Inside Ava’s House: Sanford’s homelike approach to hospice

By Jodi Schwan

Ron and Joanne Moquist learned in a very personal way the difference hospice care can make at the end of life.

Their 4-year-old niece, Ava Holder, fought a rare childhood cancer and spent her last days in hospice care in Arizona – one of few facilities of its kind in the nation.

Ava’s House, adjacent to the campus of Sanford USD Medical Center.

The Moquists came back and approached leaders at Sanford Health about creating something similar. Their lead gift launched a $10 million construction campaign that next month will become Ava’s House, a hospice facility that includes a pediatric wing.

“We’re overwhelmed by the generosity of our donors to help make Ava’s House a reality,” said Sharon Hunt, executive director for cancer at Sanford Health. “At Ava’s House, we can prioritize the wishes of the patient and the family, allowing them to spend precious time remaining concentrating on the things that are important to them.  We’re grateful to be able to provide a warm and intimate setting to comfort families and patients, as well as access to the levels care they need while in hospice.”

The multigenerational facility will offer 24-hour acute care.

“This facility really completes our continuum of care at Sanford from birth to death,” said Bobbie Tibbetts, vice president of the Sanford Health Foundation.

“Just to know we’ve got the place and the space is amazing, and the facility is a lasting testament to the generosity and support and commitment of the community. So many patients and families will be touched in some of the hardest days of their lives.”

Sanford offers a hospice area on the sixth floor of the Sanford USD Medical Center. But the new setting at Ava’s House is markedly less medical-like and designed to feel like a home.

There’s a large kitchen where families can dine together.

There’s a spa-like bathing area.

Each of the 20 rooms has access to a patio, and the outdoor space connects with a walking trail.

“Hospice care in itself is not about death and dying but experiencing life to its fullest until your very last breath,” Tibbetts said.

An area for kids at Ava’s House

It’s located on 17th Street between Lake and Covell avenues.

Furnishings are medical-grade but meant to feel warmer, with wood tones and space within each room for personalization with photographs and other meaningful items.

Each room has an attached area for families to sleep, and the four pediatric rooms have a bed that folds down from the wall so parents can sleep alongside their children.

An open house and ribbon-cutting are scheduled for Oct. 5. Patients certified as needing hospice care will begin being admitted in mid-October. The goal is to raise an additional $5 million to support ongoing operations.

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Inside Ava’s House: Sanford’s homelike approach to hospice

Ava’s House, the new Sanford hospice facility that includes a pediatric wing, is one of only a few facilities of its kind nationwide.

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