EVELYN & ELOISE: Legacy of Lakeview Ranch - KMSP-TV

EVELYN & ELOISE: Legacy of Lakeview Ranch

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Evelyn and Eloise were two mothers whose lives and deaths inspired an incredible chain of events that could change the lives of generations to come.

John Olsen entered his 67th year of life singing along so softly you might not even notice -- unless you watch carefully and understand the miracle that might not be happening if the divergent paths of two women that never met in life came together in death.

"It felt like it was divine intervention because there is nothing else that can explain the timing," Judy Berry said.

Evelyn Holly was a widow who worked as a city clerk after her husband died. She made just enough to live on and retired in Minnesota, where her daughter, Judy, had moved -- but Berry told the Fox 9 Investigators her life was not an easy one.

"She didn't have any money," she said.

Eloise Pohlad worked too, but only until she married one of the country's most successful businessmen -- the owner of the Minnesota Twins, Carl Pohlad. She cultivated a close family and enjoyed the opportunities her husband's wealth created for them all. Yet, in the end, both Evelyn and Eloise faced the great equalizer -- memory-robbing, life-stealing dementia.

"My mom knew it was happening and it would make her sad," Bob Pohlad said.

Pohlad said at the very end, his mother enjoyed comforts few have -- private nurses and family surrounding her.

"Both my parents died in their own beds," Pohlad recalled.

On the other hand, Evelyn Holly went through a series of hospitals and nursing homes that were so understaffed they couldn't deal with her emotional needs.

"It was dehumanizing to her," Berry said.

Things only got worse when her behavior became a problem.

"They put her in a corner and drugged her," Berry told the Fox 9 Investigators.

That is why you'll never see anything like that in the homes Berry built in her mother's honor 15 years ago. Lakeview Ranch, which has two locations west of the metro, cares for about 33 people with memory loss.

Much of the ranch is unlike any other. There are chickens that come out of their crates and an animal therapist. For many who live there, encountering something from their past calms them and gives them a way to communicate when their memories and voices fail them.

Meeting Olsen may be the best way to understand how Lakeview Ranch can bring out the best. He has a different kind of dementia than started with personality changes. The disease transformed the beloved Teacher of the Year into a belligerent and even violent man. His wife, Kay, and his son, Chris, couldn't care for him on their own, but the nursing home couldn't figure out how to deal with him. Instead, he was kept heavily medicated and was sent to the hospital each time he acted out.

"The year before he came here, he was hospitalized 100 days in one year," Kay Olsen explained. "When someone with dementia is hospitalized, they go straight to the psych ward."

In John Olsen's case, that means he underwent electroshock treatment several times.

"He didn't like that, and of course, I didn't either," Kay Olson recalled. "I finally promised him that I would not allow any more.

Since he has been at Lakeview Ranch, he has not been to the hospital -- and the Olsens believe that's because the ranch is appropriately staffed and the caregivers are taught to find a way to connect with the person who is still there, locked inside.

"One of the traditions John and I do -- mostly me now, 'cause he doesn't talk much -- is count our blessings," Kay Olsen said. "Maybe two years ago, I said, 'What blessing can you say?' and he said, 'The house is good.'"

Yet, the house almost went away.

"I was within a month of closing," Berry admitted.

Berry won't turn anyone away. After all, her own mother couldn't' afford decent care.

"I cannot look at those families and say, 'Sorry, 'cause you don't have [money]," she said.

Most of her residents get Medicaid, but because they take less medicine now and go to the hospital less often, it doesn't pay out as much. For Berry, it seems as though Lakeview Ranch is being penalized for keeping its costs low -- especially since Medicaid does not reimburse for every calming touch provided.

"For 15 years, I sweated payroll every two weeks," Berry said.

That all changed when Berry got a call from Bob Pohlad, who runs the Pohlad empire with his brothers, and he told her he owed her a visit.

"I said, 'Sure! I'll give you a tour!'" Berry remembered.

Pohlad stayed for lunch in the main dining room and said he had a "great experience."

"You have to say there's something different going on there," he said.

Pohlad was impressed, and he may have written a check and walked away if it hadn't been for the way he and Berry spoke about their mothers -- two women with very different stories but inspiring the same dream.

"When we would go out, before my mom had her own problems, she would see someone home on the corner or wherever," Pohlad recalled. "We would have these conversations about where are we going to do our charitable giving. I just want to give some money to that person -- to help that person."

Through helping Lakeview Ranch, Pohlad realized he could directly touch many people instead of just one. So, his family paid off the bills, helped Berry unwind some legal tangles and came up with a long-term management plan using the Minnesota Visiting Nurses Agency.

"I think it can be replicated and should be replicated," Dr. Jen Van Liew told the Fox 9 Investigators. "It's how we should view health care and it is certainly how I would want my mother cared for."

Now, Berry can be confident that the Lakeview Ranch will outlive her, and she can travel and spread her vision of care giving. If the Pohlads ever doubt their mothers legacy is being well-served, they need only look to the man who was once drugged and shocked into silent submission now waking to play a game of Uno on his 66th birthday, calling and even choosing his own colors.

"The day I brought John here, he was crying," Kay Olsen recalled. "I said, 'Why are you crying?' He said, 'This is so beautiful.' He said, 'I am happy.' They take good care of you here."

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