already live here, support for the larger facility and the services it will provide is likely to be strong.
How we die isn't something most of us want to talk about, but when difficult decisions must be made, the presence of Care Cottage will be a comfort to many families and individuals.