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Planned respite home would aid the terminally ill

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By JOHN FLOWERS

MIDDLEBURY — A group of Addison County residents is laying the groundwork for a new respite care home that would provide support services for dying patients and their families.

The nonprofit venture, called Addison Respite Care Home Ltd. (ARCH), would be located on land off Middle Road. A very preliminary plan calls for the approximately 3,000-square-foot facility to be equipped with two private bedrooms for terminally ill residents, along with related amenities and basic accommodations for family visitors.

“We know this is a project that will take several years to accomplish, but this group is committed,” said Pete Jensen, president of the ARCH board.

An ARCH committee first formed in 2005, out of a common desire to see if a certified respite home — of which there are only a few in the state — could be established in Middlebury.

“Residential hospices grow out of the needs of people living with life-threatening illnesses who can no longer be cared for in their own homes, yet do not require the expensive and highly technical care of an acute (care) hospital,” reads an ARCH project overview on file at the Middlebury planning office. “Hospices are designed to meet the needs of a resident and his/her loved ones when a curative approach is no longer achievable.”

Hospice Volunteer Services (HVS) and Addison County Home Health & Hospice (ACHHH) are two local organizations that deliver services to terminally ill patients in households or hospital/nursing home settings. Jensen explained that before those organizations can provide services in a home setting, prospective clients must — among other things — designate a “primary caregiver” within the household.

“There are a number of scenarios where there is no family member who can serve as primary caregiver,” he noted, citing as an example a household in which a frail octogenarian may be incapable of taking full responsibility for a terminally ill spouse.

ARCH committee members wondered what the local demand and need might be for a hospice home that could serve people unable to receive services in their own homes.

They found some interesting answers, with the help of a statistical analysis class at Middlebury College. Using deaths data from 2002 to 2003, census projections and testimony from clients, the survey results indicted that:

• The county’s over-65 population is projected to increase by 82 percent from 2005 to 2020. That same demographic is expected to represent 20 percent of the county’s total population in 2020.

• The average deaths-per-year of those over 65 was 202 in 2002-2003. Given the aging nature of the county’s population, an anticipated 380 deaths per year among those 65 and older is anticipated by 2020.

“We are going to be a much older population requiring a dramatic increase in hospice services,” the report concludes.

That sentiment is echoed by officials at HVS.

“I see ARCH as being an important and necessary addition to the constellation of hospice services,” said HVS Executive Director Patty Dunn.

Jensen said details for the ARCH project are still being worked out. But the general “principles” of the respite home, according to organizers, will include a “home-like” setting; a focus on “quality of life” for residents and their loved ones, including features aimed at instilling “positive memories”; a collaborative relationship with surrounding hospice and health care organizations; a sustainable “green” building design; and full accessibility for the disabled.

The Middlebury Development Review Board is scheduled to discuss the ARCH concept at a public meeting on Monday, June 8, at 7 p.m. Also on the board’s review docket is a revised application by Middle Road Ventures to build 18 townhouses. The townhouse developers are proposing to carve off the parcel on which the respite home would be built.

ARCH board members will spend the coming months refining plans and looking at a combination of grants and donations to finance the ARCH facility, which would be staffed by trained professionals and volunteers. Residents would be charged a sliding-scale fee for services, based on ability to pay, Jensen said.

Nancy Malcolm is secretary of the ARCH board. One of her friends recently received very good care at a hospice house, she said.

“I totally believe in the whole concept,” Malcolm said.

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