A Home Away from Home

Edina seniors enjoy the comforts of home at two local residences.
Co-founder of Little Hospice Bob Solheim.

Think for a moment about your own definition of “home.” Is it the bricks and mortar, the rafters and roof? Is it the family inside? The sense of belonging? As more Minnesota families are faced with caring for an elderly parent or grandparent, defining “home” becomes more important than ever. When an aging family member can no longer care for herself—or be cared for—in her own home, what’s the next step?

Here in Edina, two world-class residences are answering that question and sharing their passion for caregiving—and creating a true home—with the community.

N.C. Little Memorial Hospice

Walking through the front doors of Little Memorial Hospice, a home for terminally ill patients, visitors are often surprised. “You may expect to come into a house of sorrow, where everyone’s morose,” says co-founder and director Bob Solheim. “But you’ll hear laughter, smell bread baking …what we celebrate here is life.” In a place where the average stay is measured in days, not weeks or months, every minute of joy counts. “We know how sorrowful death is,” Solheim offers, “but in the meantime, people are living.”

Solheim co-founded the hospice in 1996 in memory of his friend Newton Little, who passed away in 1992. “He died in a nursing home,” Solheim remembers, “and I know he would have benefited so much from the love and care he would have received here.”

Love and care are the key missions of Little Hospice, and everyone involved is an expert. “Our motto is ‘Eat dessert first,’ ” says Solheim with a smile—and he means that literally. “We have a freezer filled with 15 kinds of ice cream, chocolates all through the house, volunteers baking cookies and brownies … every day.”

Solheim and his team work hard to foster that warm environment. From the outside, Little Hospice looks like any suburban home, with a pretty bungalow style and lots of sunny windows. There are eight comfortable patient rooms and lots of common space, where families can spend time together (visiting hours are 24 hours a day, seven days a week), eat delicious meals and even play. “We have Ping Pong, a piano, a play area for kids,” says Solheim. One of his favorite features is the stunning garden, tended by volunteers. “It’s part of what we do. Families come out and feel comfortable, with the birds and the butterflies, relaxing in the garden.”

Of course, those sunny moments are often intermixed with grief, adds Solheim. In quieter hours, families visit the home’s interfaith chapel, which is warm and serene. “There’s no college program called ‘Death 101,’ ” says Solheim. “When people come here, they’re overwhelmed and exhausted. … We’re like an oasis in this world we’re living in.”

Though patients might call Little Hospice home for only a few days, it is truly a home: filled with love and family. “We offer kindness and compassion,” Bob Solheim says. “It’s a home that’s filled with compassion.”

English Rose Suites

For elderly people with dementia and memory loss, daily life can seem full of fear. “It’s all about belonging,” says Jayne Clairmont, director of Edina’s English Rose Suites. “In our setting, we create such a beautiful milieu. We want residents to say, ‘This is mine, I feel safe.’ ”

English Rose Suites, a memory-care organization, includes four executive-style homes in Edina. The homes range from 3,800 to 5,300 square feet, with rooms for five or six residents. And no detail goes overlooked. “They’re beautifully appointed,” says Clairmont, who has a background in interior design. That focus on physical space is very intentional, she adds, with the goal of fostering a familiar, safe environment for residents.

The organization is proud of its top-notch care model, which has gotten the attention of memory-care advocacy groups and facilities from near and far. In fact, English Rose Suites recently hosted visitors from a memory-care organization that’s quite literally across the world, in Sydney, Australia. “We have something very unique,” says Clairmont, with a ratio of one staff member to three residents, during the day and evening and a 1:6 ratio overnight. “I worked in very large [memory-care] environments, and really saw a need to create a smaller setting,” she adds.

The homes of English Rose Suites are beautiful inside and out. Each one has classic gardens and walking paths, with other one-of-a-kind amenities—one of the residences sits on the 9th hole at Braemer Golf Course. Clairmont emphasizes the importance of those physical spaces, in tandem with great care. “We aren’t ‘home-like,’ ” she says. “We are home.”