When a number of health concerns seemed to hit all at once, Evelyn Von Holdt’s family struggled to find a place that would provide the round-the-clock care she needed. Her son Bruce and granddaughter Jessie worried that no one could care for Evelyn as well as they could. They also didn’t know how much time they would have together.
“When I saw the place I thought, ‘This is unbelievable.’ Only God’s hand could have created something like this.”—Bruce
“Evelyn was always putting other people first. She cared about others more than herself,” Jessie explains. Never one to forget a birthday or anniversary, Evelyn loved to talk on the phone and mail out cards to let her family know she was thinking of them.
“That’s why it was so important for us to care for her this way at the end.”
By the end of last summer, Evelyn was facing spinal stenosis, pulmonary fibrosis, and kidney disease. Her family toured skilled nursing facilities that offered end-of-life care for Evelyn, but none of them seemed to provide the compassion that their family-focused, big-hearted Evelyn deserved. They also worried that they’d miss out on time together as visitors were often restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Finally, they visited Solvay Hospice House and felt complete peace of mind.
“When I saw the place I thought, ‘This is unbelievable.’ Only God’s hand could have created something like this,” Bruce says.
Solvay’s 12 private rooms and shared spaces were specifically designed by Miller-Dwan Foundation to feel like home while offering 24-hour medical care that allows families to spend meaningful time together. Bruce was struck by the beautiful building nestled in the woods, surrounded by the calming presence of nearby wildlife.
Beyond the home itself, Bruce explains how the entire staff, from hospice nurses to kitchen staff and volunteers, went above and beyond in caring for Evelyn.
“I don’t think they look at it as a job. They see it as a calling,” Bruce says.
When Evelyn’s family brought a floral arrangement, a staff member grabbed a vase and arranged the flowers without a second thought. Another person cut and styled Evelyn’s hair during her stay, making her feel special and like herself again.
“They would pray with her, which was very meaningful to my grandma,” Jessie says. “We always had the feeling that they were there for us.”
As time went on, Evelyn lost the ability to use her hands, followed by her ability to walk. At one point , talking on the phone—one of the activities that brought Evelyn so much joy—was no longer possible. Still, the staff at Solvay Hospice House would hold the phone up to Evelyn’s ear so her family could talk to her when they weren’t able to make the 3-hour drive from Bemidji. No matter when they called or how long they talked, someone from Solvay was there to give her family the chance to be with her.
That compassion carried through to Evelyn’s last days. “The night she passed, my sister was there. They took care of her so nicely,” Bruce explains. “You can’t describe it, the reverence they had.” Just by the looks on their faces and their actions, he could tell the staff was feeling their pain. “The dignity after death was unbelievable,” Bruce says.
Approaching this journey with dignity, comfort, and peace is what Solvay Hospice House is known for. Their level of support for loved ones, their families, and what they face at the end of life is remarkable. “Comfort, compassion, dignity, and spiritual needs— those are all met at Solvay. And that is something that should be seen and lifted up when you’re in that time of your life,” Jessie says. “It’s something that can sometimes be neglected when you think of death and dying,” Bruce continues. “But this was the perfect transition for the end of life.”
Bruce and Jessie lost a family member whose love they felt so strongly up until those final moments. In that sadness, they are consoled by the fact that she was comfortable and with her family until the end. Bruce explains, “Everything we could have wanted for her was right there in that building. Every community needs a place like Solvay.”