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Iowa Hospice places focus on at-home care


Inspired by the work of Mother Teresa and her call for “love in action,” Tom Moreland has opened Iowa Hospice in Johnston with the hope of changing the face of hospice care throughout Central Iowa, allowing people to see that hospice doesn’t have to take place at an inpatient care facility.

“That’s not how hospice started and that’s not how it is in most cities,” Moreland said. “My goal is to try to take hospice back into the homes, because most people want to die at home.”

At 26, Moreland has faced death in a far different manner than his peers – having spent two summers at Mother Teresa’s AIDS Hospice in San Francisco, where he learned of “doing small things with great love,” working with drug addicts, former prison inmates and the homeless. Through those experiences he learned not only compassion for all walks of life, but also the beauty of death.

“When that time comes, it’s really special,” he said. “They can do it in their home and have their family surrounding them and they can be pain free and they can just slip into the next world. It’s as beautiful as a birth.”

Moreland spent time in both the for-profit world, where the emphasis was on stockholders rather than patients, and non-profit arena of hospice care, where “hospice was last on the totem pole.” Through the ups and downs of those experiences, he began to build his dream of opening and running a hospice, particularly in his home state of Iowa.

In partnering with his father to open Iowa Hospice, they knew Greater Des Moines was the place to be. According to census data from 2000, more than 65,000 people over the age of 65 live in Greater Des Moines, and Moreland expects that number to triple over the next 30 years.

Additionally, he said the focus of hospice in Greater Des Moines has been on inpatient care, rather than allowing people to realize that at-home hospice is an option.

“People weren’t being educated that they could be taken care of in their homes, and I wanted to change that,” he said.

With 16 employees now operating out of the Iowa Hospice office in Johnston, the company took on its first client nearly three weeks ago, and plans to name its conference room in her honor.

Moreland established Iowa Hospice as a for-profit company in order to receive adequate financing, but plans to operate the company as a non-profit organization. He intends to pay back his loans, then profit-share with the employees who helped him get started and give back to the community financially.

The company is currently working to develop contract agreements with 88 nursing homes in a 10-county area, which would allow it to provide hospice care to nursing home residents through volunteers and a paid nursing staff. The staff will also work with families to arrange for in-home hospice care.

Working with the nursing staff and Dr. Ben Collins, an independent physician who only sees patients in the home, Iowa Hospice provides medical care, though patients can retain their primary physicians, home health care, short-term inpatient care and continuous home care. But volunteers, social workers and other staff members also provide respite services, bereavement care, art therapy, bereavement care and help with daily living.

“Sometimes we’re there more for the family than for the patient,” Moreland said.

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