September 20, 2007 at 7:35 a.m.

Villages of NB prepares for Grand Opening celebration

Villages of NB prepares for Grand Opening celebration
Villages of NB prepares for Grand Opening celebration

The Villages of North Branch, an assisted living, memory care and nursing home facility, has been open eight weeks and receiving high praises from staff, residents and family members.

Director Leah Killian Smith and the rest of the staff will welcome community and family members at a special grand opening celebration Sept. 27, 4 to 7 p.m.

She said the 27 residents in assisted living and six in the memory care unit have quickly adjusted to their new surroundings. Four of them were residents of the Green Acres nursing home in North Branch before moving to The Villages.

Living quarters at The Villages are designed as small neighborhoods or households, rather than the long hallways lined with rooms on each side that is typical of most nursing homes.

Keeping with the Swedish heritage of Chisago County, the Sommar Haus is where assisted living residents live. These apartments include a spacious bedroom, a living room with kitchen area and a large bathroom.

Residents here have access to home health care services from a full-time registered nurse on staff. Their monthly rate includes continental breakfast and one other meal per day, one hour of housekeeping a week and two loads of laundry a week.

A full-time activities director is on hand to keep the assisted living residents busy with events and projects many evenings and Saturdays.

Killian Smith said a newly-added feature - Happy Hour Fridays - has been a big hit with the residents.

The memory care units are the secured areas called Ashton and Prairie. Here, breakfast is cooked to order for the residents and they can have their hair done in a one-chair salon. Another salon services assisted living residents and is also open for appointments from the public.

Although the memory care unit rooms are separate, residents share a large community room for group events.

"We're trying to establish it as a neighborhood atmosphere," Killian Smith said. "If one household has a special event planned, they'll invite the other household to join in."

Each household has its own patio as well, and there is a large courtyard accessible by all residents.

The unique layout of the entire complex lends itself to smaller, comfortable areas as well. Small living room-styled spaces, sunny corner tables surrounded by windows and well-placed photographs, artwork and antiques give a comfortable feel. It is also very quiet, something Killian Smith said the staff noticed right away.

"You walk down the halls and don't hear anything," she said. "And it's always like that, very different from a traditional nursing home."

New technology is fully utilized at The Villages. A security system called Quiet Care is installed in all the memory care rooms.

While not a camera system, the computerized "eye" mounted to the wall monitors movement within the apartment and sends alerts for extremes in temperature. "We can tell if the fridge door has been left open," Killian Smith said.

An alert is instantly sent to staff on call anytime a memory care resident's door is open between midnight and six a.m., she explained. The alert is sent directly to the staff person's cell phone so they can check on that person immediately.

Each room also has a medication drawer that is hooked up to the Quiet Care system. Staff can monitor how many times the drawer is open, or whether the resident didn't open the drawer that day at all and forgot about their medication.

Outside of the resident rooms, the memory care unit exterior doors are locked for added security for the residents.

Small touches have made the entire complex more like home and less like a nursing home.

Killian Smith said they encourage staff to bring things in from home - their hat, jacket, umbrella - and actually use the coat racks and hooks that are placed in the living areas. Designers specifically went out and purchased items from the resident's era to decorate with and help residents feel at home, Killian Smith added.

A cafe in the main lobby of the complex will be open sometime in October, offering deli items, coffee specialty drinks and other goodies to residents, staff and the public.

Sunrise Hall is directly off the main lobby. The chapel is the site of three religious services each Sunday - Catholic, Lutheran and non-denominational, as well as weekly Bible Study meetings.

Killian Smith said they have been very fortunate to have volunteer pastors and lay people coming in to conduct the Sunday services.

The hall also has a large projection screen for offering movies to residents, or can be used for presentations when the room is rented by local community groups.

Medical care for residents is offered at the Klinik (in Swedish) and the Viking Wellness Center.

The Klinik allows doctors to come in and see residents in a separate space, rather than the resident's rooms. The wellness center offers therapy and rehabilitation machines, enabling therapists to offer a variety of rehabilitation options. Killian Smith said they are seeing more short-term stay residents who are in need of rehab after knee or hip replacements.

Nurses aren't set up in one common nurses station at The Villages. Instead, small computer cubicals are set up in several hallways. The system uses CareTracker software to chart each resident's vitals and observations on a daily basis.

Everything from daily food and liquid intake, health records, mood and social activity are recorded by staff. The user-friendly software includes large icons for each necessary daily observation to be made. If an item hasn't been recorded for the day, it is in yellow; if it has been recorded, it switches to red. Then each shift nurse knows what is left to record on each resident for the day.

Killian Smith said a "family meeting" was held last week to talk with staff about the facility.

"There were some valid concerns that will be addressed, but for the most part it's great - a fun place to work every day." For more information on The Villages of North Branch, call (651) 237-3000.


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