Hospice Inpatient Unit

Our community's first dedicated Hospice Inpatient Unit is at UnityPoint Health St. Luke's and opened in March 2013. The unit named for Ed & Joan Hemphill was completely funded through  generous contributions to St. Luke's Health Care Foundation from community donors and St. Luke's associates.

Virtually equivalent to embedding a hospice house within the walls of St. Luke's, the Hospice Inpatient Unit is a homelike environment intentionally designed to provide the best care for those who are imminently dying. "Sometimes the best place for a patient to receive care is in the hospital, because the patient requires more intervention to be comfortable than can be provided at home," said James Bell, MD, medical director, UnityPoint Hospice.

The hospice within the hospital improves end-of-life care for patients who must remain in the hospital for their last days. Patient rooms are oversized and equipped with sleeper sofas. Family space within the unit includes a kitchen and laundry. There are also meeting rooms and quiet spaces for families to use.  In addition to the peaceful, homelike environment, patients and families using the Hospice Inpatient Unit benefit from a specialized staff trained in hospice care.

"When a patient's goal shifts from aggressive or curative care to a comfort focus of care and their needs for comfort require the intensity of the inpatient realm - or they are too unstable for transfer - then general inpatient hospice care is appropriate. Of course, many if not most patients want to be at home, and if that is possible, we still absolutely advocate for getting them there," Bell said.

Benefits of inpatient care

Experts with hospice training staff the Hospice Inpatient Unit 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Examples of situations when hospice patients need services that must be performed in a hospital environment are when pain medications must be adjusted quickly, monitored by healthcare providers or when a ventilator patient shifts from curative care to comfort care. High-level hospice care is also required when severe, life-threatening emergencies turn into situations from which the patient will not recover. 

Families with a loved one in hospice care can gather together more comfortably in the larger patient rooms, which also have sleeping accommodations and a private bathroom with shower for family members. There are small private rooms for family members to meet with healthcare providers and a large gathering space. There, grieving families can comfort one another and use amenities such as a computer station, kitchenette with dining area, laundry room and play area.

The Inpatient Hospice Unit offers additional services for hospice patients and their families. Respite care provides breaks for caregivers at home by caring for hospice patients for up to five days at a time. Current hospice patients suffering from severe pain or other symptoms can be admitted to get symptoms under control. Residential care will be available for those occasional situations that are prolonged, especially if a patient becomes more stable.

Hospice charges Medicare and private insurance and provides free hospice care to patients when services are not covered. The services provided include:

  • Nursing
  • Social work
  • Chaplain
  • Aides
  • Music, pet and massage therapy
  • Physical, occupational or speech therapy
  • Oxygen and expensive medications, such as chemotherapy (for symptom management, not curative)
  • Volunteer companionship

Please call UnityPoint Hospice at 319/369-7744 for more information.