Evelyn's House celebrates five-year anniversary of innovative hospice care
Brenna Doyle

Evelyn's House celebrates five-year anniversary of innovative hospice care

What began as a wish and a dream several years ago now has become a highly recommended option for unique hospice care. Evelyn's House, located on the campus of Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital in Creve Coeur, is celebrating five years of providing compassionate, supportive end-of-life care in a warm, home-like setting.

The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital commemorated the hospice house anniversary Sept. 13 with a gathering of health care and community leaders, families, and donors who made Evelyn's House a reality.

While hospice care is often provided in a home setting, Evelyn's House is designed to offer patients and families an alternative choice in special circumstances, such as short-term pain and symptom management, respite for caregivers, and when care in the family home is not feasible.

Opened in 2017, the ranch-style, 18,000-square-foot hospice house includes 16 private suites for adults, teens and children. Patients receive specialized hospice care in warm, comfortable surroundings. Evelyn's House includes a gathering room with fireplace, family kitchen and dining rooms, sleeping area for family, dedicated music and art therapy rooms, a meditation room, a garden and special veteran recognition.

Since Evelyn's House opened, the hospice team has cared for more than 4,000 patients and their loved ones.


Passion Sparks Community Support

The hospice house received significant community support to open its doors. In 2015, Patrick and Aja Stokes made the first generous donation through The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital to launch the project with BJC HealthCare. The Stokes led fundraising efforts throughout the community and several other visionary donors joined them.

Evelyn's House is named in memory of Evelyn Newman, a well-known community leader and philanthropist who passed away in 2015. Her generous spirit inspired her family to make a special gift that, together with other donors, has given hospice care a home.

Evelyn's son, Andy Newman, and his wife, Peggy, continue to champion the hospice care experience.


Research Improves Comfort, Care and Knowledge

Evelyn's House has resulted in an additional focus on advancing hospice care. Continued donor generosity has led to the creation of a Supportive Care Institute and the division of palliative medicine at Washington University School of Medicine.

Patrick White, MD, director of the division of palliative medicine at Washington University and chief medical officer of BJC Hospice, was the first leader at Evelyn's House and became the inaugural Stokes Family Endowed Chair in Palliative Medicine and Supportive Care at Washington University. Other Evelyn's House leaders include Andrea Holthaus, MD, medical director; and Natalie Mansouri, manager.

"The opportunity to be part of this has been the most impactful part of my career," Dr. White says. "We see patients and families during the most difficult time, yet they're so appreciative of the care we provide."

Dr. White's pioneering efforts have led to important research discoveries, including finding the best medicine for refractory nausea in patients with advanced cancer — to ultimately make patients feel more comfortable. "This research discovery through the Supportive Care Institute will touch tens of thousands of lives," Dr. White says.

Additional research is  focusing on finding ways to identify people who would benefit from hospice care earlier in their end-of-life journey.


Can-Do Team Inspires Joy on the Journey

The team's heartfelt commitment to patients and families is evident by the many who have remained at Evelyn's House since the doors opened. "The reason team members stay at Evelyn's House is because it's the most mission-driven place we've ever been," Dr. White says. "I'm so grateful to everyone who has shared this journey with us."

Stacy Olinger, MSN, BJC Home Care Services vice president, agrees.

"The heartbeat of this house is our staff and volunteers. They are the cornerstone and are the hands of love that make Evelyn's House a home. Every word and exchange between our volunteers, staff and guests is to embrace hope and bring peace and comfort in a time of need. Every team member embodies and lives our mission."

A survey of patient families and loved ones at Evelyn's House showed 97% would recommend the care they received there to friends and family members based on the compassion and care they received from staff members and volunteers.

While hospice care comes at the most challenging time in life, it also can be a joyful time. Over the past five years, the team at Evelyn's House has celebrated multiple weddings, birthdays and anniversaries with patients. The team goes above and beyond to make dreams come true.


Bringing Peace Through Innovation

After reaching the five-year milestone, Dr. White and the hospice team continue to expand hospice care knowledge and services both locally and nationally. 

Olinger says the dedicated medical team is creating a pipeline of hospice and palliative care leaders. "This house is a beacon of innovation and generator of the next generation of hospice and palliative care clinicians and leaders."

Through Evelyn's House, hospice care innovations are now reaching beyond its doors.

At the anniversary celebration, Dr. White announced a new concept in hospice care coming. "We will train team members at Evelyn's House and then put them in homes so patients can get 72 hours of continuous nursing care in their home versus shorter blocks of time," he explains. "This means more patients can leave the ICU setting to come home with the peace and support they deserve."

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