This article first appeared in the Coeur d'Alene Press on February 12, 2020. By BILL BULEY Staff Writer
COEUR d’ALENE — Hospice of North Idaho is very much about taking care of people.
But it’s also a growing business.
It has a budget of more than $16 million, employs about 120 people and offers what Executive Director Kim Ransier called a “very robust benefits package.”
“This is not nurses with some supplies in their trunk anymore,” she said at the Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce’s Upbeat Breakfast Tuesday. “This is a very complex business to run.”
In a 10-minute talk before about 200 people, Ransier outlined the nonprofit’s roles, achievements and challenges.
Hospice of North Idaho cared for more than 1,500 patients last year and worked with 3,200 family members. While the average hospice stay, nationwide, is 90 days, Hospice of North Idaho’s is 42 as it provides end-of-life support helped by more than 200 volunteers.
When she asked the crowd how many have experienced hospice care in their families, most hands went up.
“This is something that in years past we didn’t really like to talk about, but we talk about it all the time now,” she said. “I think that makes a so-much healthier society.”
To address the needs of North Idaho’s rising elderly population, HNI added seven patient rooms at Schneidmiller House on its 6.5-acre campus, bringing that total to 21.
Hospice of North Idaho began in 1981 with a $2,500 government grant as a volunteer organization. Today, it is governed by a board of 12 volunteers that includes professionals across many fields.
But at the core, its goal is to provide a holistic approach to end-of-life care with a team of nurses, physicians, and social workers, and special services based on needs of patients and families.
Those services could be acupuncture, massage, diet, or even a pet therapy donkey that recently hauled in more than 26,000 Facebook likes.
It cares for people from infants to more than 100 years old, from being homeless to living in a Lake Coeur d’Alene mansion.
“If they need us, we’re going to be there,” she said.
Hospice care is available 24/7 for Kootenai, Benewah and Shoshone counties.
“We even go to Fernwood,” Ransier said.
Part of their mission is to educate people about the demands of caregiving so they’ll be prepared. So Hospice of North Idaho offers classes, as it’s a role that can last from a year to 40 years, with the average just more than four years.
“Nearly every one of you in this room will actually become a caregiver sometime in your life,” Ransier said. “As all of us baby boomers get older, we’re going to need some caregivers and how do those caregivers know what to do?”
With all that growth comes challenges, with the top one being more government regulations.
Hospice of North Idaho employs two full-time workers just to deal with all the rules and red tape.
“It has grown into a thriving business,” Ransier said.
Another challenge is late referrals, when people wait too long to seek help for someone in their final days, “The earlier you’re on hospice, actually, the better it is for everyone,” she said.
Ransier said people can support hospice by donating time or money, buying items at its thrift store or attending fundraisers like the recent wine taste that brought in $218,000.
“Then, too, you will also have a hospice heart,” she said.