Nature provides solace at hospice house

By Wanda Kelsey-Mendez, Communications Manager at Kansas City Hospice & Palliative Care

Nature provides solace in ways that we don’t completely understand. Gardens and natural surroundings enrich the body and soul. We’ve come to recognize the many benefits of exposure to the peace and beauty of gardens. Because nature provides such comfort, you might notice more medical facilities providing comfort and solace through healing gardens.

A statue of Saint Francis offers a spot for quiet reflection at Kansas City Hospice House.

“Gardens reduce stress and promote a sense of well-being. This leads to measurable psychological, physiological, and behavioral benefits, such as reduced anxiety, sadness, and other negative moods, lower blood pressure and improved immune functioning, and better compliance with treatment protocol.” – University of Minnesota

Kansas City Hospice House

Statues and natural plantings are placed along a meandering walk in one of the gardens at Kansas City Hospice House.

Kansas City Hospice House


First Benefit — Distraction 

When you view nature and become absorbed by tranquility and beauty, you’ll find a welcome distraction. Besides that, exposure to nature helps reduce pain, discomfort and mental anguish. We at Kansas City Hospice & Palliative Care have embraced gardens as part of our mission to provide compassionate care for the Kansas City community.

Quiet walkways and shaded benches provide visitors with serene garden views at Kansas City Hospice House.

Kansas City Hospice House®

You’ll find our area’s first hospice house in southern Kansas City. It was designed with nature in mind. “Every room has large windows that actually open for the fresh air — a rarity in medical facilities,” said Elaine McIntosh, Former President and CEO. “Most importantly, we designed the rooms so wheelchairs and even patient beds can move outside.”

“Kansas City Hospice House has an advantage in its nearness to the natural world,” she said. “It is located on 12 acres next to a green belt where deer, fox and other wildlife roam.”

Kansas City Hospice House

Deer are frequent visitors at Kansas City Hospice House.

” We put much thinking into how the area was landscaped,” McIntosh said. “Plantings are mostly low-maintenance of various textures and colors that attract birds and butterflies. Because we wanted to keep the landscape pretty, not noisy,” she said, “we chose buffalo grass, a type that requires very little mowing.”

A Holistic Approach

The hospice house opened in 2006, but the studies on the healing effects of nature weren’t the reason for the emphasis on nature. McIntosh said that nature is simply a part of the facility’s holistic approach to care.

‘Nature is a source of solace for everyone, regardless of what their belief systems are,” she said. “Our hope is that as soon as someone steps into the building they receive a message of peace and safety.’ ” Staff and volunteers often join families taking a break from worries in the beautiful gardens.

Second Benefit — Comfort

It’s well known that plants help reduce anxiety and tension. Because scent has the ability to evoke memories, enjoying a garden’s aroma is comforting in itself. More importantly, gardens remind us of the patterns in life and the natural stages of growth. They comfort the soul with the knowledge that all things, all beings, follow a natural pattern of growth, decline and rebirth. 

Bonnie Luther Hays found comfort when staying at hospice house with her mother. One early morning when her mom was resting, Bonnie reflected on a regal old hickory tree that she dubbed Mom’s Tree.

“What a contrast among all the life around her. How does she continue to stand? Why has a strong wind not toppled her? She still has roots. That has to be the answer. She has not let go of her foundation that keeps her upright. There is an amazing tranquility in her current state, and one can only imagine her youthful beauty. Yet, there is a serene beauty now. Will a wind come someday and lay her down? I think so. All in good time. Will the landscape change when she is gone?” – Bonnie Luther Hays 

Read Bonnie’s reflections.


Third Benefit —Stress Reduction

Kansas City Hospice House

The labyrinth at Kansas City Hospice House offers a place to reflect and find peace.

Nature provides respite from the tensions and stresses of life by reducing mental fatigue and refreshing the mind. Because gazing out a window or walking through a garden often results in slower breathing, tense muscles can relax. Likewise, your mind can focus on soothing, peaceful sounds rather than the hustle of normal life.

NorthCare Hospice House

A courtyard gardens offers respite for patients, visitors and staff at North Kansas City Hospital.


NorthCare Hospice House

On the North side of town, located on the campus of North Kansas City Hospital, NorthCare Hospice House has rooms looking either into an interior courtyard garden, or an exterior green space.

“We started the process of bringing NorthCare Hospice House into our family of services in 2015.” said David Wiley, President & CEO of Kansas City Hospice & Palliative Care. “We were pleased to see that the rooms might be inside North Kansas City Hospital, but each has a natural view. Accordingly, some face a peaceful interior courtyard garden and the rest have a view of the lawn and landscape.”

You’ll often find patients and families taking a break in the peaceful courtyard garden, pausing to listen to the gentle rippling of a fountain. Because it’s a small, peaceful haven inside a busy medical facility, you might see a nurse quietly reading a book.  Or, you’ll find a doctor with a sandwich out on a scenic bench. Next, watch a family with young children taking a stroll, looking for signs of the fairy garden.

Learn More

Read more about gardens and health benefits, “What Are Healing Gardens,” from the University of Minnesota.

Do you have a photo to share of Kansas City Hospice House or NorthCare Hospice House? Please share them on our Facebook pages. We’d love to hear your thoughts about healing gardens.

Kansas City Hospice House Facebook

NorthCare Hospice House Facebook


Sunset at the Kansas City Hospice House


  1. Francis on August 16, 2018 at 11:15 am

    I remember being overwhelmed with emotions then remembering the labyrinth. I walked down the hallway and looked out the windows. I pressed open the door and took a deep breath. A hawk flew overhead and the sounds of nature pulled me forward. I stood in the center of the labyrinth and centered myself. I felt peace descend over me and knew that I would be okay. My family would be okay. We would say goodbye and hold each other. We would cry and we would remember. And tomorrow someone else would stand here and take a deep breath.

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