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Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care’s Serenity House Marks First Year in New Home

Hospice facility has expanded its team and helped more patients than ever before

Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care celebrated on Wednesday the first anniversary of its new Serenity House, its inpatient hospice house that provides care for hospice patients whose needs cannot be met at home.

A truly unique option in end-of-life care for hospice patients, Serenity House provides around-the-clock medical care from a team of specially trained doctors, a nurse practitioner, nurses, social workers, spiritual counselors, hospice aides, volunteers and more who support emotional, spiritual and practical concerns all in the comfort and peace of a home-like setting.

During Serenity House’s first year of operation, the 18-room, 27,300-square-foot facility brought on a staff of two doctors, a nurse practitioner, 22 nurses, two social workers, two part-time integrative therapists, a spiritual counselor, a dietician, a chef and cook, a housekeeper, an in-patient administrative supervisor, a receptionist, and a maintenance and facilities manager. Together, the new Serenity House team was able to care for 315 individuals and their families over the course of their first year.

Serenity House reached its operating capacity, with all 18 private rooms being utilized, meeting more hospice patients’ critical needs than ever before.

In its first year, Serenity House also has received widespread recognition for its innovative and beautiful design. It has received a 2012 Santa Barbara Beautiful award for its commemorative Memorial Wall, as the Best Architectural Feature. It was also named a Built Green Santa Barbara two-star facility, demonstrating a commitment to the latest practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions.

The site where the new Serenity House now stands was previously owned by the Community Environmental Council. Many sustainable design features were implemented at Serenity House, continuing the legacy that the CEC began on the same site 35 years earlier. Major sustainable features include the adaptive reuse of the Gildea Resource Center, two underground 10,000-gallon cisterns to harvest rainwater for irrigation, and a landscaped bioswale to filter storm water runoff, among others.

Another critical milestone that Serenity House is recognizing in its first year is the legislation SB 177, which was passed as a result of VNHC’s massive community outreach efforts. The SB 177 Petition of Support sent to Gov. Jerry Brown presented 372 signatures and more than 400 letters of support from private citizens, businesses and associated agencies, collected by VNHC and its supporters. Sponsored by state Sen. Tony Strickland and Assemblyman Das Williams, SB 177 is a special statute for Santa Barbara County, extending the number of patient beds in “congregate living health facilities” to a maximum of 25 beds for the purpose of serving people who are terminally ill. This gave Serenity House the ability to increase accommodations from 12 beds to 18.

As the only licensed hospice inpatient care provider in Santa Barbara County, VNHC found its former six-bed facility could no longer adequately satisfy the demand for hospice care in the community. From 2008 to 2009 alone, Serenity House saw a 71 percent increase in the number of patients served, and often, a waiting list of 10 or more people awaiting care.

To meet the increasing demand for quality end-of-life care, VNHC embarked on an ambitious capital campaign to fund an expanded hospice facility. By the end of 2007, community members had donated more than $8 million to fund the project, and with additional support from a large bequest, the medical nonprofit was ready to move forward with plans to build a new Serenity House.

Frank Schipper Construction broke ground on the new 27,300-square-foot facility in 2009 after a careful planning and design process led by PMSM Architects, which oversaw every detail of the building and its surrounding campus.

Each private room allows patients to be surrounded by loved ones throughout their time at Serenity House. Integrated Therapies include soothing practices such as guided imagery, gentle reflexology, mindfulness practice, reiki and aromatherapy to increase comfort and provide a sense of well-being. Through the use of multiple music experiences, the Elly Nadel Music Therapy Program provides support to patients, family members and loved ones, helping to reduce stress, improve relaxation, and decrease physical pain and discomfort.

The new Serenity House is a place so unique and inspiring, even the most difficult times can grow into meaningful, lifelong memories to cherish forever. To find out more about Serenity House, click here or call 805.965.5555 in Santa Barbara or 805.693.5555 in the Santa Ynez and Lompoc valleys.

— Jennifer Guess is a publicist representing Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care.

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