FARGO — It's been a dream for 15 years, and it's now a step closer.

Hospice of the Red River Valley has secured a zoning change to build a freestanding hospice home — offering short-term, around-the-clock, end-of-life care in a serene, home-like atmosphere — in far south Fargo just off of 52nd Avenue.

The nonprofit organization that's been providing hospice care for 40 years and serves 30 counties in North Dakota and northwest Minnesota is in the infancy stage of the project, according to marketing and communications manager Bonnie Oelschlager.

However, after looking for land for two years and planning and hoping for 15 years, the organization will soon purchase the land and is in the "quiet phase" of raising funds.

Oelschlager said they don't know how large the facility will be. She said the size and scope of the building will depend on the level of community support.

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It would be the first hospice home in North Dakota. It's also believed the state is one of the last in the nation without such a facility. "It's definitely a needed alternative," Oelschlager said.

Currently, Hospice of the Red River Valley provides pain and symptom management, as well as emotional and spiritual help, in patient's homes, long-term care facilities, assisted living facilities and in hospitals. "Wherever people call home, that's where we go," she said.

In a freestanding hospice home, nurses and physicians are available 24/7. Rooms are larger, with space for family to stay with their loved ones. "It's a home-like atmosphere," Oelschlager said.

The preliminary plan calls for a pond and gardens around the hospice home.

Oelschlager said there are four levels of hospice care that Medicare pays for based on its guidelines.

Most hospice care is considered "routine care" and is provided to patients in their home. Another level is "general inpatient care" when pain or symptoms can't be managed at home, and the patient is moved to a hospital or a hospice home. There's also "continuous home care" where in a time of crisis, nursing care is provided in the home around-the-clock.

Medicare will also pay for "respite care" for caregivers. For example, if a caregiver needed some time away, the patient could occasionally stay at the hospice home for up to five consecutive days. Respite care is expected to be offered at the Fargo home, Oelschlager said.

Hospice officials presented the plan and zoning request to the Fargo City Commission for final approval on Monday, Sept. 9.

Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the request, switching the zoning from residential to limited commercial but with a low-intensity community service use. The site is at 3800 58th St. S., just southwest of the city's south-side Walmart near Interstate 29.