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Tribune editorial: Bill paves way for option in hospice care

Tribune editorial: Bill paves way for option in hospice care

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Some bills in the Legislature are no-brainers. While they may be considered housekeeping bills, they serve an important purpose.

Such is the case with Senate Bill 2226, which has passed the Senate and awaits House action.

The bill would allow the establishment of residential end-of-life facilities and give the North Dakota Department of Health the responsibility of licensing and oversight of the facilities. The bill would open the door to another form of hospice services not available in North Dakota but offered in other states.

The Tribune editorial board supports the legislation for a number of reasons. It would provide another option for people to die with dignity in a home setting, it could offer longer care and would be funded by donations.

The driving force behind the bill is the Rockstad Foundation, whose founding family owned Dan’s Supermarket Inc. The foundation proposes building a facility to be called Gaia Home, which would be a complex of 12 residential homes connected to a main building. Each home would have living quarters along with laundry and garage. Each home would be approximately 1,400 to 1,800 square feet.

The homes would be staffed by nurses and volunteers for 24-hour assistance. Hospice care would be from licensed hospice providers selected by the families.

Hospice care is normally provided at a patient’s home, but that’s not always practical. A patient may have children at home and not want the children to have memories of a death in the home. The patient may live in an apartment that would not accommodate relatives during the period of hospice care.

The Rockstad Foundation plans a fundraising effort with the goal of $35 million, though the project could be launched after a portion is raised. The foundation plans to create an endowment for ongoing funding. Organizers have proposed a location in northeast Bismarck with 4-6 acres for the home. The goal is for groundbreaking in the spring of 2024 and for operations to begin in June 2025.

Most who use the Gaia Home are expected to be 65 years old or older. At present, that age group makes up 16% of the state’s population and is estimated to grow by 11% in the next 10 to 15 years. The average length of stay in similar homes in other states has been 11 days.

It’s an ambitious plan by the Rockstad Foundation and if successful would provide a valuable option to the community. Most people dread the thought of dying in a lonely setting. One of the horrors of the pandemic has been the inability of loved ones to be present in the last moments of life.

Hospice care provides an opportunity for people to pass in a home setting with those they love the most. The Gaia Home would be another valuable hospice option.

The House should approve Senate Bill 2226.

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