Sussman House, the new hospice residence on the campus of Pen Bay Medical Center, will hold a ribbon-cutting Saturday, Sept. 6, at 10 a.m.

The facility will begin accepting patients later in the fall, according to Pen Bay Media Specialist Monica Chau.

As visitors enter, there is a spacious kitchen on the left where patients and their families may make a meal or a snack, or a volunteer may make one for them. It contains an island and counters at wheelchair height, and there is an attached pantry that will be stocked with a variety of convenience foods, in case a patient or family member is hungry between meals, said Heidi McCaffrey, director of hospice and palliative care for Kno-Wal-Lin Home Care & Hospice.

Adjacent to the kitchen is a fireplace flanked with overstuffed sofas and chairs.

There are seven patient rooms, each with a sink and small refrigerator, a large, wheelchair-accessible bathroom, a television and a sleeper couch, in case family members want to spend the night. The rooms all have French doors looking out onto their own small patio and garden, and the beds can be wheeled outside.

McCaffrey said the building was designed so that another seven patient rooms can be added as they are needed. Besides the large kitchen and gathering room, common spaces include a library with books donated by community members, a sanctuary and walking paths and gardens around the outside.

The vision for Sussman House has been developed over a number of years, said Kno-Wal-Lin Home Care & Hospice Executive Director Mike Rich, as the staff came to feel that an inpatient hospice facility was the missing piece of their hospice program. The availability of general inpatient care, to manage pain and other symptoms when that cannot be done effectively at home, will allow people to move easily from one level of hospice care to another, Rich said. He envisioned patients moving between home and the hospice house according to their needs. In addition, it will be a boon to families to be able to take advantage of respite care for a loved one for up to five days.

The facility will offer complementary care, such as massage, music therapy, or pet therapy to enhance patients' quality of life, McCaffrey said.

While respite care is limited to five days, those in general in-patient care may stay as long as necessary to get their symptoms under control, Rich said.

In addition to the $1 million gift from Donald Sussman to build the hospice house, nearly 900 community members have donated to the project, said Holly Miller, executive director of Pen Bay Healthcare Foundation. Gifts have ranged from $10 to $100,000, she said, and the foundation is still raising funds to support the operating costs of the facility until it is self-sustaining. In keeping with Pen Bay's philosophy, “No person is going to be turned away for lack of funds,” she said. To donate, call the foundation office at 594-6713.

Kno-Wal-Lin will recruit and train support volunteers for the many tasks needed to make Sussman House feel homelike, McCaffrey explained. These include greeting visitors, baking, cooking gardening, answering the phone, performing light office work and helping with special events, according to the volunteer's interest. A training for support volunteers will be held Thursday, Sept. 25, and will include a free light lunch. To register or for more information, call Kno-Wal-Lin social worker Kathe Pilibosian at 542-4992.

McCaffrey said she hopes to get teens involved in volunteering, as well as adults.

In addition, Coastal Family Hospice Volunteers will provide direct support volunteers for patients at Sussman House. They provide companionship and support to hospice patients and their families. They are present as a friend or family member and might read aloud, run an errand or be available to listen, laugh, cry or hold hands. For more information, call Coastal Family Hospice Volunteers at 593-9355.

For those interested in seeing Sussman House who cannot come to the ribbon-cutting, tours will also be offered during Pen Bay's Community Day Sept. 13.