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As Cheboygan hospice closes, residents worry another will follow

Exterior of the Hiland Cottage Hospice House at 1 Hiland Drive, Petoskey, MI.
Michael Livingston
The Hiland Cottage Hospice House at 1 Hiland Drive, in Petoskey, was built in the early 2000s with grassroots funding. It's now owned and operated by McLaren Northern Michigan. (Photo: Michael Livingston/IPR News)

Hiland Cottage is owned and operated by McLaren Northern Michigan. But it was built in the early 2000s thanks to grassroots fundraising.

Amy Janssens thinks a lot about the final days of her mother, Dale.

Especially on this day. It's Sept. 25 — Dale's birthday — as Amy sits in her East Petoskey home talking about the end of Dale's life.

Dale Dye suffered from a rare form of dementia for years and at first they tried to care for her at home.

“My father has neuropathy so he only has about 5 percent balance in his feet,” Amy said. “He does an incredible job and took great care of her, but her care just became too difficult for him and our entire family.”

So in the spring of 2022, Amy’s family decided to place Dale in residential hospice care.

She lived out her final days in the Hiland Cottage Hospice House of Petoskey, a white and yellow building with large windows and flower gardens out front and tall trees in the back.

Amy said watching her mother slowly die was devastating but she had comfort in knowing that Dale was in good hands.

“She was there for five months,” Amy said. “They have these beautiful windows with bird feeders. And she just loved to sit there and watch the birds all day. She was nonverbal at that point.”

“The staff was just taking so much care and really trying to understand her needs when she couldn't communicate them.”

Hospice is typically offered to people with terminal illnesses. It prioritizes comfort and reduces suffering, not just for the patient, but also for their loved ones.

“She was there for five months. They have these beautiful windows with bird feeders. And she just loved to sit there and watch the birds all day."

Amy Janssens
Petoskey resident

Amy said Hiland Cottage gave her family the right space to love and grieve when the time came.

“I have three teenagers and an 11-year-old. So these are young children that were watching death over many years. Really close up,” Amy said. "There is trauma, when you watch someone you love die. So, the ability to just give children a little breath from that is maybe one of the most powerful services that the Hiland Cottage provides.”


Hiland Cottage is owned and operated by McLaren Northern Michigan. But it was built in the early 2000s thanks to grassroots fundraising.

Last week, McLaren announced a different eight-bed hospice facility in Cheboygan would be closing indefinitely in October.

McLaren Health Management Group declined a full interview, but said in a statement the Cheboygan decision was made due to difficult post-pandemic challenges, including widespread staff shortages, rising expenses, and reduced funding and reimbursement.

“This consolidation will enhance the coordination of patient care, facilitate better communication among staff members, and allocate resources more effectively,” the statement said.

The patients and staff that were already in the Cheboygan Hospice House will transfer to places like Hiland Cottage or other community-based services in the region.

But a group of Petoskey residents are concerned that Hiland Cottage will eventually meet the same fate as the Cheboygan facility, and are trying to prevent that from happening.

David McBride is a local business owner and a representative for the Friends of Hiland Cottage Hospice. He said, for the past few months, the group has been requesting an audience with McLaren Northern Michigan Board of Trustees to explore more sustainable ways of funding Hiland Cottage’s future.

“We really want to work with the hospital and create a community based hospital that has a great reputation and tremendous amounts of support,” McBride said. “How can we work together as a team with the hospital, to not only financially support them, but also build goodwill in the community? That's all we've tried to do for the last nine weeks.”

McBride said McLaren executives have not been responding to requests for a meeting.

To date, no one with McLaren has publicly said if closing Hiland is on the table. The Sept. 22 statement said future decisions will occur, “with the coordination of community caregivers and leaders.”

When asked specifically about a decision to close the Hiland Cottage, a McLaren spokesperson declined to comment further.

Now, McBride’s group is trying to rally the community.


Louise Graham is a former president of the Hospice of Little Traverse Bay, the group responsible for raising money to build the Hiland Cottage in the early 2000s.

She said the group has garnered hundreds of signatures on a letter calling on McLaren to keep Hiland Cottage open.

“It's imperative that we have a home, a house, to give the proper care to people that aren't able to die in their homes,” Graham said

See a full copy of the letter below:

Moving forward, McLaren said it will focus on outpatient hospice care — when staff visits patients in their home rather than admitting them in a residential care facility.

“Transitioning patients from a hospice house to community-based hospice care reflects McLaren Hospice's dedication to providing personalized, patient-centric care, allowing patients to spend their final days in the comfort and familiarity of their own homes, surrounded by loved ones, and honoring their dignity at end-of-life,” the Sept. 22 statement said.

On a national scale, that’s how the majority of hospice care is provided, according to data collected in 2020 by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

But McBride and Graham say it's important for people who need constant attention to have an option for in-patient care.

Wendy Gray was one of those people. She died at Hiland Cottage last year after battling terminal cancer.

Her husband Shawn lives in Harbor Springs. He said his family tried to keep Wendy at home but it eventually became too big a burden.

Shawn still feels indebted to Hiland Cottage for the care they gave his wife in her final days.

“We had a weekly calendar at home with friends who would come in for three or four hours just so I could take a break,” Gray said. “I couldn't imagine her dying at home with what we went through at the hospice house when she passed away. But being able to come and go there, 24 hours a day, the nursing care 24 hours a day ... the staff was incredible.”

McBride said the letters of support his group collected will be presented to the McLaren Northern Michigan Board of Trustees before its next meeting, which is not public.

The group has scheduled a a support rally for the hospice at 2 p.m. on Sunday in front of McLaren Northern Michigan Hospital in Petoskey.

IPR News aims to bring you meaningful stories that illuminate important issues in northern Michigan. Never miss a story, by subscribing to our newsletter.

Michael Livingston covers the area around the Straits of Mackinac - including Cheboygan, Charlevoix, Emmet and Otsego counties as a Report for America corps member.