Inside look: UVM's Porter Medical Center end-of-life suites

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MIDDLEBURY, Vt. (WCAX) New end-of-life suites are under construction at UVM's Porter Medical Center. The $900,000 project is expected to be done this September.

"The goal is to address suffering and the stress that comes with serious illness and the focus is to improve the quality of life both for patients and their families," said Diana Barnard, the palliative care provider at UVM Health Network's Porter Medical Center.

She's not just working with people in hospice. Palliative care isn't always a life or death situation, rather it focuses on people who need extra resources while dealing with a serious illness.

"You might be spending more time in the hospital, you may not recover as quickly as you were, there may be questions for extra support at home," explained Barnard.

That's why Helen Porter Rehab and Nursing teamed up with ARCH in 2011 to create spaces on campus tailored to palliative patients. The local organization worked with Middlebury College and found a need for patients in town.

"When we first started out a study showed we needed four rooms for this community," said ARCH's Laurie Borden.

But those rooms were made with only the patients in mind. Now, medical professionals want to give back to the families spending countless time visiting their loved ones living there.

"There's no real room for overflow of family members to visit or a dog or whatever comes to stay," said Borden.

Two of the original four rooms are now being redone and expanded. Single rooms will now become double in size and offer direct access to the outdoor space. It's an idea that many in the community supported when fundraising began back in the fall. ARCH members say some of the money raised by the rehab center and ARCH was collected in a matter of months.

The $900,000 project is expected to be done this September.