Trillium House has home-like atmosphere

Trillium House residents, their family members and staff enjoy watching the woodland visitors who drop by frequently to enjoy a snack from the bird feeders located outside of the residents’ windows. As many as 11 deer at once have been sighted on the Trillium House grounds. (Photos courtesy of Trillium House)

By Pamela Christensen
When people think of a hospice house, they think it might be a grim place where sadness is ever-present, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. We hear laughter more than you would expect”, says Alicia Burgess House Manager of Trillium House located in Marquette. Trillium House opened in Marquette in July 2018 and in 2019 it served 64 residents. Also served were family and friends of those who are in the last stages of life.
Located in a secluded location filled with natural beauty, the eight-resident facility is remarkably comfortable and easy to navigate. Each individual room has its own bathroom and plenty of room for friends and family to gather as they say goodbye to a loved one. The rooms look like an oversized hotel suite. There are no set visitation hours and family, friends and even family pets can visit the facility. A home-like atmosphere is what the staff strives for each and every day.
“Since opening we have been at approximately 50 percent occupancy”, says Pat Bray, Executive Director. “Our residents have spanned from 55 to 104 years of age. COPD is the most prevalent diagnosis with cancer being second. Our average guest is 80 years of age and stays with us for an average of 14 to 20 days. Men make up about 40 percent of our residents while women are 60 percent. Residents have lived here for as long as a year to as short as one day”.
Now that the facility has been open for almost two years, the staff and volunteers can somewhat predict what will happen on a day-to-day basis and occupancy levels. In order to better meet the needs of the central Upper Peninsula, the facility has started to offer respite care when the facility has open beds.
“Once we opened, we started to get calls from people asking if Trillium House could offer stays for persons who were not hospice patients, says Bray. It is very difficult for family members and friends to find a facility that will provide a level of care for someone who has need of a living situation that is a step above being at home alone, but not critical enough to need a nursing home or hospital.”
The Board of Directors of Trillium House waited to approve respite services until the demands on the facility and staff could be predictable. “We certainly didn’t want to lose sight of our mission and begin offering respite services if we had persons in need of hospice care, said Bray. I am confident we can balance both needs with our current level of occupancy and staffing”.
Respite care can be offered in order to give a caregiver a brief break from the day-to-day duties of personal care. “There are times caregivers need to take time for themselves or address their own medical needs. So many people are desperate to find a place for a friend or loved when their own care team is not available. Respite care can also be used to get a chronic condition stabilized. We saw that need and the Board agreed that we could address the situation in our facility. The people who have taken advantage of respite care are deeply appreciative that this service is available.”
Trillium House has set a fee of $175 per day for respite care, unlike the hospice services, that use a sliding fee schedule based on income. Those who use either service can be assured that their safety and comfort is primary. The respite services are offered for one week at a time and are available as occupancy allows.

A group of volunteers works in the kitchen helping with a fundraiser for the Trillium House recently.

Trillium House works with U.P. Home Health and Hospice and Lake Superior Life Care and Hospice to support the residents individual care plan. The facility does not have a physician on staff and each resident can use his or her own care team. Trillium House staff provides constant daily care seven days a week, 24 hours per day.
Burgess is responsible for coordinating staff and volunteers. “We have an experienced staff that are dedicated to giving the best care possible. I have worked in a variety of health care settings and am amazed by how little turnover we see in staff. Most of the staff who were with us when we opened the doors, are still here,” Burgess said.
In addition to the Trillium House staff, volunteers play an important role. “Some people are reluctant to volunteer with us, because they are not sure what to expect. Once they take the first step, most of them find that they enjoy being a part of our organization. Volunteers may plan parties or activities for residents, prepare meals, greet visitors, read to residents or keep residents company. During the summer months, gardening, lawn care work and maintenance activities can also be performed by volunteers.
Keeping life as normal as possible is a goal at Trillium House. The facility welcome volunteers and visitors. Northern Michigan University nursing students currently take a rotation at Trillium House. Social work students also take advantage of learning opportunities at the facility. There is also a meeting room that can be used by organizations.
“We welcome people to visit our facility and see the work we are doing,” said Bray. “Once people visit, they are more comfortable with the concept of a hospice house and they realize how safe and comfortable our facility is. While most people don’t look forward to the day they need our services, we want them to be aware of what we offer and to know we are here if they need us.”
It is true most people don’t look forward to end of life, but Bray shares the story of a former resident. Whenever he stopped in to visit her, she would put her hands in a position of prayer. She told him every night when she went to bed, she prayed she would not wake up. She was ready for death. One day, Bray did the same and said, “Every night when I go home, I pray that you aren’t here when I return”. This comment seemed to take her aback, and then a wide smile broke out on her face, and she said, “Grazi, grazi.”
The mission of the Trillium House staff is for everyone to feel as comfortable coming to their facility as they do in leaving. More information about Trillium House can be found at the website or by calling (906) 264-5026.

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