Compassionate Care at the End of Life

In the winter of 1999, I got the call we all expect, but none of us want to get. My mother, battling cancer for the third time, wasn’t going to survive this final battle. I quickly packed my bags, left my family, and drove 150 miles through a snowstorm to the northern Indiana town in which I’d grown up. Although her doctor agreed that my mother had just a few weeks left, she had admitted her back into the hospital, into a double room, across the hall from the bustling and noisy nurses station, because no private room was available. Dressed in a back open hospital gown, she was in considerable pain, and being given a lot of fluids her failing body could no longer accept. She was generally confused and disoriented by all that was going on around her. This was not the way she, I, or anyone else wanted her to spend her last days.

Fortunately for my mother, there was a hospice house just down the road. It took a while for me to finally complete all the paperwork, arrange for the ambulance and slip and slide my way through the blizzard. However, it was worth the wait and effort. When I arrived at the hospice house, I found my mother snuggled under a handmade quilt in a warm and comfortable bed, in a pretty flannel nightgown. Her pain was now under control, and she was actually telling jokes to the nurses. I sat by her side for two weeks, through Christmas and the New Year, as friends and relatives came to say good-bye. The hospice house was a peaceful, warm, and friendly place where our needs – hers and mine – were met with care and compassion.

Currently, Whatcom Hospice provides service to more than 100 people every day, primarily in Whatcom County. Fortunately, most patients have an available and able caregiver, and an appropriate setting in which the patient can remain at home until the end of life. For others, like my mother and I however, home is not a good option. There may not be an able caregiver nearby, or the patient may not be able to receive the necessary care in his or her home environment. So, the only option for those who cannot remain at home is a hospital, or long-term health care facility such as a nursing home.

I am pleased to say that you and your loved ones have the same option my mother and I had. Whatcom Hospice House offers individual, state-of-the-art hospice care. Its twelve private rooms provide a warm, compassionate, home-like setting. They each have access to a private patio overlooking a wooded setting, with views of Chuckanut Mountain to the south. Each room contains a sleeper sofa, so family members can stay with patients whenever and as often as they like. Whatcom Hospice House also offers a family lounge area equipped with comfortable furnishings and a small kitchen, so family and guests can gather any time. Whatcom Hospice, a department of St. Joseph Hospital, provides care and the hospice house is owned and maintained by Whatcom Hospice Foundation.

To find out more about Whatcom Hospice House, please visit or call Mike Kirkland at (360) 733-1231.